Kate's Notes

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Shania Twain

Shania Twain

Shania Twain, OC (born August 28, 1965, Windsor, Ontario) came out of the country music scene in 2000 and crossed over to pop, with her strong, fun and feminine songs, and unabashed sex appeal. Not only is she a successful singer and songwriter in the country and pop music genres, with her third album Come on Over holding the rank of the biggest-selling album of all time by a female artist, and the best selling album in the history of country music, she is also a survivor, overcoming tragedy in her life to take over the country music world.

She is the only female artist to have three albums certified Diamond by the RIAA, and has earned five Grammy awards and nearly forty BMI Songwriter awards. She is married to rock producer Robert "Mutt" Lange and they have a five-year old son, Eja. Shania and her family currently reside in Switzerland and New Zealand.

Early Life

Born Eilleen Regina Edwards to Sharon and Clarence Edwards, Twain’s parents separated when she was two, and Twain’s mother remarried Jerry Twain who was a full-blooded member of the Ojibwa First Nation. When he adopted Twain, her name was changed to Eilleen Twain. The second oldest of five siblings, Twain and her family lived in a rather unstable financial home, and Twain’s mother was often depressed over shortage of food and money . Despite the family's financial troubles, the Twain home was always full of music.

However, Twain’s mother was pivotal to mentoring and encouraging her daughter’s singing talent; in addition, Twain brought in much needed money by singing in local clubs and bars from a very young age to support her family.

At the age of 13, Twain was invited to perform on CBC television's “Tommy Hunter Show.” During high school in Timmins, she was the vocalist for a local band called "Longshot" which covered Top 40 music. After graduating from high school, Shania went to Toronto to attempt to further pursue her life-long dream of becoming a professional singer/songwriter. When her mother and adoptive father died in a car accident on November 1, 1987, Twain, then only 22 years old, put her musical career on hold and was forced to take care of the family. She and her siblings to Huntsville, Ontario, where she supported them by performing at the nearby Deerhurst resort for nearly three years.

Twain indulged in writing and singing songs, and found inspiration in popular contemporary tunes. Tammy Wynette and Willie Nelson were among her favorite country musicians, while she also loved such artists as Stevie Wonder, The Mamas and the Papas, and The Carpenters.

In 1991, after an entertainment lawyer (Dick Frank) from Nashville, Tennessee heard her act, she was invited to record a demo tape. That led to her first recording contract with Richard Frank of Mercury Nashville Records, whereupon she changed her name to Shania [Shu-nye-uh], which was created by her adoptive father from Ojibwa words probably meaning "She's on her way.” Twain's embrace of her adoptive Ojibwa heritage has not been without controversy among members of the Canadian First Nations, with some claiming that a non-Ojibwa adopted by an Ojibwa parent cannot be considered a true Ojibwa. Twain’s response to such criticism is: "I don't know how much Indian blood I actually have in me, but as the adopted daughter of my father Jerry, I became registered as a 50% North American Indian ... That is my heart and my soul, and I'm very proud of it."

Later, the city of Timmins later renamed a street for her, gave her the key to the city, and built the Shania Twain Centre in her honor. Twain visited Timmins to officially open the Shania Twain Centre and to film a CTV special on November 2, 2004.

Recording Career

Shania Twain: The Slow Beginning: 1993 - 1994

Twain felt her 1993 self-titled debut album was unsatisfactory as she was forced by her record company to work with Nashville songwriters as she only got to co-write one of the songs and felt that the album was not really her own; and the album did not please the public, gaining little sales and no real chart action for its singles. The albums first two singles, "What Made You Say That" and "Dance with the One That Brought You" peaked at #55 on Billboards Country Charts. By the end of 1993 the album had sold less than 250,000 copies.

Twain immediately felt alienated from the Nashville music scene, as she felt the album lacked her passion and drive for country music. Thankfully for her, things changed when she met Robert Lange at Nashville Fan Fair. Lange heard Shania's original songs and singing and thought she held promise. He then offered to produce her and to write songs with her. After many telephone conversations, they met in person at Nashville's Fan Fair in June 1993. Their professional relationship soon took a romantic turn, and they married on December 28, 1993.

The Woman in Me: The Star is Born 1995 - 1996

Lange and Twain instantly formed a successful partnership and Twain has often commented that a reason they work so well is because they are so different (which makes sense, seeing as Lange was 17 years older than Twain). They started working on a second album.

