The Shania Twain catalog is rich with radio hits, songs that have come to define an era in country music and paved the way for other genre-bending artists that followed. But there are also some deeper cuts that stand among Twain’s best. While they may not have the pop-culture appeal of monsters like “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” or “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” they are integral to the Canadian superstar’s fabric. As Twain releases her new album Now this month – her first in 15 years – we rank her 20 best tracks in order.
At this early juncture — “Dance With the One That Brought You” was the second single off her self-titled debut — Twain sounds downright quaint compared to where she’d be just two years later. This loping two-stepper shuffles more than it swaggers, and its message relies on mama’s wisdom rather than Twain’s own sly wit. It’s surprisingly compact, too, clocking in at only two and a half minutes, so it’s no surprise that she never fully leans into her vocal range, either. But as a dress rehearsal, many of the key ingredients are there in Twain’s warm, empathetic performance. The twang would get more soul, and the production would get tougher, but already she was making a name for herself as a music video star, with Sean Penn picking up one of his first directorial credits on “Dance With the One That Brought You.” J.G.
Released as the lead single from Up!, the pressure was high on “I’m Gonna Getcha Good!” – the first new music that Twain had released since Come On Over made her an international juggernaut. The song had a foot in the worlds of both albums, but it bore the mark of the turn-of-the-millennium pop trends that had taken hold in the intervening years. In fact, the only thing that could be classified as country was Twain’s singing on “I’m Gonna Getcha Good!” which in turn bore its own resemblance, both in message and in its sultry delivery, to that of Debbie Harry on Blondie’s classic “One Way or Another.” Switching between those different meters was the key to Twain’s success, and while Up! didn’t quite hit the dizzying heights of Come On Over, “I’m Gonna Getcha Good!” became yet another hit, later getting covered by the Jonas Brothers. J.G.
Few things carry more pressure for an artist than the prospect of writing a “comeback” song. There’s a delicate balance between appealing to one’s original fan base and exploring modern inclinations, and finding such a balance after a 15-year absence was surely no easy task for Twain. She did so, though, with “Life’s About to Get Good,” a feel-good tune with hallmarks of early Twain and a beachy, contemporary country vibe that led her return LP Now. The positive message of the track made for fitting comeback material, too, as Twain – who’s had a hell of a last few years in her personal life – is believable in her assertion that she has a lot to look forward to. B.M.
Shania Twain branching out well beyond country music was far less of a stretch than one might think, based on “You Lay a Whole Lot of Love on Me,” the third single off her eponymous debut album. Over a keyboard riff straight out of a Whitney Houston arrangement, Twain tries on adult-contemporary pop balladry for size. It fits well as she ranges from crooning to belting. While it didn’t even dent the charts, “You Lay a Whole Lot of Love on Me” endures as an intriguing road-not-taken artifact – what might have been if Twain’s template was Gloria Estefan rather than Def Leppard. D.M.
A sort of prequel to the fizzy romanticism of “You’re Still the One,” this lush, intimate ballad from Up! came after that mega-hit chronologically but captures the optimism of having found a love that will stand the test of time. Irony aside, considering the fate of the song’s then-married creators, it closed the album, Twain’s last full studio effort with Mutt Lange, on a warm, hopeful note that it still benefits from to this day. The weight of the world is indeed immense but feeling it lifted away with the promise of a single kiss is enough to melt the hardest, most cynical of hearts. A similar thing happened with many of Twain’s harshest critics as Up! not only became her third consecutive album to sell more than 10 million copies but also earned predominately positive reviews. S.B.
In can be difficult to remember that Shania Twain did not burst out as the fully formed Shania overnight. At the beginning of her career nearly a quarter-century ago, she was a fairly conventional female country singer – and a good one, too, as the lead-off single from her self-titled 1993 debut album demonstrates. In the era before Twain co-wrote her own material, “What Made You Say That” was co-written by Shenandoah keyboardist Stan Munsey, Jr., with Nashville pro Norro Wilson among the producers. And it glides along with an easygoing jingle-jangle, with Twain’s fetching vocal on a tale of love gone good setting her up as someone you could root for. While it only peaked at Number 70 on the country singles chart, the video to “What Made You Say That” did generate a moderate amount of controversy over her bared midriff. D.M.
