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In the 15 years between Shania Twain’s last album — 2002’s 10 million-selling Up! — and her new release, Now, the Canadian pop-country star experienced a metamorphosis that upended both her professional and personal life.
Normally, the 52-year-old singer-songwriter would have reacted to setbacks philosophically, as she wrote in her 2011 memoir, From This Moment On,: “When everything goes without a hitch, where’s the challenge, the opportunity to find out what you’re made of?” But these hurdles were huge.
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First, Lyme disease — contracted after a tick bite on the Up! tour — stole her voice while the nerves to her vocal cords atrophied. Then came the bigger blow: In 2008, her husband of 14 years, producer Mutt Lange, who had built her into an international superstar who sold 75 million records worldwide, told her he had fallen for her best friend. They divorced in 2010, and a year later, Twain married that same friend’s former husband, Frederic Thiebaud.
Twain insists that Now, which bows Sept. 29, is not her divorce record. In a sense, she’s right: It’s an album about healing. But it is loaded with songs about what led to the divorce — especially “Poor Me,” in which she discovers a telltale item in her husband’s closet — and the aftermath of separation, with its inevitable heartbreak and damage to the mind and spirit (“Where Do You Think You’re Going?” from the album's "Deluxe" edition with four extra tracks). Twain, who delivers it all in the creamy soprano inspired by Karen Carpenter, admits to crying while writing much of the material. In some of the album’s brighter songs, however, she chronicles her eventual urge to move on and find happiness anew (“I’m Alright” and “Because of You”).
Now, with four producers at the helm, is a much less bombastic work than Twain’s last four full-length albums. It pares back the excess production while maintaining the vocal layering, signature sonic beats and electronic echoes that catapulted her to become the top-selling female in country music history. (“We Got Something They Don’t” is a midtempo pop jewel of enduring love and sexual heat.)
When Lange — the man behind such acts as Def Leppard and AC/DC — guided her records, he made all the production decisions. In her view, he simply called her in to deliver her part when she was ready. His method certainly worked: Twain’s 1997 album, Come on Over, is the best-selling album of the 1990s, the biggest-selling studio album in Soundscan history by a female artist in any genre, the best-selling country album of all time, and said to be the ninth best-selling album ever in America. But his framework didn’t always reflect how Twain heard her songs. Today, overseeing Now as coproducer, she describes herself as something akin to a director.