It doesn’t get any more weirdly cynical than this: A trio of albums containing the same 19 songs—one red, one green, and one blue—all differently recorded and catering to three target audiences. Up! is an album tailor-made for a format-driven Clear Channel world; Shania’s a rhinestone cowgirl (demographic one, check) and a midriff-baring pop slut (demographic two, check). But what of demographic three, new age electro-rockin’ Bollywood enthusiasts?
Judging by the blue disc, she thinks this niche will push her global album sales over the top. In every country but the U.S. and Canada, Up! chucks the country disc in favor of a CD that contains an inexplicable musical-cultural pileup of tablas, sitars, flutes, fiddles, electronic beats, and, yes, cash registers. To enhance her newfound ethno cred, Shania even dons a faux-Indian/hippie-chick dress. And on her forehead, what’s this? A bindi!
“When You Kiss Me” mutates from a slow, slightly boring ballad into an up-tempo dance ditty with synths, strings, tabla breakbeats, and a vaguely Middle Eastern lilt. It’s Wal-Mart worldbeat, with Shania tossing all sorts of exotic sounds into the shopping cart—kind of like a trailer park Peter Gabriel or Paul Simon. We get the same upward gear-shifting in “Nah!” wherein the green disc’s lumbering, boombastic, pour-sugar-on-me drums accelerate toward dance fever.
Blue versions retain the original vocal melodies but not much else, and help Shania pump life into some of her duller shades of red and green. Individually, all three discs are hit-or-miss. But if you mix and match, Up! is almost a perfect pure-pop album, despite (or perhaps because of) its creepy focus-group-inspired origins. You know the old saying: There’s art, there’s commerce, and never the Twain shall meet . . . except on my own private CD-R compilation.
Jane Dark’s review of Shania Twain’s Up