Arts, Music

Shania Twain Abandons Country for Generic Pop With “Queen of Me”


Canadian-born Shania Twain has earned her place as the queen of country pop. Despite having just six albums in her discography, she remains the best-selling female country artist of all time. Her newest album Queen of Me, however, fails to live up to her royal title. 

The opening track, “Giddy Up!” establishes Queen of Me as a typical comeback album early on. Released as the first single from the album, the song has a carefree feel to it, and is fit to play on a road trip. Fast acoustic guitar strumming accompanies Twain’s lyrics about packing up and leaving home with no destination in mind.

“I got a fast car with the 90’s on / Not a soul on the road, but the road is home,” Twain sings. 

The signature twangy rock style of songs like “Giddy Up!” and “Not Just a Girl” are reminiscent of Twain’s earlier albums that pulled her into the mainstream. Early in her career, she perfected the transition from classic ’90s swing ballads to country pop and rock with her album Come On Over. Long before Taylor Swift shocked listeners with Red, Twain was adding electric guitar riffs and bass lines to her own fiddle-heavy music. She is often cited by Swift as the inspiration for her switch to pop.

Much like Swift’s recent discography, most traces of country roots are gone from Twain’s new album. The title track “Queen of Me” begins and ends with a harp glissando, which feels out of place among the heavy electric instrumentals and message of independence. 

Compared to Twain’s past albums, there are fewer songs about breakups or unrequited love. When she does touch on the topic, it is out of nostalgia. “Last Day of Summer” sounds like a bittersweet memory in the best way, but its soft and slow pace is out of place in a much bolder lineup. Even by “Brand New,” Twain’s new musical direction is clear. 

“Cause you’ll always be the same old you / But I’m a brand new me,” she sings. 

Her lyrics are free-spirited, but they often repeat themselves, and it’s hard to distinguish this track from the three others about self-love on the album. Few personal verses stand out between repetitive choruses, so what starts off as inspiring and liberating soon feels forced. Alone, the tracks are empowering, but one is indistinguishable from the next.

There’s no doubt that Twain has a powerful singing voice, but across the album, it’s been edited down. Her natural rasp and soulfulness are overpowered by background vocals or bass. “Waking Up Dreaming,” also released as a single for the album, is energetic and fun. It has a dance intro reminiscent of “Walking on Sunshine,” giving the song a strong start, but Twain’s impressive vocals are ultimately shadowed by the music. 

With the exception of a few standouts, Queen of Me was an attempt to reinvent something that didn’t need reinvention in the first place. Country music is about storytelling, which is what makes songs like Twain’s 1997 “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!” a permanent fixture of karaoke catalogs and country music stations. With its repetitive lyrics and overpowering instrumentals, Twain’s intention is clear, but her story is lost.

February 5, 2023