Release Date: 11.19.02
Record label: Mercury
Worst Pop Album 2002
by: bill aicher
"It's 'bout as bad as it can be," Shania Twain exclaims as "Up!" opens her new album, also titled Up!. And whether you knew it or not, Shania Twain is a master of prognostication, because these opening words are about the best way to describe things to come.
Honestly, I tried to like this album, or at least to see where fans of Shania's latest are coming from, but it's been a largely failed attempt. On Up!, Ms. Twain has made it abundantly clear she's not quite the "country" artist she had been pegged as by her marketing team her first time around. And that's all fine and good, we've pretty much figured that out and a great deal of people have accepted her regardless. The thing is, on Up! she's taken a dive off the deep-end, and her previously forgivable quirks have taken control throughout the disc.
In an interesting attempt at showing her versatility as an artist, Twain has opted to release Up! as a double-album with the first disc (the red disc) containing pop/rock mixes of the songs and the second disc (the blue disc) containing the "country" versions. It's a daring move, and one which, if executed properly, could have resulted in music sure to please all her fans. What it does, rather, is enforce the disposability of the songs contained therein. In most instances, there are versions of songs that work and versions that don't - it's the reason for choosing a particular mix and feel for the song that makes the final cut.
That isn't to say any version of these songs do work though. Throughout Up! you're unlikely to come across anything that really grabs you. The lyrics are absolutely inane, with lines like "You're a fine piece of real estate / and I'm gonna get me some land." Honestly, whoever approved this at the label level was not paying attention.
And then there's the production. Mutt Lange is a big name, sure... and he's her husband. But these songs really sound like 80s synth-pop at times. Lange can't help but give them that sound, and he really can't help but keep away from the drum machine; even the country versions, while being a step in an acceptable direction, are plagued by overproduction.
Yet the biggest problem with Up! is Twain's blockheaded desire to build the perfect song based on her past successes. More often than not, she comes off as a bad knock-off of herself.
Who Ms. Twain's target audience is, I can't be sure. But if this is your bag of teah, more power to you.
Here's to another five years before the next album. 09-Jan-2003 10:33 PM