Country music’s Celtic tradition is celebrated to the hilt with this irresistible and charmingly goofy single from Come on Over. Although rife with backhanded compliments – the title itself, for starters – and addressing a suspicious, less-than-confident partner’s insecurities, the fiddle-happy track that reached Number Six on the country chart benefits from the participation of Twain’s fellow countrymen (and women) in the family band, Leahy. The group joined the superstar performer on her blockbuster Come on Over Tour and also appeared in the jubilant, swirling, rain-soaked music video that highlighted fiddling and Irish step-dancing in a way rarely seen and heard in modern country music, in spite of the influence both have had on the entire genre for centuries. Although not one of Twain’s biggest chart hits, it’s without question one of her catchiest. Don’t be stupid, you know you love it. S.B.
Producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange was the man who put the bomp into AC/DC, Def Leppard and other massive pop-metal hits, and it was his genius to transpose the trappings of arena-metal onto country music. In his then-wife Shania Twain, he had the perfect vessel to bring that vision to life. This formula was beginning to flower into its full potential on their second album together, 1997’s mega-breakout Come On Over, with this lead single as calling card. It’s as perfect a metallic-country mashup as Twain and Lange ever conjured, setting lilting fiddle and pedal steel flourishes to a swaggeringly massive backbeat and trick-riff guitars. And Twain, as usual, sounds like she’s having a ball. D.M.
A turbo-charged rocker revved up on motor-related metaphors, this as Twain’s third country chart-topper in a row from The Woman in Me, but unlike the rest of that breakthrough album, which was co-written by the singer with producer/husband Mutt Lange, this one was all Mutt. Reminiscent of his earlier-penned tunes “One Foot Back in Your Door” and the later smash, “Get Outta My Dreams (Get Into My Car)” by Billy Ocean, like those this one benefited from splashy production and a relentless pop-rock beat but kept it just country enough to extend the budding Canadian superstar’s winning streak. Twain’s fifth single from the LP that put her on the map, its success was certainly not hampered by Twain pouring her “classy little chassis” (her words, not ours) into body-hugging black leather. S.B.
We tend to associate Shania Twain with being the epitome of feminine strength and empowerment – which she is – but she’s always been a much more complex personality. She spells it out right at the top of “The Woman in Me (Needs the Man in You),” the title track from her star-making 1995 album: “I’m not always strong, and sometimes I’m even wrong,” she intones, momentarily allowing herself to be vulnerable and giving the aching vocal performance to match. Like her first Number One “Any Man of Mine,” Twain wrote the song with producer Mutt Lange but couldn’t duplicate its chart-topping success. People loved for Twain to be calling the shots, of course, but it was nevertheless thrilling to get a tiny glimpse at the multifaceted human behind the bravado. J.F.
Although technically the final Number One hit of Twain’s career, “Honey, I’m Home” helped pump more fuel into the hit-making engines of Come on Over, which churned out two of her most career-defining songs – “That Don’t Impress Me Much” and “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” – months after this track fell from the charts. Modeled after the stomp and swagger of a sports-arena chant, “Honey I’m Home” hits hard with girl-power punch and pop-rock polish, with Twain ordering her lover to fix dinner, rub her feet and get off the damn phone. It’s hardly her finest set of lyrics, but the song still serves as an interesting time capsule, released during the absolute peak of the singer’s heyday. When it topped the Billboard Hot Country chart on Halloween Day, 1998, Twain was in Houston, playing a sold-out show in the middle of her 165-date Come On Over Tour. Come to think of it, she totally deserved that foot rub. R.C.
The Woman in Me had already spawned five hit singles by the time this Bakersfield-influenced love song hit the airwaves during the summer of 1996. It climbed to Number One that July, making an appearance in the blockbluster film Twister along the way. Roosty and retro-minded, “No One Needs to Know” still stands as one of the most genuinely countrified songs on Twain’s breakout record, marking a rare moment in which she looked to the twangy past – not the pop-heavy present – for inspiration. R.C.
Though not a hit in the manner of its fellow singles from The Woman in Me — it “only” cracked the country Top 40 — “Home Ain’t Where His Heart Is (Anymore)” served the equally important role of being the breakthrough album’s lead track, the opening statement from Twain’s partnership with Mutt Lange that would see the pair conquer the world together. In many ways, it was a bit of a ruse, a moody, vulnerable love song that betrayed the tough-talking independence that characterized so much of what Twain came to be known for. But that’s why it works so well. Twain relied on both sides of that coin, and “Home Ain’t Where His Heart Is (Anymore),” with an unfurling bass line worthy of the Twin Peaks theme, cuts straight through to the emotional heart that beat below the surface of even her glossiest anthems. J.G.
