Shania Twain
Photo: Louie Banks via Republic Records

Shania Twain Owns Herself on ‘Queen of Me’

Queen of Me is not as dominating as Shania Twain’s existing body of work, but it highlights a beloved household name getting to know herself better.

Queen of Me
Shania Twain
3 February 2023

There’s a long-standing discussion in popular culture about how women are allowed to age in pop music. The topic generally centers around contemporaries like Pink or Katy Perry, but it often leaves out the country-pop crossover legacy created by Shania Twain in the 1990s and maintained into the present day. Indeed, despite going nearly 15 years without releasing a new studio album while she battled myriad personal issues, Twain’s legacy never faltered. The success she had already experienced could have been enough to sustain any musician for a lifetime.

But the singer has persevered, recovering from losing her singing voice due to a Lyme disease-induced battle with dysphonia years ago. When she released her comeback album Now in 2017, much criticism was focused on her processed vocals. The reality was that some notes weren’t yet landing with her recovering voice. Still, Twain wanted to provide an emotional outlet for herself and any listener who also might have been struggling. What Now might’ve lacked in singing prowess, it made up for in personal significance, marking the first time in decades that she hadn’t made music with her ex-husband, Mutt Lange.

Five and a half years, a world tour, and a new Las Vegas residency later, Twain has released a follow-up to her comeback, the aptly titled Queen of Me. The singer explained that, at 57, she fears that what’s left of her voice will not last forever, and she wants to use it while she still has it. It’s a good thing, too, because if Now chronicled her vocal rehabilitation, then Queen of Me is the real comeback. Twain’s vocals are 110% stronger than when we heard her last, sounding the most present they’ve been since the release of her 2011 standalone single “Today Is Your Day”.

The record itself, however, doesn’t pack as strong a punch. It’s campy, more pop than country, and comparatively shorter than her previous works. She’s feeling herself and wants to have fun while she’s feeling good, which is perfectly fine. But where Now felt like the next chapter of the woman fans like myself had been dying to meet again since 2002’s Up!, Queen of Me sounds more like a blip on the radar.

For an artist who has established such a commanding body of work in a relatively short time, this album is just that: an album. It’s fun and fluffy in the right ways for a country-pop diva, but it lacks the emotional gravity that listeners have come to expect from Twain. Where there was “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!”, there was always “You’re Still the One”. Where there was “I’m Gonna Getcha Good!”, there was always “It Only Hurts When I’m Breathing”. Here, where there’s the glib “Giddy Up!,” there’s perhaps “Inhale/Exhale AIR” or “The Hardest Stone”, but the material isn’t as strong.

This isn’t to imply that Twain was only worthwhile as an entertainer while working solely with her ex-husband, who produced the entirety of the work that catapulted her to international superstardom. Where the singer was credited as a producer on every track of her previous LP, she’s done her best to keep up with the times on Queen of Me, aided by signing a new record deal with Republic for the album and employing an array of different songwriters and producers to achieve its sound. There’s female and personal empowerment on the title track, whose lyrics suggest Twain has finally gotten to know herself: “And I think it’s funny / You think you make all the rules / ‘Cause I’m queen of me.”

Queen of Me’s strongest offering is “Not Just a Girl”, released in conjunction with Twain’s Netflix documentary of the same name last summer. Ironically, the track contains the record’s only prominent example of manipulated vocals. But the song’s sentiment stands out, suggesting that its speaker cannot be stopped no matter how old she is or what she’s been through. That seems to be Queen of Me’s thesis statement, a general theme of empowerment that is echoed through its lead single, “Waking Up Dreaming”. The record is not as dominating as Twain’s existing body of work, but it externalizes a beloved household name getting to know herself better.

RATING 6 / 10