My life took a devastating and decidedly palpable turn for the worse when I cued up Shania Twain’s long-awaited new single, “Life’s About To Get Good.” Somewhere Robert “Mutt” Lange is cackling like the Wicked Witch of the West. Did someone pull a practical joke on Shania in the studio? Because this thing’s a stinker, and it’s all the fault of the production.
The back story on “Life’s About To Get Good” and the incredibly long pause in Shania’s output is that she used to be married to her long-time producer, the aforementioned Mutt Lange. Not to get into all of the saucy details, but apparently Mutt was a dog and ran away with one of Shania’s best friends or something? I don’t know, look it up in People Magazine. But either way the super team of Shania and Mutt that had written, recorded, and produced all of those mega hits back 20 some years ago hit Splitsville, and now Shania was out there trying to navigate life and music on her own.
“Life’s About To Get Good” feels very personal to Shania, and to her story in the present tense. Though the song is definitely upbeat more than anything, even to the point of being held back by its off-putting peppiness, it’s about taking a positive perspective on life after you’ve suffered devastating heartbreak—something very easy for listeners to see personally reverberating to Shania, and something most of us can relate to. For a Shania song, the writing and premise is par.
The problem here is that I have never heard a more overly-processed song populate the country music airwaves in history. There may be songs that are decidedly less country, but I’m just talking about the layers upon layers of digitization of Shania’s voice and every other single element in this track to the point that you want to run towards nails on a chalkboard just to clean your audio palette. I mean seriously, what the hell happened here? Heads should roll in Shanialand over the decisions made in the production room. I had to give this thing three or four different listens via different channels, and on different speakers just to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating.
The vocals and everything else on “Life’s About To Get Good” feel completely fuzzed out, and not in that cool, Tom Waits megaphone kind of way, but from being filtered mercilessly through diodes and capacitors so that listening to it is a serrating experience. The fluffy, spirited banjo and fiddle that have been at the heart of Shania’s pop country songs for years are as present as ever, but sound like they could have been played on synthesizer they’re so transmogrified.
I’ll tell you exactly what happened here. Shania Twain went into the studio and recorded a Shania Twain song: poppy, pretty shallow, superfluous, but harmless mostly, like much of Shania’s output. Then the producer, in this case a guy named Matthew Koma, came in and screwed it all up looking to make a name of himself.
How many times have we seen this play out before in mainstream country recently? A producer from the pop/EDM world shows up to Nashville, is completely clueless to the customs and modes of the genre, and instead of attempting to understand the nuances of the music, demands the sound must evolve in his image, and sets about to do his worst making a harmless pop country song into an audio monstrosity? All the digital filters and bullshit Matthew Koma put on this track are an attempt to mimic the fake, digitally processed distortion and audio decay that’s all the rage in designer drug-induced EDM tracks at the moment.
Ask yourself, when was the last time you saw a woman listed as a producer on a mainstream country track, let alone a female artist allowed to produce her own music? Not even Miranda Lambert is bestowed that level of latitude. The last one I can recall is Taylor Swift’s Red album from 2012—half a decade a go, and that was a pop record. I get it, Shania has always been the one to write the songs and sing them pretty, and relied on others for all the nuts and bolts. Well in this instance, she was let down, and big time by this Matthew Koma character.
Shania Twain putting out a bad track is not something we should cry over because let’s face it, she was never that great to begin with, and was one of the greatest drivers of turning country into pop in the 90’s. But that doesn’t make it any less of a shame to see a track like this get so screwed in the production. The artists, and country producers in Nashville show put their foot down about this incursion of pop and EDM producers into country, and Shania Twain’s “Life’s About To Get Good” is a perfect example why.