Shania Twain has been the queen of country pop for decades, with a highly celebrated discography that features some of the most iconic songs of the 90’s and early 2000’s. After the release of the infectious Up! in 2002 — an album that did what Twain does best, crossing genres and warranting the release of three different versions in pop, country, and Indian film music — Twain took a break from releasing new music until 2017’s Now.
Now was a triumphant return to form for Twain, reaching number one and cementing her status as a music legend with longevity. After its release, she underwent open throat surgery and dealt with fears of losing her singing voice forever. Now six years later and in a vastly different world from the pre-COVID days of 2017, Twain is back with Queen of Me, and she’s ready to share more country pop goodness with the world.
From the start, Queen of Me is open about its country roots with the aptly titled ‘Giddy Up.’ Shania is ready for a night on the town, eager to make the most of life. ‘Giddy Up’ is pure fun, an interesting hybrid of pop structure with country lyrics and production. It’s quintessential Twain, from her distinct vocals to the rhythm, and it’s damn hard to think of someone else that would make a song like this.
Once introductions are over, Queen of Me shifts the tempo down on ‘Brand New,’ a track of catharsis about relationships past and the growth that comes with leaving the past in the past. “You’ll always be the same old you/ But I’m a brand new me,” Twain sings.
‘Brand New’ is vivid and strong in its lyrics, and there’s no question of how small the man she’s singing about made her feel: “Now I talk about you in the past tense. Got to the end of a sentence, without you finishing it for me,” she sings, and the entire track features palpable pain and relief in her vocal delivery.
For ‘Waking Up Dreaming,’ Twain shifts once again to her sound after she made the country-pop crossover for a song that is unashamedly pop. The track (and its music video) would feel right at home on the pop disc of Up!, speaking to Twain’s mastery of her craft both past and present. Nearly 20 years later, Up! still feels relevant and fun, and ‘Waking Up Dreaming’ is proud to carry that legacy on to Queen of Me.
‘Best Friend’ is a sweet little lift-me-up of a song that finds Twain focusing her energy outward, reminding the listener of the strong ties of friendship and the memories that come with it. ‘Best Friend’ is a toe tapper, a sentimental track that is enjoyable while not Twain’s best.
On ‘Pretty Liar,’ Twain channels her rage into some country-pop perfection. Like ‘Waking Up Dreaming,’ ‘Pretty Liar’ feels like it could’ve been mixed with different styles like a song on Up!, and the resulting hybrid is just so enjoyable.
The track also brings something new and quite unexpected from Twain, whose music usually veers away from swearing. “Here’s a little secret… a lot of songs I’ve written over the years have curse words in them, but I always end up writing them out of the song,” Twain confessed, “This time, for the first time, I decided to keep it in…” The result feels like the aftermath of a disastrous relationship of a guy that clearly didn’t impress Shania very much.
‘Inhale/Exhale Air’ is a country-infused track about enjoying every moment of life, one that feels a bit clunky, especially in comparison to the crisp and punchy lyrics of the previous tracks. From its title, one may think the song had to deal with anxiety — something Twain has not shied away from discussing her battles with. The track’s chorus, “What you gonna do with that air?” asks a question that just feels silly to say out loud, and it’s a mouthful on top of it all.
While much of Queen of Me finds Shania channeling her pain and heartbreak, ‘Last Day of Summer’ finds Twain looking at the past with rose colored glasses. “The last time we were together’s the first thing I remember,” Twain laments.
‘Last Day of Summer’ is both romantic and ambiguous; one could easily argue the track is about a long distance relationship or time apart from the one you love just as easily as it could be argued that Twain is singing this song about a relationship that has already met its end. Either way, the song makes itself relatable thanks to its beautiful lyrics that paint a picture of happier times.
Queen of Me‘s titular track finds Twain going back to tried and true formulas for a successful song, with ‘Queen of Me’ boasting infectious lyrics about girl power, playing on imagery of royalty and opulence and combining it with mastering self-confidence. “You can’t be king of everything/ ‘Cause I’m busy being queen of me!” It’s a solid track that does the album and its namesake proud.
Just as ‘Best Friend’ sees Shania reminding her friends that she’s there for them through thick and thin, ‘Got It Good’ takes the same approach and directs it to a lover. The something that was missing from ‘Best Friend’ finds its place in ‘Got It Good,’ and the extra layer to the relationship adds depth here that is really needed. “You’re not alone,” Twain reminds her partner, “I know how it feels spinning out of control.” Anecdotes like this make the song more personal and heartfelt, elevating it at the same time.
While the first part of Queen of Me looked to a past full of pain and love lost, Twain now brings things forward to a present full of love and happiness. ‘Number One’ is an upbeat bop about finding lasting love and sharing that connection with each other physically, “I’m in way too deep/ You’re the one I want to keep,” pairs with “Eyes closed, out of sleep/ Wide awake, beneath the sheets.”
‘Number One’ is squarely in the pop side of things, and it falls victim to have a repetitive post-chorus (“My number one, my number one, baby” repeated three times) but it’s a small gripe on an otherwise great offering from Twain.
‘Not Just a Girl’ follows in the footsteps of Twain’s woman-empowering music before it, and it feels like a natural sister to ‘She’s Not Just A Pretty Face’. “I’m not just a four letter word,” Twain croons before a chorus that talks about going places and ruling the world. It’s no surprise that Twain carried this song over to Queen of Me from both her Netflix documentary of the same name and its accompanying compilation album, allowing it a more solid place to call home in her discography.
As Queen of Me wraps itself up, it takes a sonic adventure with the help of Twenty One Pilots’ Tyler Joseph on ‘The Hardest Stone.’ The result is oddly exactly what you’d expect when you’d think of Shania Twain mixed with Twenty One Pilots. The song’s production has the duo’s signature sound, while the lyrics and vocals are signature Shania.
‘The Hardest Stone’ almost feels like a bonus track, with Queen of Me ending with ‘Not Just A Girl,’ and ‘The Hardest Stone’ appended to the end to show Twain experimenting and enjoying new sounds. ‘Not Just A Girl’ is certainly a solid album closer, but ‘The Hardest Stone’ adds its own contribution to Queen of Me, showing fans a Shania that is happy to try new things and take risks. That’s certainly queen behavior.
Overall, Queen of Me feels like no time has passed from the early 2000’s when Twain was dominating the country pop music world and innovating the blend of genres on Up! The world always feels a little bit better with more Shania on the radio, and thankfully Queen of Me is a solid addition to her catalog that will introduce her and her music to new fans while delighting old ones alike.
Queen of Me is available everywhere now.