Shania Reigns


    Shania Twain waves to the crowd during an appearance at the Much Music studios in Toronto

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    At home, Twain and Lange hike, ride horses and eat at local restaurants. Every morning the world's biggest commercial singer grabs an acoustic guitar and goes into a centuries-old wine cave to write songs — just for herself. "I write crazy things," she says, "vulnerable things that I wouldn't want to play for anybody." She records these songs on a handheld cassette player and plays them only for her husband.

    Twain's desire for privacy is hardly discouraged by him. The Rhodesian-born Lange, 53, started out writing radio jingles before producing heavy metal for AC/DC, disco for Billy Ocean, arena rock for Foreigner and adult contemporary for Bryan Adams. Lange has also written or co-written 135 pop songs, including Do You Believe in Love for Huey Lewis & the News and I Finally Found Someone for Barbra Streisand. He has been honored with numerous awards from the American Society of Composers and Producers and has never accepted a single one. He has not done an interview for 30 years, rarely leaves his home and recently purchased the rights to nearly every extant photo of him. Luke Lewis, head of Twain's record label and one of Lange's few confidants, says, "I don't think he's an agoraphobe." But he adds, "You wouldn't be the first to call Mutt Lange a little strange." And more than a little rich. He has an undisclosed stake in Zomba Music Group, which was purchased by BMG last week for $2.7 billion, and with his songwriting and production royalties, he is one of the wealthiest men in music.

    "Mutt's got absolutely no shame about being a commercial record producer," says Joe Elliot, lead singer of Def Leppard. Lange produced Def Leppard's 12 million — selling arena-rock classic, Hysteria, but his commercial sound works in almost any genre. His favorite trick is to pile layers of vocal takes — sometimes several dozen — on top of one another, giving his singers a lush, smooth sound. Then Lange uses key changes, drum fills, cowbells, chants, effects and spoken interludes to keep the listener's attention. These devices make Lange's music particularly popular with radio programmers; research shows that a song with numerous pace changes and interruptions, like those on Nah!, the herky-jerky sing-along on Up!, keeps listeners from turning the dial. "Lyrics," says Elliot, "are secondary. Mutt would say, 'When it comes to writing lyrics, it doesn't matter whether they're good or bad. They just have to be memorable.' Sometimes I'd play him personal stuff, and he'd go, 'I really like that.' Then we'd play it in the studio, and he'd object. He'd say, 'As your friend, I like it. But it's not pop, and it's not going to sell, so shut it.'"

    Selling is apparently never far from Lange's mind. "He'd love to have the top record of all time," says Mercury's Lewis. "Everybody's trying to make a living, and it's fun, but there is a scorecard. And if Shania thinks that that's what he wants, she'll help him get it." Twain admits she has bought into the Lange program completely, although, she adds, they're equal partners in her success. "Mutt alone has never had this much success in his career," she says. "Never as consistently and never as big. It's what we do together that makes it so great." Since meeting Lange, Twain has become a strict vegetarian and a devotee of Sant Mat, a strain of Sikh mysticism that advocates hours of daily meditation, abstinence from sex and alcohol, and copious journal keeping as the path to self-realization. The whole picture has led some, including Twain's brother Darryl, to conclude that she has become, as he put it in a 2000 magazine interview, "a robot."

    Whatever the confines of her marriage, Twain doesn't seem to be chafing within them. She and Lange speak by cell phone constantly and communicate like husband and wife, not Svengali and subject. They talk about the baby, their reservations at vegetarian haute cuisine joints across Europe and sometimes about canceling those reservations. "Hey, lovey," Twain says to Lange, who is a maniacal English-soccer fan. "Did you know there's a game between England and Macedonia tonight? Did you want to watch that?" They end up staying in.

    Twain seems somehow removed from her own success. "There's no separating me and music," she says, "but there's a big separation between music and career. Sometimes I just think I belong in a bar, singing with my guitar. I don't think I'm worthy of everything that's happening now. I don't think I'll ever be my best commercially. I'm not sure if I will ever achieve that."

    Asked if she might find a way to integrate vulnerability and world domination, Twain thinks for a moment. "I've got dreams," she says. "I'd like to do a duet album with all of my favorite artists — Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Stevie Wonder, Bonnie Raitt, Karen Carpenter if she were alive, Etta James." Twain is laughing now. "These are impossibilities, but I'd love it. And I would want it to be originals. What would be really fantastic would be to write songs with all those people. That would be a dream album for me. One dream album."

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