Shania Twain - Cover Image

Shania Twain Says Her Songs Belong to Everybody

“You write them and you live them in that moment. Then, you let them go,” she says. But with a new album and tour, the music-industry “auntie” still has a lot to give.

Shania Twain is ready to party. It's evident when she mentions the new vibes on her upcoming album, Queen of Me, out on Feb. 3, when she brings up Champagne (name a more festive beverage), and when her eyes light up at the mention of the sky-high black mohawk she wore moments ago for this shoot. When she's presented with the option to start with easy questions about her upcoming release and tour or get right to the hard stuff, she doesn't hesitate and says she always does the harder things on her to-do list first. All the better to celebrate after.

As she settles in cross-legged in a tiny — ahem, intimate — Vegas green room plastered with classic rock posters, hair up in a messy Pamela Anderson-style updo, her cropped hoodie and faded jeans a far cry from the couture she had on just minutes ago, it's very much like a sit-down from her 2022 Netflix documentary, Shania Twain: Not Just a Girl. Miles away from the rhinestones and leopard print that come with just about every Shania Twain stage performance and music video, the real actual Shania Twain isn't all twang, slide guitar, and hair spray. And if the real Shania insists that she wants to leave the partying until later, it's only natural to oblige.

Shania Twain Orange Coat White Boot Leggings
Diesel dress. Diesel boots. Sophie Buhai rings.

Danielle Levitt

Twain contracted Lyme disease in 2003 while horseback riding. For "six or seven years," she saw doctors who couldn't quite pinpoint why her voice was changing and fading, though one eventually connected it to nerve damage as a result of Lyme. It wasn't until 2011, after two "open-throat" surgeries, that she was ready to try to sing again (after some encouragement from her longtime friends Gladys Knight and Lionel Richie, the latter of whom enlisted Twain for "Endless Love" on Tuskegee, his 2012 album of country-tinged duets).

"After I had the surgery, I was petrified to make a sound. I didn't know what was going to come out," Shania says, a shift in that signature soprano evident when speaking and singing. Fans accustomed to the timbre and tone on her three consecutive RIAA Diamond-certified albums (an honor that comes with selling 10 million copies) The Woman in Me, Come on Over, and Up! have noticed the changes — and so has Shania. That shift could have been something devastating to a person known for her voice, but Twain approached it like every other challenge she'd faced. Challenges like pursuing a career in country music while growing up in a Canadian mining town, caring for her younger siblings when her parents died in 1987, and not earning chart-topping success until she was in her 30s.

"It did scare me, but I just had to take the leap and make a sound. And I was so excited about what came out," she says of hearing her new voice for the first time. "It was a connection to the vocal cords and it came out very easily. I was really, really, really excited."

Twain admits that while the world was locked down and she was recovering from a tough bout with COVID, she was busy writing, even humbly bragging that she'd written enough material for "four or five albums."

"I was writing all these songs in my pajamas," she laughs. But when the mention of her surgery and the maybe-ephemeral nature of her current voice comes up, she's reminded that she could lose it again. Twain doesn't shy away from the fact that she was writing so much because she may be on borrowed time.

Songs take on new meanings depending on who is experiencing them. You write them and you live them in that moment. Then, you let them go.

"It's a reminder, don't take time for granted," she says. "Don't take the opportunity for granted. It's possible I might lose it, that it may not last. I guess any prosthetic or support that you get that is synthetic, your body still may give out around it. It could happen."

At the same time, she's not entirely fatalistic. If she can't be the one to sing the songs, there will be someone else who can. In 2022, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inducted Twain into its hallowed halls — she wrote her first song at just 10 years old. She has writing credits on nearly every song she released since her sophomore album, including hits like, "Any Man of Mine," "Still the One," and "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?" 

Shania Twain Black-and-White Sheer Dress and Trench Coat
Luar jacket. David Koma dress. Tamara Mellon shoes. Sophie Buhai earrings.

Danielle Levitt

"I'll just find other people to sing my songs. That's the way I look at it. I'll just find other voices that are even better than mine," she says. "I will be sad to lose that expression, but I know I've done everything I can, so it won't devastate me in that sense. I know that I persevered."

That new voice — the same, but different one that launched what would become Billboard's no. 1 karaoke song of all time with "Man, I Feel Like a Woman!" — makes its official debut with Queen of Me, Twain's first full album since 2017's Now. Fans got a taste of that voice in Las Vegas with her two residencies, "Shania: Still the One" at Caesar's Palace in 2012 and "Let's Go!" at Planet Hollywood in 2021. The first residency marked her return to performing live after a decade-long hiatus.

