Metro Weekly

Shania Twain ‘Queen of Me’ Review: Second Wind

Shania Twain attempts a post-COVID reinvention in a celebratory return to recording.

Shaniia Twain -- Photo: Louie Banks
Shaniia Twain — Photo: Louie Banks

If Shania Twain has taught us one thing over the last decade, it’s that you couldn’t keep the queen of country pop down if you tried. Her first album in five years, Queen of Me (★★★☆☆) marks her second comeback in recent years, this time after coming down with COVID so badly she feared she would lose her voice for good.

Twain’s joy and relief at being on the other side of all that are palpable. Right out of the gate, she seems eager to make up for lost time. Nodding to her early work, she kicks off the album with “Giddy Up,” a high-octane stomp-clap number seemingly designed to remind us that she hasn’t forgotten the country side of her country-pop roots.

The twang in her voice on these tracks feels like a welcome shot of nostalgia that, if not for the change in her register, could have come straight out of Come On Over or Up.

Along with those overt nods to her past, there is a sense of self-awareness running through Queen of Me that her enduring appeal lies in her sheer likability as an artist. Given the circumstances it was created in, it shouldn’t be surprising that resilience is a running theme on the album.

Though it was inspired by her bout with COVID, “Inhale/Exhale AIR” is less on-the-nose than its title would have you believe. In fact, it is one of the stronger tracks here, with a sense of joyful, celebratory self-love that feels authentic and earned.

Twain is a natural-crowd pleaser in the best way, and it is hard not to root for her. Several tracks serve as reminders of how much fun she has in the recording booth and the way she effortlessly pulls us along for the ride.

The album is at its best when Twain is clearly enjoying herself, as she is clearly doing on songs like “Pretty Liar,” her own toe-tapping take on a scathing comeback song. “Queen” comes out a little less evenly, with a stilted beat that feels half-formed, but her confidence as she knowingly tosses out cheesy empowerment mantras is so infectious that its shortcomings are forgivable.

Shaniia Twain -- Photo: Louie Banks
Shaniia Twain — Photo: Louie Banks

It is gratifying to see Twain back in her element, but her bid to pick up her pop stardom exactly where it left off produces some uneven results.

She has access to a roster of powerhouse co-writers and producers, who for the most part do an admirable job of working with the more limited register since her reconstructive surgery post-lyme disease. Where they do fall short is on the tracks that feel like shallow attempts to shoehorn her voice and personality into numbers that don’t really suit either.

The worst offender, “Number One,” is an attempted foray into dreamy synthpop that feels dated on arrival, with production that is an awkward mismatch with her voice but feels out of place among the other tracks. The album regrettably fizzles out and leaves us on a forgettable note with its closer, “The Hardest Stone,” which feels like it drags on almost from its opening bars.

Those forays into contemporary pop are somewhat interesting and it is not a huge leap to imagine a more focused Twain leaning into it and embracing a late-career reinvention of her sound, but in practice their execution comes across as half-hearted.

Hampered by an uncertainty about exactly what direction she wants to pull in, Twain does not quite hit the same highs she reached in her heyday. While “Giddy Up” comes close, no one track stands out as particularly memorable.

Even so, Queen of Me is a solid album that succeeds on its own terms as an uplifting celebration of what it is like to rediscover your own voice and with it, your own power. Even if it doesn’t match her early hits in quality, its best moments recapture the sense of unbridled joy that did so much to make her a pop icon in the first place.

Queen of Me is available to stream and purchase now. Visit

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