Hailed by Republic Records co-president Wendy Goldstein as “everything you could hope for from a Shania record,” and as “some of her best work to date” by EMI co-president Jo Charrington, Queen Of Me marks the incredible, exuberant return of one of the best-selling artists of all time.
Indeed, in title alone, it points to the remarkable self-determination Twain has shown as an artist throughout her career.
“For many, many years I’ve been referred to as the ‘Queen’ of something,” she told Music Week. “It’s the ‘Queen Of Crossover,’ ‘Queen Of Country,’ ‘Queen Of Country Pop,’ a few friends in the industry started calling me ‘Queen Shania’, and other artists called me ‘Queen’, too [laughs]. I decided that if I’m the ‘Queen’ of anything, I’m the ‘Queen’ of me, I’m only that. I’ve always been the boss of me: I take the good with the bad. And that really is what being queen of yourself is – it’s that what you represent, and who you are, is of your own doing. I do feel quite triumphant, in my career at least. It feels really good to celebrate that and say, ‘I took the reins, I ran with it and I succeeded.’ The person that drove my direction was me, I’m the ‘Queen’ of my success.”
Queen Of Me is an album of many firsts for Twain. For one, her new track Pretty Liar marks the first time she’s ever sworn on a song ("Listen, I’m a lumberjack girl," Twain told Music Week, "It comes all the way from Timmins, Ontario”). Yet the biggest difference of all can be found in the sleeve notes. From her blockbuster breakthrough The Woman In Me all the way through to Up!, the only writer names on Twain’s albums were her own and her ex-producer/husband Mutt Lange. On her 2017 comeback album Now, it was just hers. For Queen Of Me, however, you’ll see a cavalcade of elite names like David Stewart, Sam ‘Rømans’ Roman, Jessica Agombar, Mark Crew, Dan Priddy, Wayne Hector, Tom Mann, Adam Messinger, Mark Ralph, Iain Archer, Jack Savoretti, Dave Cobb, Georgia Barnes and Tyler Joseph. For the first time in her career, Twain has embraced mass collaboration.
In a day and age of ever-spiralling numbers of writers on hit songs, one thing Twain was quick to point out, however, was what co-writing actually means, at least to her.
“Only people that are contributing to the song should be considered a writer, not just if you’re in the room,” Twain insisted. “You can’t just be in the room and then you’re a ‘writer’. I’m more purist than that. Because it’s my album, I feel that it is my responsibility to come into a room with the ideas, so my plan is to share songs that I want to write. Then I expect them, as writers, to contribute and help me build the song. It’s not me walking in with some writers that just feed me a song. It never happened that way once.”
I’m not even interested in getting out there and acting like I'm 25 years old, I’d rather just be my 57 year old self in the best way that I can be, in the most beautiful way that I can be
Another thing apparent on Queen Of Me is how strong Twain’s voice sounds. Following a Lyme Disease diagnosis in 2003, Twain suffered from a condition called dysphonia. “I wasn’t able to project any sound or control the quality of the sound,” she told Music Week in 2017. “I couldn’t yell out for my dog.” She managed to navigate this for 2017’s Now, but in 2018 she elected for invasive throat surgery to help the situation.
“I can rely on my voice now,” she reflected. “I know that if I want to go for certain notes it won’t just fall out on me. I’m still getting to know it really well so there are some things I probably need to be more disciplined about but I’m actually enjoying it. And I’m not as hard on myself as well, because this voice may not last forever, just with age it could start giving out again. I could get another operation, I could get different implants to correct and stabilise it, but it depends when I need it. If I need it too early, I don’t know if I’d be ready to do that. It’s a very tough operation.”
In a wide-ranging interview, Twain also talked about her victorious fights against critics and those who overlook her songwriting legacy. Despite securing three back-to-back diamond-selling albums, she was somehow only inducted into the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall Of Fame in October 2022. To her eternal credit, she was diplomatic on how long it took to happen.
