Hailing out of Richmond, Virginia, Aimee Mann was born on September 8, 1960, and already had an eventful life even before becoming an American singer-songwriter. When she was just three years old, her mother had an affair and became pregnant. Her parents divorced as a result and her mother kidnapped the little girl and moved to Europe with her new boyfriend. Mann’s father hired a private detective who managed to track her down and bring her back home to Virginia a year later. Now with her father, she became part of his new family, which meant a stepmother and two stepbrothers. It wasn’t until Mann was fourteen years old that she saw her mother again. Mann blames the events of her early childhood on the traumatic experience her mother put her through that had her contend with post-traumatic stress disorder and travel anxiety issues that occurred later in her own life.
When Aimee Mann was twelve years old, she was confined to her room to contend with glandular fever. During this time, she learned how to play her brother’s guitar and had also approached her family that she wanted a bass guitar to learn more. That request saw her family simply ridicule her to the point where she wouldn’t take up the instrument until she was reached an age where she could be more in control of her own life. Already at twelve, she began to play her brother’s guitar when she was confined in her room to contend with glandular fever. In her heart, she knew music was her niche and was serious about learning more about the industry.
While growing up, she was inspired by the music genre of new wave and punk as a fan of David Bowie and Iggy Pop. Eventually, Mann learned how to play that bass guitar and was enrolled in Berklee College of Music in Boston before dropping out after eighteen months to join the Boston punk band, Young Snakes, who discouraged her from songwriting to the point where left them in favor of the industrial metal band, Ministry. It was with the second group who did the opposite by not only encouraging her to write songs but helping her how to do so more effectively. Thanks to these experiences, she co-founded the new wave band, ‘Til Tuesday, before it disbanded in 1990.
Now as a solo artist, Aimee Mann’s first two solo albums, Whatever in 1993 and I’m With Stupid in 1995, earned her positive reviews, but not many sales. It wasn’t until she recorded music for 1999’s Magnolia soundtrack did the fans finally take notice of her talent. Her work on the Magnolia soundtrack earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song and a Grammy Award nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal. Despite this, the record label she was with at the time, Geffen, refused to release her third studio album, Bachelor No. 2. Mann took it upon herself to release it as her own label, SuperEgo Records.
The year was 2000 and since then, she has released seven additional albums over the course of time. In 2006, she won her first Grammy Award, thanks to her fifth studio album, The Forgotten Arm, and its recognition for Best Recording Package. Also in 2006, National Public Radio also named Aimee Mann as one of the world’s ten greatest living songwriters. In 2017, Mann released her ninth studio album, Mental Illness, and it won her a Grammy Award for Best Folk Album in 2018.
As a solo artist, Aimee Mann has recorded and released a total of nine studio albums, a live album, a compilation album, and a soundtrack. She also has twenty-five singles to her credit and nineteen music videos. Adding to her resume is also the discographic portfolio as the co-founder to ‘Til Tuesday are three studio albums, a compilation album, and eight singles. It was in 1983 she and her fellow classmate and boyfriend at the time, Michael Hausmann founded their band and released their first album together in 1985.
This deserves mention as Mann discovered shortly after the formation of the band that she was not meant to pursue punkish, new wave style music but rather material that was more down to earth. It was because of this discovery she realized she needed to embark on a solo career and pursue a style of music that was more mature than what she had been playing. This move was the best decision she ever made as an artist and as a person, which resulted in the development of one of the greatest modern talents the music industry has come to know and love.
Top 10 Aimee Mann Songs
#10 – Static on the Radio (featuring Jim White)
In 2004, Jim White’s third studio album, Drill a Hole in That Substrate and Tell Me What You See, featured the song, “Static on the Radio,” which he collaborated with Aimee Mann. It was the same music that was played during the ending credits to the 2019 film, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. The eerie start-up, plus the softness of the instrumental, then the vocals, made Static on the Radio one of those moody pieces that are best enjoyed in a laid-back manner and just soak up the rhythm.
#9 – Stupid Thing
In 1993, Aimee Mann released the single, “Stupid Thing,” which was released from her debut album, Whatever. On the UK Singles Chart, it climbed as high as number forty-seven as a song that revolved around a relationship that didn’t have enough time to knit together before the lovers involved chose to break it apart. The hopelessness feel behind Mann’s lyrics served as an eerie ballad that is fueled with sadness and regret.
“Stupid Thing,” received rave reviews from music critics, yet the fans had trouble getting into it at first. Over time, however, it became a favorite song performed during somber occasions, including funerals. As a vocalist and a guitarist, Aimee Mann seemed to be in her best element with the performance of this song and is among the most emotional pieces she’s ever produced.
#8 – That’s Just What You Are
“That’s Just What You Are” was a 1994 single that was released from the Melrose Place soundtrack. It’s also featured in Aimee Mann’s second studio album, I’m with Stupid. On the US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks, it peaked as high as number twenty-four and it appeared at number ninety-three on the US Billboard Hot 100. Originally, That’s Just What You Are was meant for the UK audience only, but it wound up becoming a song rerouted as a track for the drama series instead.
Singing as a backup to Mann’s melodic vocals were Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, both of whom were fascinated with her acoustic performances they had heard on the radio. Although this single was not released commercially in the UK, it was used as background music during the Euro 96 football championships hosted by BBC Sport. As far as music critics were concerned, as well as the fans, That’s Just What You Are served as the best song from the soundtrack as the contrast of vocal performances between Difford, Tilbrook, and Mann worked beautifully as a lyrical tale of a lover opting to live an unexamined lifestyle in an easy hum to pop song.
