Shania Twain was one of the biggest country stars of the late 1990s and early 2000s, scoring hit after hit with up-tempo tunes and slower romantic ballads.  She also proved mildly controversial, as her music seemed to be closer to top-40 pop than the country genre she aspired to -- and that she used sex appeal more than singing to push her music.  Her 2004 Greatest Hits makes the case for both sides of her career.

Greatest Hits goes in reverse chronological order -- from her albums Up!, Come on Over and The Woman in Me -- before adding four new songs.  These are her big radio hits -- no rarities, live tracks, covers, or lesser-known songs here -- and the songs show both her appeal and limits.

Almost all of the songs alternate between female-empowering, basic feel-good pop (from the woman-as-boss "Any Man of Mine" to the just-have-fun "Man!  I Feel like a Woman!") and shamelessly sentimental romance melodies (like "You're Still the One" and "From this Moment On").  The writing is very simple, going for basic rhymes ("I'm not always strong//and sometimes I'm even wrong") and odd metaphors ("you're a fine piece of real estate/ and I'm gonna get me some land").  As for the "Is she country?" question, while some of the songs have a very country feel, most of the songs here are far more pop than Grand Old Opry (with probable influence from her then-producer and husband Mutt Lange, who worked with bands like Def Leppard and Nickleback instead of country acts).

That's not to say that Greatest Hits isn't enjoyable.  Twain has a good voice, for both sentiment and excitement, and while her songs may often be guilty pleasures, they can still be fun to listen to.  While many will debate how much Shania Twain brought country and pop together -- and whether or not that's a good thing -- Greatest Hits is a pretty good showcase of the music that made Shania Twain such a star performer.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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