“Better late than never…” she laughed. “It does mean a lot to get the recognition. I mean, it does make you wonder when you look back, like, ‘Okay, well, who has been inducted before me? How many hits do they have? What do you got to do to get in there in a more timely way?’ I don’t know… One thing I do know is I’m among many real, genuine, classic songwriters and that is an honour.”
On top of the music, a key of Queen Of Me’s message is about being comfortable in your own skin. In the cover feature, Twain opened up about her own body confidence.
“Now I’m an older woman, and women in menopause’s bodies are changing,” she observed. “When you’re in menopause and your body’s changing, they’re not making fun, attractive clothes for women in their 50s. It’s all made for teens and people in their 20s. I was like, ‘Screw that, I’m gonna start getting comfortable, literally in my own skin, naked.’"
Which is why you’re seeing such empowering self-curated press shots from Twain around Queen Of Me. There’s a message behind it.
“I did a naked photo shoot and it took so much courage,” she said. “Because when you’re in your late 50s, you don’t look in the mirror anymore. You can ask all kinds of women, you’ll get a very similar answer: they prefer the lights are down when they take a bath, they make love in the dark – it’s a very common frame of mind that women get into. I’ve had enough of that. I am an ageing woman, and I don’t want to have to shroud myself – and I don’t want fashion and society to determine what I should wear and what I shouldn’t wear. I own this now, I’m taking ownership of this, I’m comfortable in my own skin, I’m doing a photo shoot with all my clothes off. I’m going to sit and look at these photographs, I’m going to face these fears. And I’m going to find the beauty in this.”
The industry has a long way to go, Twain thinks, before women can be who they are as they get older, without having to pretend to be younger. The pressure to conform is real.
“I’m a performing artist and so for me getting out there and acting like I’m 25 or trying to pretend…” she sighed. “I’m not even interested in that. I’m just interested in being the menopausal 57-year-old self that I am. Whether you’re a woman or man, it doesn’t even matter, if you feel that you have to hide behind some facade just because the authentic you may not be good enough anymore… I am not that person. I would rather just quit what I’m doing. I can’t hide behind something, it’s just too stressful. I would have to literally reconstruct everything about me: my face, my body, everything, in order to look like a more perfect 40-year-old or something. It’s like, ‘No, no, no, I’d rather just be my 57-year-old self in the best way that I can be, in the most beautiful way that I can be.’”
As for what’s next for Twain? Leila Hebden – part of a Maverick Management triumvirate steering Twain alongside Scott Rodger and James Adams – is certainly of the mind that there’s still a lot to be done with Twain’s illustrious past, and is taking the reissues of Twain’s “diamond [selling] trilogy” The Woman In Me, Come On Over and Up! very seriously. This, she insists, hasn’t always been the case for female artists.
For many, many years I’ve been referred to as the ‘Queen’ of something, but if I’m the ‘Queen’ of anything, I’m the ‘Queen’ of me. The person that drove my direction was me, I’m the ‘Queen’ of my success
“I asked for examples of other sort of catalogue box sets, right?” said Hebden. “And it’s like, ‘Okay, here’s Elton John, The Beatles, Neil Young and Bob Dylan’ – they are beautiful celebratory packages. I dare you to go out and buy a Reba McEntire reissue and guess what she’s got? A bow has been drawn on the artwork, and it’s in a jewel case. Women have to absolutely fight and fight and fight to be recognised in their time, and then they are not even celebrated later when they are reissuing.”
To this end, Hebden promised an all-singing, all-dancing reissue of Twain’s blockbuster Come On Over soon that will be bolstered with “loads of interesting parts”.
“In her lifetime I want not only her audience but the industry to pay Shania her dues,” said Hebden. “ That’s my goal. And then I want to retire and make pottery in the countryside [laughs].”
As for Shania Twain? She’s already raring to get back into the studio again, and even has an idea of what she might like to do next.
“I’m loving listening to music from the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and even some stuff from the ’70s,” she reveals. “There were so many brilliant things written that I really want to re-record and bring those songs back to the forefront. They’re so timeless. I really want to make that album. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time.”
Subscribers can read the full Shania Twain cover feature here.