Why Shania Twain is an interesting choice for the Songwriters Hall of Fame
The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2022 last week, with Shania Twain, Steve Wariner, Hillary Lindsey, Gary Nicholson and David Malloy all being named 2022 inductees. With Shania leading the way, it’s the first times since 2009 that the Nashville institution has chosen two women from its class of inductees. The class will be officially inducted at the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Gala on Sunday, October 30 at the Music City Center.
“Thank you to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame for this honor. It’s really nice to be among so many of my songwriting idols and to have my own songwriting celebrated. Ironically, I was home in Switzerland writing when it was announced! twain said. “It’s been a while since a woman was inducted into this, so it’s pretty awesome to see not just me, but Hillary Lindsey as well.”
That last part of Shania’s statement isn’t entirely true. Amy Grant was inducted in 2021, Bobbie Gentry in 2020, Sharon Vaughn in 2019, KT Oslin in 2018, etc. Saying “It’s been a while since a woman has been inducted” eclipses these women, and Twain was not alone in doing so. The NPR affiliate in Nashville, WPLN also says, “In recent years, no woman has been inducted. And, in 2018, no woman was even nominated for induction.
But again, KT Oslin was inducted in 2018, so that would probably be worth noting. Over the past 10 years, eight women have been inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Of course, two women at once is a rare feat for anything in Nashville, and country music in particular, and one worth celebrating. But let’s not erase the legacy of the women who have been inducted in recent years, which also include Beth Nielson Chapman, Rosanne Cash, Gretchen Peters and Mary Chapin Carpenter since 2012.
Although the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame announcement usually comes and goes every year in regular Music City beats, this year feels different, especially with the induction of Shania Twain. This raises some questions and could have implications for other Halls of Fame who seriously consider Shania’s induction in the years to come.
Shania Twain is one of those artists that you think of as a performer first, not a songwriter. The Canadian-born artist became an international superstar after crossing the pop world from country, and became one of the biggest stars in all of music during the mid-90s and early 2000s, culminating with his 2002 album. At the top!which included two versions – a pop and a country.
Some like to give Garth Brooks the credit for the rabid popification of country music in the 90s, but it was Shania Twain who was much more responsible, especially through At the top!. Although Twain left a significant impact on country, his career peak consisted of only four albums released in nine years. And aside from her self-titled debut album, virtually every Shania Twain song released during this time was co-written by her. Writing her first song at age 10, some might be surprised at how prolific a songwriter Shania was, including writing all of her greatest hits and all of the songs on her 2nd, 3rd and 4th albums. However, all of these Shania Twain songs were also co-written with her husband and producer at the time, Robert “Mutt” Lange.
So that begs the question, if you’re going to induct Shania Twain, do you also have to induct “Mutt” Lange since their writing credits are literally the same? Of course, the couple divorced in 2008 after 14 years of marriage and after Mutt began having an affair with Shania’s assistant. Who gets more or less credit for Shania Twain’s songs depends on who you talk to, although it’s safe to assume that Shania was more involved on the songwriting side, with Mutt being more concerned with production and writing. ‘arrangement.
But Shania is also inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame as a songwriter/artist, and not just as a songwriter. That’s right, the Songwriter Hall of Fame makes this distinction so that artists who also write songs aren’t overlooked. That’s how Beth Nielson Chapman, Rosanne Cash, Gretchen Peters and Mary Chapin Carpenter came in recently. Pure songwriters are also inducted, but in a different category.
What makes all of this particularly interesting is how it could affect the biggest hall of fame located in Nashville, the Country Music Hall of Fame. First of all, wouldn’t it be great if, like the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame had a mechanism to induct songwriters who were also known as performers? The Country Hall of Fame has a songwriter category that rotates every three years, but it almost always goes to a professional writer behind the scenes who is specifically not a performer. The purpose of the category is to ensure that these pure songwriters do not go unnoticed.
However, under this current Country Hall of Fame induction regime, there is really no opportunity for performers/songwriters like Rosanne Cash, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Townes Van Zandt, John Prine, Guy Clark or Billy Joe Shaver to enter. the only avenue would be as performers, as their songwriting credits for others would not be strong enough to enter exclusively as songwriters. This is a blind spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame system.
But perhaps more importantly, Shania Twain’s induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame feels like this could be a glimpse of the Country Music Hall of Fame in years to come. Shania Twain was already considered a favorite in the Hall of Fame’s “Modern Era” category. Each year, only two artists are inducted, one in the modern era and one in the veteran era. Often what keeps artists from being considered for the Hall of Fame is not being there in Nashville to lobby members of the CMA’s secret selection committee for induction. Being from Canada and now living in Switzerland, it would traditionally have someone like Shania Twain on the outside looking inside.
None of these inductions happen without a bit of lobbying and arm-twisting behind the scenes. That Shania Twain was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame means she’s now actively trying to rack up those sorts of accolades. With Shania’s type of commercial success (over 100 million records sold, including two Diamond Certified albums and one Double Diamond Certified album), she immediately rises to the top of the Country Music Hall of Fame considerations, if she shows any honour. interest in wanting the distinction, and is willing to participate in the induction process.
Currently, Tanya Tucker is considered the first veteran era inductee for the Country Music Hall of Fame. At this point, it’s fair to think of Shania Twain as the leader of the modern era, with Trisha Yearwood and Martina McBride also seen as strong contenders, and perhaps Clint Black also in the mix. So yes, the Country Music Hall of Fame could also induct two women in 2023.
Steve Wariner is another name rumored to have risen to Country Music Hall of Fame consideration in recent years. The fact that he’s inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame with Shania is likely a good sign for his prospects in the Country Music Hall of Fame as well.
That might be too much “inside baseball” talk for some. But these are the reasons why Shania Twain’s choice for the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame doesn’t just sound like another superficial beat in Music City. This signals that she is ready to step off the sidelines and start receiving big career accolades. And with her resume, she can get them all before she’s finished.