#7 – Going Through the Motions
On the US Billboard Adult Alternative Airplay chart, “Going Through the Motions” peaked at number eighteen in 2005. It was the first of two singles released from Aimee Mann’s award-winning album, The Forgotten Arm, and the only one of the two that became a chart success. The sensitive subject matter of drug abuse came as an inspiration to Aimee Mann as she had a friend who had a revolving door battle with his addiction to cocaine. Catchy, yet ominous, its power-pop at its finest, which has been the style of music Mann is best recognized for.
#6 – Choice in the Matter
Released in 1996, “Choices in the Matter’ came from Mann’s third studio album, I’m With Stupid. This single was lyrically performed as a person with trust issues when it came to the contemplation of getting involved in a relationship with another person. The melodic skills Mann is well known for as the girlish side to her gently portrayed a wave of frustration without going into a crazy rant. The warmth behind Mann’s voice has been a big part of her charm that has won her the loyal fan following she has, as well as the music critics who know quality music when they hear it. On the US Billboard Adult Alternative Airplay chart, Choice in the Matter peaked at number twelve.
#5 – What About Love (as ‘Til Tuesday)
In 1986, while Aimee Mann was still serving as ‘Til Tuesday’s lead vocalist, the single, “What About Love,” was released from their second album, Welcome Home. Performed as an easy-going pop music tune, What About Love peaked as high as number nine on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart and at number twenty-six on the US Billboard Hot 100. It also made a ninety-two chart appearance on the singles chart belonging to Australia. The moody build-up of this song illustrated Mann’s maturing talent as an artist, which seemed to set the stage that sooner or later she was bound to push forth as a solo artist.
#4 – I Should’ve Known
Recorded and released in 1993 from her debut album, “I Should’ve Known” was Aimee Mann’s debut single as a solo artist. On the US Billboard Alternative Airplay chart, it peaked as high as number sixteen and was a number fifty-five hit on the UK Singles Chart. In 1994, I Should’ve Known was reissued again in the UK, which then peaked a bit higher at number forty-five on the same chart. Although the single received great reviews from the critics, North American fans didn’t seem to care for it quite as much as the Europeans did.
In Canada and the US, I Should’ve Known only received considerable airtime on radio stations that played alternative music. As for the mainstream stations, not so much. This single was written and performed as a black comedy that took a jab at the song and video of Mann’s previous single, Voices Carry. In 1993, listening to and watching a woman break out of female stigmas with an upbeat, crunching guitar riff felt like a liberating experience among the critics who found the single to be among the best on the album.
#3 – Save Me
Although the 1999 single didn’t make a big impression on the music charts, “Save Me” was a beautiful song that came from the soundtrack, Magnolia. On the UK Singles Chart, it only ranked as high as number eighty-eight. However, in 2000, it received an MTV Music Video Award for Best Editing, as well as a nomination for Best Video from a Film. It was also nominated for Best Original Song by three different awards committees, namely the Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards, the Online Film & Television Association, and the Satellite Awards.
In 2001, it earned two Grammy Award nominations, with the first one for Best Song Written for Visual Media, which went to Phil Collins’ You’ll Be in My Heart for Disney’s film, Tarzan. Since then, each time Mann performed Save Me, she’d jokingly dedicate it to Collins at the different venues she has performed in. The second Grammy Award nomination was for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, but the win went to Macy Gray’s I Try. Save Me has also been featured as a song in different television series, including Cold Case, Grace and Frankie, HaShminiya, Portlandia, and Sex Education. On the big screen, it was also featured in The Edge of Seventeen and The Jane Austen Book Club.
#2 – Time Stands Still (Rush single)
In 1987, Aimee Mann collaborated with Rush for the single, “Time Stands Still.” On the US Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks, it was a number three hit and it charted as number forty-two in the UK and at fifty-two in Canada. For Rush, Aimee Mann was not their first choice to perform the single. They first approached Cyndi Lauper, then Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders, then finally Mann. Throughout the song, each time the song reached chorus, Mann would insert her melodic performance.
For Rush, it was the first time they collaborated with another artist. According to music critics, Mann’s vocal talent added considerable more depth to the song as they felt the contrast between her voice and frontman Geddy Lee was a perfect balance. As a pop performance with heavy instrumentation, “Time Stands Still,” has been regarded as one of Rush’s best performances, as well as a signature piece that caused fans who never heard of Aimee Mann before discovering for themselves a new favorite female artist.
# 1 – Voices Carry (as ‘Til Tuesday)
In 1985, Aimee Mann’s ‘Til Tuesday new wave group released the album, Voices Carry and its title track. This was the first time the world caught a glimpse of a young Aimee Mann before she became a best-selling solo artist. Although Mann admits now she felt out of her element at the time when fans identified with ‘Til Tuesday, they identified with Aimee Mann.
This remarkable song showed off Mann’s incredible vocal talent and was a gut wrenching ballad of a woman attempting to find her own way while stuck in a troubled relationship with a man who wouldn’t allow her to be who she wanted to be. In a way, among the fans who’ve followed Mann’s career and biography, caught a glimpse of what life must have been like for Mann who wanted to pursue music despite her family not supporting her interest while she was still living under their roof.
On the US Billboard Hot 100, Voices Carry peaked as high as number eight and was a number fifteen hit on the official singles charts belonging to Australia and Canada. Mann’s performance also earned her an American Video Award in 1985 for Best Female Performance as the imagery of a woman stuck in an abusive relationship made quite an impression on the industry and its fans. For ‘Til Tuesday, it was the group’s only top ten hit before disbanding. For Aimee Mann, it was her first big breakthrough as an artist, even though she hadn’t gone completely solo yet.
Top 10 Aimee Mann Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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