With a verse that sounded like Def Leppard’s “Let’s Get Rocked” – another Mutt Lange success story – and a chorus dominated by pedal steel guitar, “Any Man of Mine” singlehandedly build the bridge between Twain’s country foundation and her pop/rock makeover. The song arrived in May 1995, hitting the airwaves while “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” was still a Top 20 single. The timing was perfect. With an abundance feminist firepower and crossover charm, “Any Man of Mine” went all the way to Number One, priming audiences for the genre-jumping hits to follow. R.C.
Following up the massive success of “You’re Still the One” was no easy task for Twain, but “From This Moment On” didn’t disappoint — both in terms of sales and artistic statement. Reaching Number Four on the Billboard Hot 100, the song reinforced just how much her appeal had crossed over outside the country world, as it performed better on the pop chart than it did on its country counterpart, even with a cameo from fellow country singer Bryan White. True enough, with its schmaltzy production and sweeping string arrangement, “From This Moment On” was more adult contemporary than country. But that lush, down-tempo approach suited Twain just fine, whose voice simply soared in one of her most stunning performances. The message was clear: It didn’t matter what kind of music Twain was singing so long as she was the one singing it. J.G.
Twain knows her way around a song title, but this one from her 1995 country smash The Woman In Me just may take the cake as her best. The song itself is Nineties country gold, complete with clever wordplay, big vocal harmonies, and plenty of fiddle. Notably, the track was the first single that Twain, who made her debut two years prior with Shania Twain, co-wrote with Mutt Lange, and was also her first single to be certified Gold by the RIAA. While it didn’t do much in the way of foreshadowing Twain’s imminent crossover into pop country superstardom, the song remains one of her most beloved early hits. B.M.
If there is a better lyric in modern country music than, “Okay, so you’re Brad Pitt? That don’t impress me much,” we’ve yet to find it. Twain delivers the knockout line about two thirds of the way through the 1998 Come On Over smash with the kind of brassy, deadpan confidence that helped make that LP the best-selling country album of all time. The music video for the give-no-fucks anthem is one of Twain’s most beloved, too, featuring her in one of her signature leopard print looks while rejecting the advances of various hunk-types out in the desert. It remains one of Twain’s best-performing songs, having reached Gold or Platinum in nine countries. B.M.
Twain had scored her first country Number One with “Any Man of Mine” a few months before “(If You’re Not in It for Love) I’m Outta Here!” went to radio in the fall of 1995, but when it also topped the charts early the next year — the second of four singles to do so from The Woman in Me — it solidified her as a bona-fide hitmaker. The song was a watershed moment stylistically, too, with its crunchy, hard-rock edge, hand-clapping chorus, and, most importantly, the clever self possession of the lyric, in which Twain gleefully shoots down the ham-fisted advances of an oily barfly. Exploiting both her international appeal and potential as a sex symbol, the “I’m Outta Here!” dance remix was the basis of yet another hit music video, and even inspired Berlin dance group Real McCoy to record a cover two years later. J.G.
By the time they released this seventh single off 1997’s Come On Over, it was obvious that the Shania Twain/Mutt Lange team’s ambitions weren’t just arena-sized – no, they wanted the whole danged stadium. And “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” was just the ticket to put them all the way over the top, a song with enough sly attitude to earn its multiple exclamation points. That signature ear-worm guitar riff sets the tone as it struts out of the speakers, while Shania testifies to the prerogative of dressing up to have a little fun. It’s the rare song that’s even better when seen, with a hilarious video that riffs on Robert Palmer’s iconic “Addicted to Love” clip, surrounding Twain with a backup band of deadpan beefcakes. Even funnier is the Chevrolet truck spot that uses “Man!” for its soundtrack. D.M.
The ultimate Y2K prom theme, “You’re Still the One” was ubiquitous during the late Nineties, when it dominated mainstream radio alongside Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” and other crossover power ballads. Twain had written the song with her producer and then-husband Mutt Lange in response to public concerns about the couple’s 16-year age difference and supposedly mismatched marriage. Nearly two decades later, the once-happy partners are no longer together, driven apart by an extramarital affair that influenced much of Twain’s comeback album Now. Even so, the chorus of “You’re Still the One” remains lodged within the auditory cortexes of Millennials, Generation Xers and pretty much anyone else who listened to Top 40 radio during the turn of the century. Look how far we’ve come, my baby. R.C.