Despite Taylor Swift being ubiquitous today, the crossover from country to pop is not a new phenomenon. It’s been happening right since the 1950s when Patsy Cline had several hits on the pop charts. It continued in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s with artists like Dolly Parton, and Olivia Newton-John hitting the pop charts with their offerings. Nobody did it better and bigger than Shania Twain who blew open the box in the mid-1990s. She signalled her coming with the tremendously successful album The Woman in Me but it was just a precursor to her massive smash a couple of years later in 1997 – Come On Over. Recorded with her then partner producer Robert “Mutt” Lange the album blasted every record held by anyone and became the largest selling album by any woman ever. After almost a quarter of a century later Come On Over is still the biggest selling album by a female artist ever selling more than 40 million copies.
The album had 16 songs of which 12 were released as singles. The big hits are known to everybody such as “Man! I Feel Like a Woman,” “Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You),” “From This Moment On,” “Come On Over,” “You’re Still the One,” and “That Don’t Impress Me Much.” Twain and Lange wrote all the songs and worked meticulously over the music arrangements. Twain was still known as a country singer but Lange knew she had the potential to be a pop star. He cut down the country inflections in her voice and recorded the album as a pop album. After all, the man who made Bryan Adams and Def Leppard global superstars knew a thing or two about increasing a singer’s mass appeal!
Entering the Pop Arena
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Lange coaxed Twain to sing more like a pop singer and laid down the instrumentation and guitar sounds that made Come On Over an accessible pop album that would have massive appeal with the urban mainstream audiences. The result was pure pop sugar and confetti. The album was in the top 10 within weeks of release and went to the top in the US and several other countries. MTV played the songs over and over again until the record-buying public sat up and took notice. Still one can’t take away the fact that Come On Over is one of the best and most accessible pop albums ever by a man or woman.
Love Makes the World Go Round!
Songs like “I’m Holding On to Love (To Save My Life),” “Love Gets Me Every Time,” “I Won’t Leave You Lonely,” and “You’ve Got a Way” are sweet love songs sung with passion by a beautiful woman who knows her mind and is vulnerable at the same time. Twain is unabashed on the album that she is looking for the right man and that it’s love that makes life worth living. Her elegance and honesty shine on every song and her yearning for a fruitful relationship touched the heart of every person who heard her album. Twain took relationships seriously and not lightly as opposed to the lightness which many other singers professed.
“Man! I Feel Like a Woman” had wit and humour and was a hilarious take on role reversal. “From This Moment On” and “You’re Still the One” were drop-dead serious love songs that melted every listener’s heart. “That Don’t Impress Me One” was a straight refusal to be cowed down by male posturing while “Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You)” addressed the ever-present problem of male insecurity. “I’m Holding On To Love (To Save My Life)” is a desperate attempt to keep the man she loves in her life and shines with its honesty and lack of ego. “I Won’t Leave You Lonely” are the words that every man wants to hear from the lips of the woman he loves with all his heart. In “If You Wanna Touch Her, Ask!” Twain says what every girl and woman in the world wants to tell their male counterparts, that don’t take them for granted. Be polite!
Every song on the album was serious and fun while being melodious. It was a combination achieved by a singer who had struggled to be heard from the age of eight when she used to sing in bars to supplement her family’s meagre income. Come On Over said serious things about what a woman wants but with a sense of humour.
Paving the Way for Others
Come On Over blasted the doors for a virtual assault on the pop charts by subsequent country music singers. In later years the pop charts were crowded with country crossover artists like LeeAnn Rimes, Martina McBride, Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Miley Cyrus, Lady Antebellum, and of course the poster girl of pop Taylor Swift. Twain’s unprecedented success paved the way for several generations of female and even male crossover artists. The 1990s were dominated by grunge and alternative bands but Shania Twain created a whole new market for the country to pop crossover music all on her own. Listen to Come On Over as it is a labour of love by a woman who knows what love is. You just can’t help being swept away in the emotional current the album unleashes even today. Come On Over and listen!