#TBT is (yet another) column/essay idea I'm in the process of fleshing out. Rather than just facts on a song of old a la my previous Back In The Days of yore, #TBT will (ideally) be a weekly column featuring various songs that resonate to me personally in the hopes that it will also spark happy memories for you, dear reader. Rules: the song must be released within the past 10-20 years and I cannot repeat from the same year (until all years in this span are covered and then we start again), plus each column will be centered around a letter of the alphabet beginning with 'A' and so on. Got it? Then let's hop on our Time Machine...
The year was 1995. That April, I was seven years old. I like to count this time as my true awakening when it comes to popular music. I had already absorbed albums like En Vogue's Funky Divas, Whitney's The Bodyguard, and Janet Jackson's Janet. and had already begun listening to the Weekly Top 40 Countdown on the radio like a ritual. It seemed like the R&B side of things had already solidified within me when it comes to my current musical tastes. But it was around this time that the first real country song I ever connected to was released.
Truthfully -- if we're being totally accurate -- I wouldn't be introduced to this song until a few months later via the 1996 compilation disc celebrating the Grammy Award nominees. The disc included Seal's "Kiss From A Rose", Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise", Blues Traveler's "Run-Around" (Fun Fact: Blues Traveler was my first concert ever -- probably right around this time), and a breakthrough track from one woman whom Taylor Swift can thank for her entire career. I'm talking of course about Shania Twain.
We would still be a few years away from her iconic Come On Over album that truly brought her mass appeal but at this point, she was promoting her sophomore album, The Woman In Me. The project was lead by the honkey-tonkey "Who's Bed Has Your Boots Been Under?" (does it get more country than that?) but it was second single "Any Man Of Mine" that gained real resonance.
I've never been much of a country fan except when it had shades of pop appeal and you can't describe that "sub-genre" of Country music without bringing up Shania -- arguably the first (or second if you count Dolly Parton) to give country a poppy sheen.
Now, this might seem ridiculous but when I hear "Any Man Of Mine" -- even to this day -- one thing is brought to mind: being wrapped up til I was almost immobile in a jacket and snow pants and going tubing down a hill.
Um...what, you say?
My hometown was named one of the coldest in the country. When I was a kid, my family used to have yearly outings to a ski resort that was dubbed The Skiiathon. Inventive name, yes, I know. I was too young -- and too dis-interested -- to want to ski but at these events, it was prime chance to spend the day tobogganing down a semi-steep, snow-covered hillside with my cousins. After a few hours of that, everyone trundled inside for dinner, drinks, and a lot of music was played by the nearby jukebox.
I don't like to consider my family "country" in the stereotypical sense because we really weren't. I grew up in Central Upstate New York, your typical American suburbia. It certainly isn't New York City but it's not the total boonies either. But when you're talking politics, we tended to lean a little more toward the Conservative side of things. I'm not saying that automatically connects itself to an ardent love of country music or that country music can only be loved by Republicans...but when in Rome (if you know the area of my hometown, there's a pun in that sentence).
Anywho -- I can vividly remember the ol' juke playing a lot of country. When "Achy Breaky Heart" was a thing (and boy, was it a thing) and even long after it, I can remember adults doing line dances to this song while I watched. I might have even danced along with them. "Any Man of Mine" was one of those line-dance provoking songs. As corny as it might have seemed -- even then! -- I couldn't deny just how catchy it was.
The lyrics, co-written by Twain herself alongside her then husband Mutt Lange, when stripped of the country feel were decidedly conducive to the strong female attachments that I was already obsessed with even at that age. "I need a man who knows how the story goes / He's gotta be a heartbeatin', fine treatin', breath-takin', earthquakin' kind / Any man of mine."
You'd be hard-pressed to find a better anthem for young women than that. In fact, if anything -- if taken too literally, it might be a little too pro-female. "Any man of mine better disagree / When I say another woman's looking better than me / And when I burn him dinner and I burn it black / He better say, 'Mmm, I like it like that' / And if I change my mind a million times / I wanna hear him say, 'Yeah (Yeah) Yeah (Yeah), I like it that way!'"
However, it was that level of humor and realism that may have inadvertently drawn me to the song (and Shania) in the first place. She'd have plenty of jams to come that would encourage you to have higher standards about your choice in partner ("That Don't Impress Me Much", anyone?) but "Any Man of Mine" stands apart, surprisingly for its more authentic country charm. Would have thought?
Do you have a Shania song that speaks to you? Tell me about it the comments.