On the 'UP!' and up
Special to The Post and Courier
If, on the highway bound for glory, the semi-truck carrying a magically condensed cargo of "Shania Twain: pop/county megastar" were to suddenly turn over, spilling its top-secret contents, passers-by would see a roadway littered with millions of tiny exclamation points, swirling about the wreckage in electrified frenzy.
The Shania Twain machine, you see, is an exclamation point. Not only does the flamboyant punctuation mark permeate Ms. Twain's song titles, artist bios, album covers and merchandise, it fully conveys her public persona -- energetic, enthusiastic and loud.
Barring any highway mishaps, the Twain machine will stop by our neck of the woods this Tuesday night, when the "UP!" tour comes to The North Charleston Performing Arts Center.
As fans of the multiplatinum-selling singer have come to expect, the "UP!" tour is a fully adorned pop/country spectacular, featuring swarms of dancers, a fully incorporated light show, a fan friendly "In-The-Round" stage setup, and, of course, Shania Twain as her sexy self.
Twain loves to tour. "It's the biggest reward," she says, "I can see on (fans') faces what the songs mean to them. I'm affected by music, when I sit and listen I'm high by it, so when I see I'm affecting them the same way, I really feel I've done what I came to do."
At 38, Twain has done what she came to do and more. She has been the dominant presence in pop-country for more than a decade. Twain's 1997's record "Come On Over," an album brimming with bold statements like, "Man, I Feel Like a Woman!" and "That Don't Impress Me Much," sold more than 34 million copies worldwide, making Twain the best-selling female solo artist of all time.
But before she was a Super Bowl halftime show regular, a VH-1 poster child, and a guaranteed People magazine cover story, Shania Twain was Eileen Regina Edwards from the poor, rural town of Timmins, Ontario, Canada. When Twain was 22, both parents died in a tragic car accident, leaving her to care for her younger siblings. The experience helped forge Twain's immutable character, giving her an undying empathy for the hardships of others. Given Twain's trying life experiences, the daunting task of recording a follow-up to the sensationally popular, "Come On Over," was a piece of cake. Dismissing any pre-release pressures, Twain said, "I don't have any anxiety about the success of this record. My goal isn't to outsell 'Come On Over.' I just really want to know what people think of it. I'm excited to get the feedback."
But don't be fooled by her relaxed expectations for the album. Twain poured all her creative energy into "UP!"
"We wanted to put something together that was bigger and better," she says, "and the whole thing IS so much bigger and better than anything I've done in the past."
Released in November 2002, "UP!" has solidified Twain's image as an empowered go-getter. Songs like "I'm Gonna Gitcha Good" and "In My Car (I'll Be The Driver)" deliver that no-nonsense, self-assured girl power that has made Twain one of her gender's most positive role models. On "Waiter! Bring Me Water!", Twain sings about a girl who is prepared to douse her man when she catches him eyeing another girl at a restaurant. On the tracks "UP!" and "I'm Not in the Mood (To Say No)!" similarly headstrong characters show dogged perseverance in the face of empty gas tanks and hesitant lovers, respectively.
In contrast to the bold and zesty characters she writes about in her songs, Twain insists that she herself is somewhat more reserved. Having devoted herself to the ascetic spiritual path of Sant Mat, Twain meditates regularly, sticks to a vegetarian diet, abstains from alcohol and doesn't consider herself a very sexual person.
It was in this temperate mood that Twain and her husband/producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange wrote, recorded, and produced "UP!" Discussing the creative process for "UP!" Twain comments, "The whole record has been made differently. We traveled around a lot more, we used musical influences from all over the world. We used Indian musicians recorded directly in Mumbai, India; some of the American musicians were recorded in the Caribbean; a 40-piece orchestra recorded in Ireland; other musicians in Italy; and we literally hopped from city to city song-writing, including Vienna, Paris, Berlin, Milan, Rome, Provence and The Grenadine Islands. This music came together in smaller pieces over a longer period of time."
Because "UP!" incorporates so many eclectic musical styles, Twain decided to offer multiple versions of each song in order to reach her increasingly diverse audience. Each album sold in The United States contains two CDs, a "green" country mix, with banjos, fiddles, and all the fixins, and a "red" pop mix, with synthesizers, programmed beats, and digital hooks.
For her non-Western audience, Twain even offers a "blue" world mix, featuring sitars, tablas and a more ethnic vibe. Asked why she chose to undertake this ambitious remix project, Twain responds, "It's so unfair to categorize songs. You don't know what that song's capable of."
And to the delight of her label, Universal, each of Shania Twain's songs has proved capable of capturing three distinct markets.
"UP!" made its debut at No. 1 on the Billboard charts in November 2002 and continues to sell. The "UP! Tour 2004" is breaking attendance records in cities around the world.
In April 2004, it seems the sky is the limit for Shania Twain. Before long, we won't be referring to her as "Shania Twain: pop/country megastar," but as, "Shania Twain: pop/country/world music megastar." When she busts out the alpenhorn, I'm leaving.
Shania Twain's UP! Tour 2004 comes to the North Charleston Coliseum on Tuesday at 7 p.m. For tickets ($81/$66/$46), call 843-529-5050 or visit www.coliseumpac.com.
GET "UP!" WHAT: Shania Twain's UP! Tour 2004 WHERE: North Charleston Coliseum WHEN: Tuesday, at 7 p.m. COST: Tickets are $81/$66/$46. Parking, $4 TICKETS: call (843) 529-5050 or visit www.coliseumpac.com.