Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The nice thing about Shania Twain's Come On Over (Mercury) is that it obliterates the issue of authenticity. The Canadian-born beauty's 1995 The Woman in Me has now passed 10 million sales, outstripping all Nashville product this side of Garth Brooks. But because its big, balladic come-ons share more with Celine Dion than with Tammy Wynette, some challenged Twain's country-music bona fides. So maybe she just figured what the hell when she opted for a pop makeover rather than repeating the formula. More likely, though, she just hoped to get this one up to 15 million.

Billed as a simple follow-up, Come On Over is in fact a far perkier and jokier album, a full hour of uptempo tunes, many with highly uncountry keyboard hooks. Authentic it ain't; enticing it is. Feisty and ready for fun, Twain occasionally sounds willing to separate sex from romance, which is always a good way for a woman to gain male admirers. Yet she never seems like a pushover--an essential touch if she wants to keep them.

Out of the depths of a classily packaged but mostly redundant reisses series comes Essential Blondie: Picture This Live (EMI/Capitol), the first live album in the classic new wavers' catalogue, and proof that they were nowhere near as slick as their handlers wanted everyone to think.

It's sort of amazing that there aren't more down-to-earth hip hop albums like Common's sane but hardly complacent One Day It'll All Make Sense (Relativity). Then again, given the crassness of the market, maybe it's amazing that there's even one--and that it will actually move some units. Jaw-dropper: Retrospect for Life, an exploration of abortion in all its emotional complexity featuring Fugee Lauryn Hill.

Playboy, Jan. 1998

Dec. 1997 Feb. 1998