"It's easier for me to make loud sounds than it is to make soft sounds," she says of the shift and how she adapted to the changes, which include Gore-Tex rods to stabilize her throat from what she called "flanging" and a lack of control. "When the air is dry, it's harder to get that resonance. When I'm loud, it happens, which was the opposite problem before I got the surgery."

The Vegas set lists included her greatest hits, spanning three decades in the business. Those songs were the catalyst for something else most people would consider hard. Robert John "Mutt" Lange, Twain's ex-husband, produced many of her most popular tracks. Performing love songs like "Forever and for Always" and "From This Moment On" night after night, with their connection to that particular relationship, isn't something anyone would consider easy.

"There was a small phase where I felt like, 'Am I going to really enjoy these songs still?' Because they made me reflect, of course. But I realized very quickly that they live with other people's life stories now. They mean something to other people," she says of how the songs continue to evolve, grow, and change, not only to her, but to her fans. "Songs take on new meanings depending on who is experiencing them. You write them and you live them in that moment. Then, you let them go."

I think that song is just for everyone. I just see everyone singing it: boys, girls, every age, every identity. And I love that. I'm proud of that.

Recent releases like "Waking Up Dreaming" and "Not Just a Girl" also offered an opportunity to hear Twain's new voice, but in addition to sounding different, Twain says Queen of Me has a new vibe that sets it apart from her previous releases. Credit that to a slew of new producers, but also to Twain's new outlook on just about everything.

"It's more rhythmic in a lot of ways. That is very new to me, to the broadness of my recording style so far," she says. "There's a lot more ‘get up and want to shake your body’ kind of thing. There's still some stomp in there, though. It's almost like everything is there, but a new dimension. I just really want to get up and dance to it myself."

The new album gives Twain's fans a chance to hear her take on love (of course), but this time around, it's a sweet and breezy approach to new love with "Last Day of Summer" that's a world away from the wedding- and anniversary-ready nostalgia of her chart-topping ballads. Another song, "Inhale/Exhale Air" (Twain has always been a fan of punctuation in her song titles, evidenced by the parentheticals and exclamation points that pepper her entire oeuvre, like "I'm Gonna Getcha Good!" and "(If You're Not In It For Love) I'm Outta Here."), came from an inspirational post that she saw while scrolling on her phone, proving that even under all the leopard print and bedazzled denim, Twain really is just like the rest of us.

"I wrote that song right after I had a very bad battle with COVID, and my lungs were filling up with COVID pneumonia and I was losing my air. I survived it, but it was iffy," she explains, adding that the simple video clip and a breathing exercise evolved into a song. "This minister, he just starts breathing in through his nose, out through his mouth. And I'm like, 'I still identify with this.' And he's like, 'Air.' He says, 'Air. What are you going to do with it?' What are you going to do with it? It's free, it's there, don't take it for granted. I celebrated it by writing a song about it."

Of course, Twain spins the conversation away just a beat later, turning tragedy into triumph.

"Air is in everything. Air is in the bubbles in our Champagne. What would we do without air?" she adds, her arms motioning around her, to the rarified air that comes when an artist gets passionate about their work. "If we didn't have air, we wouldn't have Champagne. I know it's simplifying it. This is having fun with wordplay. We wouldn't have balloons if we didn't have air. Obviously, we wouldn't be alive without air. But I take a playful perspective on it and it becomes celebratory." 

Wordplay, like "If You Want to Touch Her, Ask!" and "Whatever You Do! Don't!," is just one way Twain's keeping her trademark blend of tongue-in-cheek, raised-eyebrow delivery and storytelling alive with Queen of Me. "I'm still enjoying a sense of humor in my lyrics," she says.

Shania Twain laughing in sheer floral dress and open trench coat
Luar jacket. David Koma dress. Tamara Mellon shoes. Sophie Buhai earrings.

Danielle Levitt

Twain is also aware that the release of the new album puts it squarely in the era of streaming, a far, far cry from the halcyon days of Diamond records (and accolades like biggest-selling studio album by a female solo artist, best-selling country album of all time, and best-selling album in America by a solo female artist) — she even has three diamond emoji in her Twitter bio, just to remind anyone who’d forgotten.

"The diamonds are obviously accolades and they are powerful accolades, because it means that many people love the music and wanted to have the music," she says of how she'll measure the success of Queen of Me. "That means a lot to me. But there's just different ways of gauging it now. And it's just a number really in the end, isn't it? I'm not counting, I'm just celebrating. I want to relate to as many people as possible. That's why I make records."