The Woman in Me was released in 1995 and took-off due to singles like "Any Man of Mine" and "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?,” because the videos were saucier than anything that Nashville had ever seen before. Twain was emerging as a strong, fun female voice and it was clear that she came to country music to leave her mark.

The album eventually topped the country charts for months and became a massive crossover to mainstream charts, peaking at No. 5 and to date has sold over 12 million copies, thanks to hits like "No One Needs to Know" and "God Bless the Child." The Woman in Me went on to win the Grammy Award for Best Country Album as well as the Academy of Country Music award for Album of the Year; the latter group also awarded Twain as Best New Female Vocalist.

Come on Over: Breakthrough Hits 1997 – 2000

In 1997, Twain released the album that established her as a successful crossover artist: her follow-up album, Come on Over. Selling 172,000 within days of its release, the album was seen by many at first as a disappointment, given the massive success of her last effort. But slowly, the album started racking up sales.

It never hit the top spot, but with the multi-chart hit single "You're Still the One," sales skyrocketed. Songs like "Don't Be Stupid," "Honey, I'm Home," "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!," "That Don't Impress Me Much," and "From This Moment On" joined the 12 songs that eventually saw release as singles. Each song had fun and feisty music videos accompanying it, which made her quite popular on country music television, and pop music television.

Over the next two years, the album stayed on the charts, spinning off hit after hit. When the dust finally settled, Come on Over had sold 20 million copies in the United States and 39 million worldwide, making it the biggest-selling album of all time by a female artist, and the biggest-selling country album of all time.

Songs from the album won four Grammy Awards over the next two years, including Best Country Song for Twain and Lange for "You're Still the One" and "Come on Over" and Best Female Country Performance for "You're Still the One" and "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” The album has sold 39 million copies worldwide, the largest ever by a female solo artist, but despite this it wasn't able to top the Billboard 200, reaching a peak of #2. It did however top the charts for 11 weeks in the United Kingdom. Additionally, the album set the record for the longest ever stay in the Top 20 of The Billboard 200, remaining in the Top 20 for 99 weeks (about 1 year and 10 months).

There were several keys to this success. The songs on Come on Over were full of catchy hooks and phrases that proved memorable. Lange's hard rock production techniques from his work with Def Leppard, AC/DC and others proved effective in the country/pop context. Many newer fans were unaware of her country music roots, particularly as versions of singles released to non-country radio in North America and around the world featured remixed versions de-emphasizing country-style instrumentation.

Twain's mainstream pop acceptance was further helped by her appearance in the 1998 first edition of the VH1 Divas concert, where she sang alongside Mariah Carey, Céline Dion, Gloria Estefan and Aretha Franklin and by VH1's 1999 heavily-aired Behind the Music treatment of her, which concentrated on the tragic aspects of her early life as well as her physical attractiveness and Nashville's early resistance to her bared-midriff music videos.

In 1999, Twain also established a visible commercial relationship with Revlon cosmetics, based around "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!"

In 1998 Shania Twain launched her first major concert tour, aided by her manager Jon Landau, a veteran of many large-scale tours with Bruce Springsteen. The Come on Over Tour shows were enthusiastically received by audiences around the globe and answered critics who speculated that she could not perform live. As part of this tour, she held a contest in each city that she visited to allow one young singer to join her on stage for one of her songs. One of these lucky winners was Avril Lavigne who sang with Twain at her concert in Ottawa. Avril Lavigne eventually became a widely successful artist in pop rock. Twain's peak of success was further emphasized when she was named the 1999 Entertainer of the Year by both the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association. She is the first of only two non-US and one of only five solo women to win the CMA version of the award. The other non-US person is Keith Urban and the other solo women are Reba McEntire, Barbara Mandrell, Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn.

Up!: Up and Away: 2001 - 2003

After the success of Come on Over and the busy schedule it brought, Twain revealed she was suffering from exhaustion and had decided to take a two year break. During this break, she gave birth, and according to the singer they "drank lots of hot chocolate, rode horses and relaxed" in their Swiss mansion. After the break, Twain went back into the studio and Up! was released in November 2002, making it five years since the world had new material from her and she staged the Up! Tour later to promote it.

