In which our heroine, the Catherine Zeta Jones of cash-register pop, returns with a triumphant flash of her signature exclamation marks and navel. And this time it's trans-national, baby.
The short answer about the two CDs that comprise the relentlessly shiny 'Up!' is that its twice-duplicated, nineteen (!) tracks are lighter on the nails-out, drag-queen flash of their predecessor, the gazillion-selling 'Come On Over'. Consequently, poptastic title track and synthorama first single 'I'm Gonna Getcha Good' aside, overall it doesn't play to Twain's great strengths - the raised eyebrow, the hen-night-on-speed glee, the bulletproof, plastic-trousered you-want-some-baby? innuendo - and gives us more anodyne balladry than necessary. Anyone with a weakness for the bumptious vaudeville of 'Man! I Feel Like A Woman' and 'That Don't Impress Me Much' will find less to chew on here.
But still. The PLC that is Twain and producer/husband/partner Mutt Lange is nothing if not devoted to its mission statement of tireless Customer Relationship Management. 'Up!' takes on its all-things-to-all-wallets mission with real appetite. North Americans get Pop and Country CD versions of the album in their jewel cases, and the rest of the world, including us, get - only slightly oddly - Pop and Bollywood versions.
Indeed, 'Up!' is not without its little oddities and delights. True, 'She's Not Just A Pretty Face' grates for its clunky take on the idea that women can fill varying occupational roles in today's busy world and 'C'est La Vie' reads like a little pop sop for the worker bees. Equally, a New Wave-thumping 'What A Way To Wanna Be!' takes on women's body-shape issues with all the inevitable mixed-messages you'd expect of self-esteem lectures from superwomen vamping in artfully distressed underwear. However, it would be unfair to decide that the intentions are, at heart, malign.
The real gem here is 'Ka-Ching!': musically, its Timbaland-style strings and off-kilter chorus are the best thing on the album, and lyrically
well, crikey. It's essentially Radiohead's "squealing Gucci little piggies" served up for those without Oxford educations and Naomi Klein's Guardian columns: if you needed further proof that the baldly-stated lexicon of anti-consumerism was beginning to seep outside the salons of Islington, consider: "We spend the money that we don't possess/Our religion is to go and blow it all".
Don't expect the walls to come tumbling down any time soon, of course, but when you can almost imagine that the most terrifyingly successful commercial musical partnership of the last decade is serving up theme music for Buy Nothing Day, it's a call for a little smile. A sly, have-it-both-ways Shania smile, of course. But still.