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Shania Twain hip with young fans

Canadian singer’s career revives amid nostalgia for 1990s

By Chris Riemenschneider, Star Tribune
Published: May 25, 2023, 6:02am

MINNEAPOLIS — Long before Harry Styles duetted with her at Coachella — before Taylor Swift praised her on TikTok, before the Austin City Limits fest announced her as a 2023 headliner — the Twin Cities were already hip to the idea that Shania Twain is, well, hip.

Take it from one of the coolest singers in town, Jaedyn James, who has belted out Twain’s songs at an annual tribute to the Canadian country-pop star at St. Paul’s Turf Club.

“It’s true that ‘90s Western fashion and feminism are hot right now,” said the Minneapolis funk and soul singer, “but I need it to be known that Shania Twain has always been cool.”

Take it from one of the most prominent rock journalists in the country.

“All the things Shania pushed for, Taylor [Swift] benefited from,” said author and TV producer Jessica Hopper.

And take it from one of the Twin Cities’ best-loved drag queens.

“She’s always been the kind of woman she wants to be, so she has long been an inspiration that way,” said Sasha Cassadine, one of the stars of last weekend’s Flip Phone drag brunch tribute to Twain in downtown Minneapolis.

Currently on the road for her Queen of Me Tour, Twain has been reborn into something of a hero and even an icon to a younger generation of fans as well as to LGBTQ communities.

Not a lot of music-industry pundits who dismissed her slicked-up country-pop songs such as “You’re Still the One” and her elaborate, sometimes gooey videos in the late 1990s would have guessed Twain would be considered so cool in 2023. Her revitalized fandom is above and beyond other waves of ‘90s nostalgia now popular with Gen-Z listeners too young to remember the first wave of her career.

Twain herself hasn’t exactly worked hard to stay so relevant. Her latest album, “Queen of Me,” is only her second all-new record since 2002. And her current tour is also only her second cross-continent outing in 20 years.

The main reason the 57-year-old singer has been less active in the 21st century is because she lost her singing voice in the early 2010s after suffering from Lyme disease. She also went through a high-profile divorce with one husband (record producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange) who had an affair with her best friend, whose own husband Twain then wound up marrying (Swiss Nestle executive Frederic Thiebaud).

Shania’s resiliency through all this has certainly resonated with fans. So has the more fun and bold sides of her music and image — a playful sexiness, but still strong feminism akin to fellow ‘90s-celeb holdout Britney Spears.

“She really knew what she wanted as a young woman in the industry and fought for it, and it paid off in the end,” raved Faith Boblett, another prominent Twin Cities singer who’s performed at the Turf Club’s Twain tributes (look for another this fall).

At 32, Boblett proudly remembers Twain’s landmark 1997 album “Come on Over” being the first CD she ever bought. With other hits including “You’ve Got a Way” and “From This Moment On,” that album is still the second-bestselling of all time by a female artist, behind Whitney Houston’s “Bodyguard” soundtrack.

Still, Boblett admitted, she was surprised to “hear the crowd singing every word to every song” at the first of those Twain tribute shows in 2019.

“A lot of the cool kids who thought ‘Come on Over’ was cheesy back then have kind of come around,” she theorized.

And then there’s the fashion side of Twain’s career, with sequined body suits, animal-print dresses and glammed-up country wear in keeping with her music’s country-to-pop crossover appeal — a look she has kept up even in recent years. Case in point: the cow-print suit she wore to the Grammy Awards in February.