Up! was released as a double album, with 3 discs - pop, country and Indian/Latin. For North American markets, the pop disc was paired with the country disc and in international markets, the pop disc was paired with the Indian/Latin disc. The Indian/Latin disc was recorded in Mumbai, India. Up! was given four out of five-stars by Rolling Stone magazine, and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard albums chart, selling 874,000 in the first week alone. It charted at the top for five weeks.

The first single from the album "I'm Gonna Getcha Good!", became a modest country hit that did not do much on the pop charts, however in the United Kingdom it was a massive pop hit peaking at #4 in the United Kingdom singles chart. The follow-up single "Up!" failed to hit the top ten country or the top 40-pop; however, the third single from the album would be the most successful. The romantic ballad "Forever and for Always" was released as a single in April 2003 and peaked at number four on the country chart and number one on the AC chart, spending 6 weeks there. "She's Not Just a Pretty Face" was a country top-ten hit, while the last North American single, "It Only Hurts When I'm Breathing", made the top 20 on both Country and AC. To date, Up! has sold 5.5 million copies in the U.S. (Certified by the RIAA as 11 times platinum due to the organization's rules regarding double albums, which are counted as 2 units for certifications) and over 17 million copies worldwide. These are very impressive marks by normal standards, despite not being as high as the records set by Come on Over.

Also in 2003, Twain participated in the Dolly Parton tribute album, Just Because I'm a Woman, covering Parton's classic "Coat of Many Colors". (On a number of occasions, Twain has cited Parton as one of her greatest musical influences.)

Greatest Hits: Time Flies 2004 - current

In 2004, she released the Greatest Hits album, with three new tracks. To date, it has sold over 3.5 million copies in the U.S, and over 7.5 Million worldwide. The first single, the multi-format duet "Party for Two", made the country top ten with Billy Currington, while the pop version with Sugar Ray lead singer Mark McGrath made top ten in the United Kingdom and Germany. The follow-up singles, "Don't!" and "I Ain't No Quitter" didn't fare as well, the former made top twenty AC, while the latter didn't gain enough airplay to even crack the country top 40, due to no promotion by Twain or the label.

In August 2005, when Twain hit 40, she released the single "Shoes" from the “Desperate Housewives” soundtrack; it failed to make much of an impact, barely getting into the top 30 on the country charts and not charting elsewhere. "Shoes" was also the first single release in which she and her husband were not the entire writing credits since her first album (besides the promotional release of Coat of Many Colors from the album Just Because I'm A Woman: Songs of Dolly Parton).

Twain announced after her Greatest Hits album that she would be returning to the studio to work on new material. There have been many rumors recently but new material is expected in 2007.

Personal Life and Media Focus

Twain recently bought some land near Wanaka in New Zealand, at a 170 km² sheep station where she hopes to build a house, despite much criticism of its purchase from neighbours. Shania and Mutt's Swiss chateau (Castle of Sully) in La Tour-de-Peilz was sold on October 2, 2006 to a Russian couple, and Shania, Mutt and Eja have moved into a more modest residence in Corseaux, Switzerland.

Twain gave birth to her first child - a boy, named Eja [pronounced Asia] in 2001, and he has been raised a vegetarian like Twain and Lange. Twain is also known for passionately standing up for what she believes in and these include raising awareness for poor children across North America; her favorite charities being Second Harvest Food Bank and Kids Cafe.

Twain has always been athletic, and these days she especially loves hiking, swimming, and horseback riding. During her Up! Tour, Twain brought her dog Tim, a german shepherd, with her.

In 2003 Shania performed “Man! I Feel like a Woman!” and “Up!” during the Super Bowl XXXVII halftime show at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. Later in 2003, she was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame. Shania has also been confirmed as one of the recipients of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, to be awarded sometime this year.

A television biopic of "Twain, Shania: A Life in Eight Albums," aired on CBC Television on November 7, 2005, with Meredith Henderson starring as Twain.

In 2005 Shania Twain started a commercial relationship with COTY for the creation of her fragrance Shania by Stetson.

Around the same time, Twain appeared on an episode of the reality show “The Apprentice,” riding horses around Central Park and having dinner with two contestants who had successfully marketed her fragrance on the show.

On November 18, 2005, Twain was invested as an Officer in the Order of Canada.


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