Twain lets out a belly laugh and kicks her feet — clad in Louis Vuitton platform combat boots, in case anyone was wondering what goes under her bed — in the air when we shift away from the "tough" questions and onto the announcement she made along with the new album: a North American and European tour starting in April, her first since 2018's Now Tour. She's quick to point out the differences between performing in Las Vegas and packing up the show to crisscross America and Canada and hop across the Atlantic.

I love the naked body’s silhouette. But fashion, it’s this morphing and molding experience. When these designers are creating these silhouettes, they’re molding, shaping, sculpting and it’s like, ‘Wow, I get to stand — I get to be in that sculpture.’ It’s a great experience.

"What I love about Vegas is that everybody is there to celebrate many things and then they've chosen to celebrate with you. But when you go to someone else's home, you are joining their party and you feel a different sense of the welcome mat being rolled out," she says, noting that each stop has its own unique vibe. Minneapolis is one surprising favorite for Twain, who calls that half of the Twin Cities a "hot one" and even she can't deny that the Lone Star State brings its own brand of enthusiasm. "I feel the whole spirit of Texas; whenever you're anywhere in Texas, they've got such a proud, Texan spirit," she explains. "I always feel it when I'm there."

"You feel the difference in the personalities of these towns that the character of the audience is different every single night," she says of touring. "People represent their communities. The mood is different every night, and every night is welcoming. It's a privilege to be an artist in a town, because [fans are] there because they want to be there."

It's also more freeing than her Vegas residencies. Fans can expect the Queen of Me Tour to be a totally different experience for them, too.

Shania Twain sculptural sleeves and mohawk
ONRUSHW23FH sleeves. Agent Provocateur corset. Giuseppe Zanotti shoes. Wolford tights. Panconesi earrings.

Danielle Levitt

"I don't think I would really want to take Vegas with me on tour," she says. "There's more opportunity when you're on the road to do something different every night. If I want to play another 25 minutes, I play for another 25 minutes. You have that flexibility. If you want to just stop the show for a minute and do something even more unexpected, you can do that. When you're on the road, you can just go with the flow of whatever's happening in the night and it's less predictable, which makes it fun."

Twain's past concert tours have been likened to arena rock spectacles, complete with pyrotechnics and outfits bold enough to match. Stetsons and stretch velvet may be what fans are ready to see, but Twain explains that she was so enthralled by the punk-rock mohawk and surrealist inky On Rush dress she wore for InStyle that she wondered if there was a way to incorporate them into the show.

"I love it. I'm so up for it. I'm so ready for it. 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?'" Twain says of embracing avant garde fashion, if only for a day (though if fans are lucky, maybe Twain will manage to sneak something unexpected, like thigh-high white Diesel boots or a glossy faux-ostrich Luar trench coat, into her costume lineup). "I'm more adventurous now and I'm just excited about what is new and what I can experiment with. I just love fashion for that. Just when you think there's nothing left to be created, somebody creates something new. I'm so inspired by that. When you can transform a living person just by putting something on, it's spectacular."

Shania Twain Pink Hair and Pink Outfit
Lùchen dress. Lùchen jacket. Giuseppe Zanotti shoes. Diesel bag. Panconesi earrings. MARA Paris rings.

Danielle Levitt

Twain’s past fashion choices have been dissected just as often as her song lyrics, and she’s the first to admit that some of her early looks, like cut-off ribbed tanks and her own denim vest, probably weren’t the best options for live performances. But she’s always known the power that clothes have for crafting her persona. She’s had the honor of having one of her gowns displayed at the Grammy Museum — and then re-worn by Kelsea Ballerini in 2022 to the Academy of Country Music Honors — and had other outfits rejected by the Met Gala.

“I love the naked body’s silhouette. But fashion, it’s this morphing and molding experience. When these designers are creating these silhouettes, they’re molding, shaping, sculpting and it’s like, ‘Wow, I get to stand — I get to be in that sculpture.’ It’s a great experience,” Twain explains, her hands mimicking hourglass curves and her eyes wide. “I love it.”

In the past few years, Twain has collaborated with names that aren't all that surprising, like country singer Kelsea Ballerini for "Hole in the Bottle" (who will open for select dates of the Queen of Me Tour) and some unexpected ones, like the mysterious, masked Orville Peck for the very fitting single "Legends Never Die" and Harry Styles during his set at Coachella. Diplo and Avril Lavigne made appearances in Not Just a Girl. Twain even sat down for a one-on-one chat with Japanese-born British pop rebel Rina Sawayama for RollingStone. All of those artists (and more) have name-checked Shania (some even pulling her lyrics into their work) as inspiration, and she's more than happy to bask in the adulation — and she shoots the appreciation right back at them. 

