ELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times
Shania Twain has been going through rather a renaissance in recent months, including concert performances and residencies, her documentary “Not Just A Girl” on Netflix (which I reviewed back in August), and most recently, the release of her new album “Queen of Me,” which dropped last week.
I was actually unaware Twain was about to release a new album, but then last week, as I was searching for something to listen to while doing some work, I saw a couple suggested videos on YouTube from the album and decided almost immediately to go ahead and listen to it. And I’m VERY glad I did.
To start off, I have to give praise to Twain’s vocals throughout the album. As some might know, she had a rough time getting her voice back to normal after battling Lyme Disease several years ago, and with “Queen of Me,” I could definitely tell she was excited to be back in the studio and singing. Something I also noticed with Twain’s vocals, though, is she seems to have developed more of her deeper register because there are some lower tones she hits that I’m not sure I’ve heard in her earlier songs. She might not sound exactly like she did on her earlier albums, but there’s still a lot of energy radiating off the album and I absolutely enjoyed it. I have a feeling many of the songs will be used for workouts, general mood lifting, jamming out in the car, etc., because that’s how energetic the album is.
The album is about starting over and finding yourself again, and each song has a very distinct message regarding just that, and the overall effect is pretty cool. The fun begins almost right away with the first song, “Giddy Up” (which I’m sure will remind some listeners of “Man! I Feel Like A Woman”), which I would actually say is my favorite song overall from the album. I feel like there will be MANY line dancing videos to that song uploaded to YouTube in the near future due to how catchy it is. “Brand New” is another song I really enjoyed and should particularly resonate with people who have left bad relationships in the past. The opening verses alone, which features the lyrics “I just said goodbye/And you didn't care enough to ask me why/I was hoping that you wouldn't blow this/But you just kept trying to control this/Typical you didn't notice me leave” particularly stuck with me, and so did the lyrics “You took too long/When you got that I was gone/Now I talk about you in the past tense/Got to the end of the sentence/Without you finishing it for me” later on in the song. It’s a rather simple song and not particularly life-altering or anything, but the lyrics definitely struck a chord with me.
Another particular favorite of mine from the album is "Inhale/Exhale AIR," which is basically asking listeners what they want to do with their time – do they want to just let life pass them by or are they going to make life fun and do the most they can with what they have? Everyone poses this type of question to themselves at some point in their lives, so it’s VERY relatable. Again, while rather a simple song, the overall message definitely struck a chord. Another song that particularly stood out to me was “The Hardest Stone,” the final song on the album. The song’s story itself is rather heartbreaking, and the chorus alone – “When will I learn/The hardest stone to turnIs the heart?/Oh, how will I know/It's time to let go?/When the world won't stop moving, I'm losing my hold/I thought it would change/Then I woke up dazed/In the dark/Oh when will I learn/The hardest stone to turn/Is the heart?” – is something I found just beautiful, and Twain’s vocals are amazing.
While the songs for the most part are again, rather simple, the messages in the individual songs and the overall album are pretty universal. Everyone has a point when they need to reevaluate some things and take stock of what’s happened in their lives, and each of the songs on the album capture those feelings pretty well, whether it’s about ending a relationship or getting back into the dating world or anything in between. It’s all very relatable and listeners will have at least one “Ooooh, I FELT that!” moment while listening to the album. While the songs are primarily pop, there are also a few moments where Twain’s country influences are heard, and the combination is very balanced. The only other minor complaint I have about the songs is how they end so abruptly – with every song, there’s the impression given that there’s more to come, but then they all just abruptly end, which was a little jarring.
Overall, I very enjoyed listening to “Queen of Me,” and I would give it a “B” grade. Twain’s vocals are outstanding and energetic, and the album overall is a great statement about being your own champion and going through your own renaissance. However, I feel like there could have been more done with the lyrics so the album could have been a bit of a deeper listen. If you’re a fan of any of Shania Twain’s other albums, there’s a chance you’ll enjoy “Queen of Me.”