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Old 12-01-2002, 05:59 PM
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"Mutt's got absolutely no shame about being a commercial record producer," says Joe Elliot, lead singer of Def Leppard. Lange produced Def Leppard's 12 million selling arena-rock classic, Hysteria, but his commercial sound works in almost any genre. His favorite trick is to pile layers of vocal takes sometimes several dozen on top of one another, giving his singers a lush, smooth sound. Then Lange uses key changes, drum fills, cowbells, chants, effects and spoken interludes to keep the listener's attention. These devices make Lange's music particularly popular with radio programmers; research shows that a song with numerous pace changes and interruptions, like those on Nah!, the herky-jerky sing-along on Up!, keeps listeners from turning the dial. "Lyrics," says Elliot, "are secondary. Mutt would say, 'When it comes to writing lyrics, it doesn't matter whether they're good or bad. They just have to be memorable.' Sometimes I'd play him personal stuff, and he'd go, 'I really like that.' Then we'd play it in the studio, and he'd object. He'd say, 'As your friend, I like it. But it's not pop, and it's not going to sell, so shut it.'"

Selling is apparently never far from Lange's mind. "He'd love to have the top record of all time," says Mercury's Lewis. "Everybody's trying to make a living, and it's fun, but there is a scorecard. And if Shania thinks that that's what he wants, she'll help him get it." Twain admits she has bought into the Lange program completely, although, she adds, they're equal partners in her success. "Mutt alone has never had this much success in his career," she says. "Never as consistently and never as big. It's what we do together that makes it so great." Since meeting Lange, Twain has become a strict vegetarian and a devotee of Sant Mat, a strain of Sikh mysticism that advocates hours of daily meditation, abstinence from sex and alcohol, and copious journal keeping as the path to self-realization. The whole picture has led some, including Twain's brother Darryl, to conclude that she has become, as he put it in a 2000 magazine interview, "a robot."

Whatever the confines of her marriage, Twain doesn't seem to be chafing within them. She and Lange speak by cell phone constantly and communicate like husband and wife, not Svengali and subject. They talk about the baby, their reservations at vegetarian haute cuisine joints across Europe and sometimes about canceling those reservations. "Hey, lovey," Twain says to Lange, who is a maniacal English-soccer fan. "Did you know there's a game between England and Macedonia tonight? Did you want to watch that?" They end up staying in.

Twain seems somehow removed from her own success. "There's no separating me and music," she says, "but there's a big separation between music and career. Sometimes I just think I belong in a bar, singing with my guitar. I don't think I'm worthy of everything that's happening now. I don't think I'll ever be my best commercially. I'm not sure if I will ever achieve that."

Asked if she might find a way to integrate vulnerability and world domination, Twain thinks for a moment. "I've got dreams," she says. "I'd like to do a duet album with all of my favorite artists Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Stevie Wonder, Bonnie Raitt, Karen Carpenter if she were alive, Etta James." Twain is laughing now. "These are impossibilities, but I'd love it. And I would want it to be originals. What would be really fantastic would be to write songs with all those people. That would be a dream album for me. One dream album."

But her dream can never be realized. "I don't feel free," she says. "I think, I don't feel free to do what I want. It's not in my nature. I could never just do anything for fun. I mean, it's such a waste of time to do something for fun. I feel like I've got to be productive. I can't live the rest of my life like this, but for now I have to justify any pleasurable time that I have. But I do have dreams." Those dreams will have to wait, because selling Up! will keep her performing on the road for a few years and thrust her right back into the swirl of another dream: being the world's biggest pop singer. Just whose dream that is, only Shania Twain knows for sure.
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