Shania Twain ruled the charts in the ’90s, with hits like “Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You)” and “Man! I Feel Like a Woman.” Since she stepped away from the spotlight, a new breed of country music, dubbed “bro-country,” has emerged, and even though it can be frustrating for female country acts to watch their male counterparts dominate the airwaves, Twain isn’t deterred.
“Balance is important. Whenever it goes too far in one direction, it just gets boring,” she tells Canada’s Maclean’s magazine. “It’s very dominated by men right now. A lot of people are saying this to me as encouragement. We don’t have enough women. Maybe it’s more romance that country is missing right now.
“Women have a lot to say, but it takes a lot of courage to say it. Women are the greater risk-takers,” Twain adds. “When they step out of what’s expected in this genre, they are really stepping in the line of fire.”
Twain would know: She received plenty of criticism for several of her songs, including “Honey I’m Home” and “Any Man of Mine,” which were perceived by radio as too anti-male.
“[“Honey I’m Home”] wasn’t ahead of its time, but the song was released on the brink of the change,” she explains. “”Honey I’m Home” was in the collection of songs that I wrote that [had lyrics] that were considered by some to be a little too harsh on men and a bit too demanding. It is interesting how much we’ve evolved since then. The challenge was with “Any Man of Mine,” which was considered to be too strong from a female perspective by radio. Not so much by the public — they were with me.”
The 49-year-old says that she feels fortunate that her career turned out so well in spite of all of the risks she took.
“When I was first coming out with songs, it could have gone either way,” Twain concedes. “It was never going to be anywhere in the middle. There were definitely people criticizing what I was doing.”
But if anyone knows her audience, it’s Twain. She just wrapped up a successful two-year residency in Las Vegas, Shania: Still the One, and is about to embark on her farewell Rock This Country Tour. But even though the songs she sings live are from 20 years ago, Twain says that her audience proves that they still resonate today.
“A lot of women relate to needing that support at home and being the working resource in the household,” she says. “The need for the guy to kick in and take on the role of the caretaker is there as well. I think it’s a lot of people’s reality now.
“[My songs] champion a typical woman’s plight. Especially in our day and age. They just do it with a sense of humor,” Twain continues. “People have taken those songs on like some sort of weekend support group. There is a camaraderie that develops around songs like that.”
Not that the Canadian writes songs just for commercial appeal. Whether it’s the tender “God Bless the Child,” or the humorous “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” Twain says that both writing and performing are equally rewarding for her.
“It is very therapeutic for me to write the music,” she notes. “The pleasure is sharing what I’ve created through my own process. When I take the music to the people, it all comes full circle. The reward is if my music is empowering or encouraging, or whatever. That motivates me.”
Twain is also writing for a new album, but she says she won’t try to fit in with the male-dominated songs that are currently topping charts.
“It’s not about being tough or writing lyrics about being strong or sassy,” Twain explains. “It is deeper than that. I think it’s about true self-awareness and having a real vision of where you belong in society. It’s not about conveying a superficial, ultra-beautiful, boss-warrior. We can go deeper than that.”
Twain’s Rock This Country Tour will kick off on June 5 in Seattle, Wash. A list of all of her upcoming shows is available on her website. Fans who are unable to catch Twain live can purchase her newly released Shania: Still the One Live From Vegas live CD/DVD at Walmart.