It’s patently clear at this point that Shania Twain is living in at least partial denial of the reality of things. She is an aging performer attempting to cling to her mainstream relevancy as opposed to embracing the natural rhythms of popular music to transition from a current popular star to one of legendary status. Shania appears to believe that as long as she glams up her image, drops F-bombs in her bad songs, and continues to act like she’s 26, she can still set the world on fire. Unfortunately for her, she is wrong, at least in the eyes of many of her own fans.
The former country superstar turned pop diva put her misconceptions on display in her last two rather terrible studio albums Now (2017) and Queen of Me (2023). As the press dutifully showered her with plaudits for her girl boss energy and empowering messages, the albums and singles flopped after initial bursts of interest due to her name recognition and long absence. And since the press and critics failed to question her current direction, it should be no surprise that this same failed approach is translating to Shania Twain’s live performances as part of her current “Queen of Me” tour.
Of course, not everyone’s take on Shania Twain’s current direction is bad. Since she has always appealed in part to a decidedly passive population of music fans, as long as the hits are performed, and there’s pretty costumes and flashing lights, these fans put their hands up in the air and wave them like they just don’t care when prompted to, and go home feeling sated to see one of their favorite superstars.
But for fans that have a clue—and are hard to fool with poorly lip-synced performances and awkwardly forced choreography—they’re not buying Shania Twain and her ridiculous blonde wig. Even worse for Shania and her team, they’re speaking out, including in moments that are going viral on social media.
Recently, Whiskey Riff ran down numerous Tik-Tok videos of Shania Twain concert goers leaving in the middle of performances in large numbers. You sift through the comments of some of these posts, and some say they’re misleading and hyperbolic, while others concur that the shows are not good, and they witnessed or were part of the early show exodus. Either way, when there are numerous posts from people saying the same things, it’s not a good sign.
@tiannatoks Someone check on Shania Twain #shaniatwain #concerts #swiftietiktok #badconcert #thatdontimpressmemuch ♬ original sound – bbygirl_musicthrowbacks
@jorymarisperez So many people leaving during the middle of the show….#fyp #shaniatwain #spokane ♬ original sound – Jory Perez
@briannef86 #Shania#queenofmetour2023 #shaniatwain #horrible #queenofcountrymusic#dissapointed #spokanearena ♬ original sound – Brianne
What are some of the complaints? That Shania Twain is coming across as awkward or even drunk, that her singing is off, while in other moments she’s also clearly lip-syncing certain songs. But overall, the presentation just doesn’t seem to be from the Shania Twain that fans thought they knew.
Granted, sifting through the comments of concert posts and reviews, there is a significant gulf between people who seem to love what is going on, and those who hate it, almost like the same fans watched two completely different shows. One possible reason for this could be that Shania Twain’s country fans are not into all of the pop pageantry of her current tour, and are not used to seeing performers lip syncing. Meanwhile, pop fans don’t see anything out of place on Shania’s current tour, because it’s par for the course.
If people are enjoying Shania Twain’s concerts, that’s all that should matter. This is the first rule of artistic criticism. Whether fellow fans and professional reviewers feel similar is superfluous.
Most professional critics and reviewers are more than happy to contort themselves in all kinds of awkward positions to paint a rosy picture for Shania, and they’ve remained mostly positive. After all, if you trash her performances, you’re likely to get trashed yourself online by her loyal fans, or to lose access to other entertainers when they roll through your town. And since Shania Twain has attained diva status, it’s considered verboten in many circles to criticize her at all. But one brave professional reviewer in St. Paul Minnesota was unafraid to tell it like he saw it.
“For much of the show, Twain seemed distracted and distanced from the near-capacity St. Paul hockey arena,” says Ross Raihala writing for the Pioneer Press. “She gave the performance of someone who has spent more than a year on the road and is really ready to wrap things up and go home. Problem is, this was the 12th night of the tour. Clad in oversized sunglasses and the cheapest long blond wig you’ve ever seen, she was totally unrecognizable as she barked her way through the verses. During the choruses, meanwhile, it sounded like there was some heavy electronic voice assistance going on.”
The review goes on to say,
The largely female crowd was ready to party and cheered Twain on as she made her way through old hits like “Don’t Be Stupid (You Know I Love You),” “I’m Gonna Getcha Good!” and “Up!” But whenever she played any of her recent material, the enthusiasm plummeted, whether it was the swampy electro-blues of “Roll Me on the River” or the synth pop of “Pretty Liar” (which prominently incorporates an expletive in the chorus that sounds painfully forced rather than edgy).
Throughout, it was tough to pin down exactly what was going on with her voice. At times, she appeared to be lip syncing and at other times, she struggled to hit certain notes. It’s clear Lyme and COVID did a number on Twain’s range, but maybe she thought she could push her way through it?
At one point, while she was introducing the new track “Inhale/Exhale Air,” Twain told the crowd, in the flattest, least convincing manner possible: “I am having the time of my life right now. I really am.” I truly hope, for her sake, that she didn’t actually believe what she was saying.
None of this is to be callous or uncaring toward Shania Twain, including her vocal issues that seem to have both affected her capabilities, and her confidence to where she feels the need to make up for her voice with electronic enhancement that arguably makes the situation even worse.
But when people think about Shania Twain, they think about a 90s pop country star with monster hits that currently rest in the 25-year nostalgia window. It’s not just the strange wig and stage presentation, or even the new songs specifically. It’s that Shania seems to be trying to make up for her age and shortcomings as opposed to embracing them. Being “empowering” isn’t about attempting to defy your age or status, but accepting who you are and being authentic to yourself, warts and all.
Shania Twain could be riding the resurgent wave of interest in 90s country that has repatriated so many artists back into the mainstream narrative that were put out to pasture ten years ago, including with new music that is emblematic of her country pop comfort zone and sweet spot. But instead she’s trying to be something that she’s not. And though she may fool some or even many, she’s not fooling them all, especially the country fans. But the worst part may be that Shania Twain is trying to fool herself, and it’s sad for many of her long time fans to witness.