Does Shania Twain Single's Big Debut Mean Long-Term Success? Radio Programmer Weigh In
Does Shania Twain Single's Big Debut Mean Long-Term Success? Radio Programmer Weigh In

The latest stop on Shania Twain's multi-media comeback blitz: Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart.

The star singer/songwriter ends a six-year hiatus from the survey, as "Today Is Your Day" blasts in as the list's highest debut at No. 40. The bow marks the fourth-highest start of Twain's 33 entries dating to her arrival in 1993. (All charts will be refreshed Thursday, June 23, on Billboard.com).

"Today" launches with 2.3 million audience impressions and airplay detected on 84 of the chart's 127 reporters, according to Nielsen BDS.

Twain had last appeared on Hot Country Songs with the No. 29-peaking "Shoes," from the "Desperate Housewives" soundtrack, in 2005. She has scored 16 Hot Country Songs top 10s, including seven No. 1s. Twain shot to Nashville dominance when her 1995 release "The Woman in Me" spent 29 weeks atop Billboard's Top Country Albums chart. The album has sold 7.7 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

The follow-up "Come On Over" yielded a record eight Hot Country Songs top 10s and totaled a record 50 weeks at No. 1 on Top Country Albums. With 15.5 million copies sold, the set ranks as the second-best-selling album in the U.S. since SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991. (Metallica's eponymous 1991 album outpaces "Over" by 167,000 units).

With 34 million albums sold, Twain is the top-selling female country artist in SoundScan history. (Reba McEntire ranks second at 29.8 million).

Since releasing her most recent studio album, however, 2002's "Up!," Twain has seemingly made more headlines for her personal life. Following her husband and creative partner Robert John "Mutt" Lange's affair with her best friend, Marie Anne Thibaud, Twain divorced Lange last year.

Twain married Frederic Thiebaud (Marie Anne Thiebaud's ex-husband) Jan. 1 and has remained a force across a variety of platforms since.

Twain was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame March 27; she released the autobiographical book, "From This Moment On," May 3; and she debuted "Why Not? with Shania Twain" May 8 on OWN: the Oprah Winfrey Network, premiering "Today" in the series' first episode. (She unveiled a duet remake with Lionel Richie of his 1981 Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 "Endless Love" (with Diana Ross) in the show's June 12 finale).

At a June 8 press conference at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, she announced plans to headline Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas with "Still the One," set to open Dec. 1, 2012, and run for two years.

While Twain has yet to formalize plans for her next studio album, her track record at the format and pop culture standing are making for a warm welcome at radio in her return with "Today."

Despite Twain's sparse recent output, her plentiful catalog has allowed her to remain a force on country radio.

"Even after a long absence, I am still asked about her quite often," says WGTY (Great Country 107.7)/York, Penn., program director Scott Donato. The station spun "Today" 19 times in the June 13-19 tracking week, the most among all Country Songs panelists. "With many of our listeners glued to her television series, and her book sales taking off, she is still very much relevant in 2011."

"Shania is a superstar, not just among country fans, but music fans in general," says KMPS (94.1)/Seattle program director Becky Brenner. The station played "Today" 12 times last week.

"Her story is one that people can relate to and want to hear more about. She is not afraid to share her journey so that others can be inspired to pursue their dreams. I think that makes people want to support her even more."

While Twain made most of her trips up Country Songs with such uptempo fare as "Any Man of Mine," "That Don't Impress Me Much," and "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!," her new single, released to radio and digital retailers June 12, is a ballad, which Twain wrote (and co-produced with David Foster and Nathan Chapman).

"The song is different for her, and we've received a range of opinions on it, mostly positive, with some negatives sprinkled in," says Donato.

"Even so, most of the listeners who responded negatively are still looking forward to hearing more new material from her. The vast majority are simply excited to hear her back on the radio.

"Only time will tell if the music matches the anticipation," Donato muses. "We'll know much better in coming weeks if this song is truly something this market wants to hear.

"Just because it's somewhat of a curveball on first listen doesn't worry me too much. She's Shania Twain, for garsh sakes, and she's omnipresent right now.

"If this new music does break through, I'll be as happy as anyone, both as a fan and for the format."