We got a sense that Shania Twain was getting ready to rekindle her Nashville presence when she was recently named as one of the upcoming inductees to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame for 2022. These things rarely transpire by happenstance for superstars like this. It often coincides with something larger. That something larger has now been revealed.
Announced last week, Shania Twain has signed with Republic Nashville to release new music. Though “Republic Nashville” sounds like one of the countless imprints doing business down on Music Row, it’s actually a brand new endeavor for Republic Records, with Shania as the initial artist. In fact, when you Google “Republic Nashville,” the first thing it brings up is a map of the half dozen locations of the Nashville eatery Burger Republic.
“I couldn’t think of a better partner than Republic Nashville,” Shania says in one of those canned press release statements. “I’m honored and excited to be the label’s first artist and lead the charge of this new and exciting chapter. In this respect, it feels like a new beginning all around, and I’m embracing it wholeheartedly.”
You might think that signing with a Nashville record label might be an important symbolic gesture from Shania. After all, she’s a Canadian that’s currently living in Switzerland, so it’s not like Nashville is especially in her orbit at the moment. Perhaps it was a sign she would be returning to her country roots. Say what you want about her output subsequently, but go listen to “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” and try to claim it’s not country. And right now, the 90s country era that Shania was very much a part of is one of the hottest influences in country music at the moment.
But coinciding with the announcement of Shania Twain’s signing with Republic Nashville was the release of the most terrible single called “Waking Up Dreaming” that dashes any hopes for a resurgence of Shania country, and picks up where her paltry 2017 comeback record Now left off, namely horribly-produced pop music.
“Waking Up Dreaming” rips off the rhythm of The Cure’s “Close To Me” just like Shania’s “Any Man of Mine” ripped off Queen’s rhythm for “We Will Rock You.” It also once again features the most unusual suite of electronic embellishments for her voice that make Shania sound outright inhuman. This is what also what helped ruin Now. We know that in the early 00s, Shania was complaining about hoarseness perhaps brought on by Lyme Disease. But whatever they’re doing to her voice in the studio is making it worse instead of better.
I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that Shania Twain’s new single isn’t any good, and isn’t any country either. But why create an imprint for her called Republic Nashville if you’re not even going to fake making country music?
Shania could be doing what other 90s country stars are currently doing, which is growing old with their music, and going back to their roots in an era when 90s country is very popular once again. Go listen to the new album from Ronnie Dunn called 100 Proof Neon as a good example. Instead, Shania Twain is going 80s glam. And do we really see “Waking Up Dreaming” helping Shania cozy up to the Country Music Hall of Fame committee, which will be considering her as a nominee in the coming years?
Shania Twain continues to chase some rekindling of her pop flame, which at this point, puts her strangely at odds with the direction the rest of Nashville and country music are going. There will still be an audience for this vacuous pop music that tries to play off drag queen popularity with its imagery. But that place won’t be in country.