It shouldn't be tough rooting for Shania Twain these days. Embarking on a comeback after a six-year radio silence — and a nasty tabloid fracas — the Canadian born Eilleen Regina Edwards was raised in an abusive household. When she was 22, her parents were killed in a car accident, leaving her in charge of three sibs. She bootstrapped herself into the bestselling female country artist of all time with punctuation-happy hits like Man! I Feel Like a Woman! and (If You're Not in It for Love) I'm Outta Here!
And then her husband, super-producer Robert "Mutt" Lange, ditched her for her assistant/best friend. So Shania went and hooked up with the assistant/best friend's ex. Down with dudes! Up with divas! Huzzah!
With a whole lot to say, the 45-year-old just published a bestselling tell-all, From This Moment on. She taped a reality show for Oprah's OWN network. And she hooked up with David Foster — a schmaltzmeister who's usually money in the bank — to cut new single Today Is Your Day.
But that's where rooting for Shania Twain gets a lil' tricky.
She didn't have to be brilliant to regain her throne. In fact, she didn't even have to be all that good. It's not like Don't Be Stupid (You Know I Love You) was a sterling piece of songcraft.
But, wow, Today Is Your Day, her first new piece of music in a long time, is a shocking stinkeroo every which way. It truly makes for uncomfortable listening, not just because it sounds as if she's singing out of the side of her mouth a la James Cagney, but because this saccharine piece of tripe reinforces all those skeptics who forever insisted that Mutt Lange, who also helmed iconic albums for Def Leppard and AC/DC, was the sole key to his ex-wife's robust sonic success.
Uh, they might've been right.
Shania sounds totally adrift on the self-penned Hallmarkian claptrap of Today Is Your Day ("Don't expect more or less / Just go out and give it your best" — gack!), and her unsure warbling of the incessant torrent of tired cliches plays like a rough first take. The production is thin, cloying, self-help foofaraw, the kind of generic fake-smile junk you might hear at a second-rate theme-park kiddie show. Seriously, Barney the Dinosaur would dry-heave at this thing.
When Lange produced Def Leppard and AC/DC and, ultimately, his own wife, he didn't create templates for songs but personas. With Shania, he gave her a cape and red boots; shy and quiet in private, she became superwoman in public. But now, without Lange, she's stripped bare and she's asking us, six weird years later, to love the real Shania Twain. Yikes. If Today Is Your Day is a sign of things to come, you might want to hold your breath on that comeback.
Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at tampabay.com/blogs/poplife.