Counterpoint: Shania Twain Is Not a Country Hall of Famer … Yet
Albums released after an artist turns 50 are typically just gravy on an already successful career, but Shania Twain‘s next album matters. Her Country Music Hall of Fame candidacy may depend on it.
Right now Twain is relying on eight really good years. Okay, right now the “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” singer is relying on eight of the best years in country music history. She redefined what it means to be a woman in country music, ushered in a pop sound and stood for independence, assertiveness and power while not losing any line dance credibility. Few women active in country music today weren’t influenced by Twain, and even fewer are not benefitting from the barriers her music pushed through.
"Her fans won’t like this, but if you’re fighting for her, you’re also fighting for Taylor Swift and (egad!) Florida Georgia Line. There are parallels, love ’em or hate ’em"
But eight years, four albums and fewer than 10 No. 1 country singles does not make a Hall of Fame career. Two things are hurting Twain’s chances of being chosen soon: the relative brevity of her commercial career (so far) and that she relied on a lot of Nashville outsiders. This latter point is an unfortunate truth about the country music industry. You need people pulling for you, and her closest ally is now her ex-husband. In fact, if you induct Twain you have to be willing to bring Mutt Lange into the Country Music Hall of Fame, as well. Raise a hand if you think that will ever happen.
The sacrifices Twain made to make herself an international superstar may hurt her candidacy in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Quickly she became bigger than Nashville, and that made it difficult to endear herself to the community like some others (see Carrie Underwood). She’s mysterious and private, like Hank Williams Jr. to some degree, but without the surliness and the polarizing politics. (Side note: How great would a Twain, Williams Jr. “Induct Us” Tour be? Can you imagine the crowd?!)
The Years Have Been Good to Her! See Shania Through Her Career
Someone is eligible for the Hall of Fame 20 years after first earning national prominence, which was about 2015 for Twain. Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw and Toby Keith became eligible sooner, and all three are likely to enter first. Very rarely does an artist earn induction at that 20 year mark. It was over 30 years for Randy Travis in 2016. Alan Jackson‘s induction this October will come closer to his 30 year anniversary. Compare their resumes. Jackson notched hits for nearly 25 years and rarely stepped away from the spotlight, even if he didn’t always jump beneath it. Twain has a lot of very good reasons for disappearing for over a decade (family, divorce, losing her voice and self-confidence), but the fact remains she was only active for about 40 percent of her 20 years.
Pop-friendly country singers have historically been kept out of the CMHOF longer than their contemporaries (see Kenny Rogers), and Twain is as much a pop star as she is a country star. Her fans won’t like this, but if you’re fighting for her, you’re also fighting for Taylor Swift and (egad!) Florida Georgia Line. There are parallels, love ’em or hate ’em.
There is still time to change the script, however. This new project needs to be more than her diary set to music, if Hall of Fame induction is something she values. If Twain can continue to influence the next generation or dig into the Nashville songwriting community, everything will change for her over the next 10 years. Of course, she doesn’t need the Country Music Hall of Fame for validation, and it’s very possible the 51-year-old puts enshrinement near the bottom of her bucket list.
The Boot and Taste of Country’s collaborative Point / Counterpoint series features staff members from the two sites debating topics of interest within country music once per month. Check back on June 20 for another installment.
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