"I think for anyone who has inspired people over many years to watch it happening, to feel the gratification, to accept the compliment in person, it's just so rewarding," she says of having other artists reference — and clearly revere — her work. "It's very humbling and I enjoy it. When I was in my 20s, if I could have just sat with Dolly [Parton] and had a conversation, it would've been just wonderful. So, I'm always happy to do it."

And when she's asked about whether she offers up advice on topics beyond music, Twain reveals she's embraced a newfound role that she never saw coming: auntie. Not an actual aunt (though with four siblings, she is very much an actual aunt, too) but someone emerging artists look up to and trust, whether it is for her songwriting expertise or her experiences with life, love, and career.

"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 says of putting her heartache and successes alike out for everyone to see. "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."

Those varied voices are clear evidence of Twain's universal appeal. She nearly doubles over laughing when she's told that "let's go girls" may be the three most powerful words in the entire English language.

Shania Twain Dancing in Pink Outfit and Pink Wig
Lùchen dress. Lùchen jacket. Giuseppe Zanotti shoes. Diesel bag. Panconesi earrings. MARA Paris rings.

Danielle Levitt

"It's more of a statement of empowerment," she says of why the exclamation appeals to women, of course, but also to just anyone who hears the song. It's a drag show staple. It's a pre-night-out go-to. It's on every bachelorette party playlist and, of course, it has that Billboard distinction. "It's an exclamation. It's 'Let's do this, let's own this.' I think it's more about what it means as an emotion. Let's go girls! We're ready! Let's do this! Let's take this on!"

Twain has a long list of hits — Come on Over alone had nearly a dozen singles on the U.S. charts and its successor, Up! had six. But "Man! I Feel Like a Woman" stands out not only because of its subversive music video (a high-camp, gender-bent take on Robert Palmer's 1989 earworm "Addicted to Love" with a corset-and-top-hat look by Marc Bouwer that would go on to launch a thousand Halloween costumes), with its phalanx of ripped, broody men playing backup, but because of the anthem it has become for anyone feeling moments of confidence and triumph.

"There's a lot of men who are heterosexual that have enough sense to enjoy the expression without getting caught up with the identity of the gender. This is what I love. Just embrace the moment," she says of the anthem taking on a life of its own and turning into a statement that can mean anything to anyone at any time. "I think that song is just for everyone. I just see everyone singing it: boys, girls, every age, every identity. And I love that. I'm proud of that. Not because I'm proud of myself, but I'm proud that people can let go."

This is Everybody’s In, a celebration of people making the world a better place for everyone in 2023. You’re ‘in’ if you’re making an impact. Read on to see who’s with you.

Twain is happy to reflect on "Man! I Feel Like a Woman" and other seminal moments in her career, like performing at the Super Bowl in 2003 and her inclusion in VH1 Divas in 1998. She calls it one of the greatest nights of her life and remembers thinking, "’I can't even believe this is happening. I'm invited to this party?’ I was really flattered. And then also just being the only country element was like, Wow. I thought it was very big for country music, and that I represented that, it meant something to me." 

Shania Twain Orange Trench Coat and White Boot Pants
Diesel dress. Diesel boots. Sophie Buhai rings.

Danielle Levitt

That night, she performed with Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Gloria Estefan, Carole King, and Aretha Franklin. ("All of us would have to come back and we would have to have somebody Aretha approved of to be the soul element," she says of a hypothetical encore performance with the OG divas. "Who would that be? I wouldn't want to make that decision.") But Twain is just as laser-focused on what's coming next, not just the tour and the music, but finally feeling like she's letting go, just like her fans do when they hear her songs.

"I am energized by it, and I can only say that because I'm older, I've matured," she says of the opportunities, looks, sounds, and fun she's embracing now. "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.”

Clearly thrilled by the possibilities before her, she ends with a demand as electrifying as “let’s go girls.”

“What's the next adventure?"


Photographer Danielle Levitt

Director of Photography Robert Machado

Stylist Chris Horan

Hair Frankie Foye

Makeup Susana Hong

Manicure Teresa Ramangkoun

Senior Editorial Director Laura Norkin

Creative Director Jenna Brillhart

Senior Visuals Editor Kelly Chiello

Senior Video Producer Justine Manocherian

Beauty Direction Kayla Greaves

Social Direction Danielle Fox

Senior Fashion Editor Samantha Sutton

Associate Photo Editor Amanda Lauro

Executive Video Producer Bree Green

Cam Op Tyler Stefanelli

Production Caroline Hughes, Hyperion LA

Booking Christopher Luu

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