Queen of Me, Shania Twain’s second studio album in over 20 years was released today. In recent months, she’s been building momentum by ramping up her social media presence, performing at award shows and of course, switching up her look.
This week, the long-time brunette stunned partygoers at a Republic Records bash with a new hair colour - platinum blonde.
The new do is the latest in a series of bold changes to her appearance in recent months. From donning bubblegum pink hair to sporting this Black mohawk for a shoot with InStyle, it’s safe to say Shania is really feeling herself – and is fearless in the face of trying new things.
“I'm way more fearless than I would've been. Years ago, I would've been more conscientious about, 'Is this too over-the-top?’”, she told InStyle in her January cover story a few weeks ago. “I'm more adventurous now and I'm just excited about what is new and what I can experiment with.”
At 57, her willingness to experiment is impressive. And not because she shouldn’t be experimenting at 57, but because the idea of experimenting with one’s look, or with anything, really, is often reserved for younger women. Change in hairstyles, makeup and wardrobe isn’t always well-received when it comes to women past a certain age. We’ve seen this with the backlash Madonna has been receiving lately over changes in her appearance, and we all know she’s had tons of different looks over the course of her career. But she’s older now. And that seems to bother people. So it’s refreshing to see Shania still wanting to try new things, particularly after maintaining a certain look through most of her career.
Despite her courage and confidence, the reluctance to accept Shania 2.0 is evident in the album reviews. This Pitchfork review suggested that due to her age, some of her songs and lyrics seem unnatural.
“Got litty in the cup,” she bleats, as though that is a perfectly natural turn of phrase for a 57-year-old white woman. Twain peppers other songs with awkward, forcibly modern idioms, like when she sings “I deleted our history” on “Brand New.”
What is so modern about deleting history? Do women turn 50 and suddenly lose all touch with current events and pop culture and also, basic functions of technology? It’s misogynistic, insulting and frustrating to see that age is still such a confinement for even the most legendary female artists. Especially considering the diverse group of talent she worked with to produce this album, who definitely stay in the know when it comes to pop culture. The geniuses that helped her co-write this album have also worked with stars like Pitbull, Halsey and fellow Canadian Justin Bieber.
We don’t seem to see this same confinement with male artists. This week, there was a firestorm on Twitter when the track list for Smokey Robinson’s album, entitled ‘Gasms was released. The 82-year-old has hits entitled things like “How You Make Me Feel,” “I Wanna Know Your Body,” “Roll Around”, and…wait for it…“You Fill Me Up” and “I Fit in There.”
People had a great time poking fun and laughing at the sexual innuendos, but in general, the underlying tone was one of support and encouragement for Smokey. With Shania, the tone is a bit different. And some of the album reviews seem dead set on reminding her of her age and letting her know that she’s made a far departure from the Shania we all know and love.
The question is – why can’t we also get to know and love this Shania? Is she supposed to be the same woman, the same musician, that she was 20 years ago? Are people not allowed to grow, evolve and try new things?
It’s not like Shania is in denial about her age. In her InStyle feature, she touched on the idea of being on “borrowed time” – something that lingers in the back of her mind after a series of health issues and two open throat surgeries.
"I was writing all these songs in my pajamas," she told the outlet. She said the threat of losing her voice or encountering health issues again sometimes make her feel like she’s on borrowed time and is what pushed her to write enough material for four or five albums over the pandemic.
In addition to that, she’s also embracing her new role as what she calls, an “auntie” – and not in the literal sense. In Black culture, we have long used this as a term of endearment for an older woman we respect that’s got a lot of wisdom and advice to offer – no blood relation required.
"Artists will ask for advice or will share stories and I feel a little bit like an aunt in a way. It sort of makes me feel auntie-ish, which I like. I enjoy it. I'm a nurturing person and I like to share my experiences," she said, reflecting on everything from her career to her relationships. "I've gone through them, so what good are they if I can't pass them on or share them? It's like dying with a good recipe. It's a shame. Nobody wants to keep that for themselves. I enjoy passing any of it on."
In the same way some people might think it’s unnatural for her to have evolved in this way, it would be just as unnatural if she hadn’t evolved at all. And rather than hold this glass ceiling over the heads of women who have been pioneers in their respective genres over the mere fact that they’re getting older, we should be helping them break through it, or better yet, remove it entirely. But either way, it doesn’t seem to be much of a bother for her.
“I'm older, I've matured," she said in January. "I'm just not as worried as I was when I was younger. I'm a professional. I want things to be great. I want to be as perfect as I can be as a professional, but I'm not a perfect person. I sound different. I look different and I'm OK with that. I'm fearless in that way and that motivates me.”
It motivates us too, Shania.