Song of the Day #484: ‘Wise Up’ – Aimee Mann

magnoliaAimee Mann’s record studio problems went from bad to worse as she worked on her third solo album. She turned her material in to Geffen and heard the classic line: “We don’t hear a single.” In fact, the studio shelved the album until she could produce something more commercial. She wound up writing a track called ‘Nothing is Good Enough’ about, you guessed it, evil record studio heads.

But then a funny thing happened. Mann’s close friend, writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson, was inspired by a line in one of her songs (‘Deathly’) to write and shoot the film Magnolia. And he intertwined Mann’s music into the film as well, using several existing cuts and asking her to pen a new one for the film.

That new track was ‘Save Me,’ a gorgeous ballad that earned Mann an Oscar nomination and the biggest audience of her career. The Magnolia soundtrack, which contained several of the songs on Mann’s shelved third album, became a best-seller. Without changing a note, she had delivered the commercial music Geffen demanded and perhaps proved there is an audience for smart pop music.

The most memorable track in Magnolia is today’s Song of the Day, ‘Wise Up,’ which features in the film’s emotional climax. As each character in the tale of intertwining lives is at his or her lowest point, they simultaneously break into song — this song. It’s a bold, crazy, half-bad idea that works because it’s so giddily unexpected and so emotionally charged.

And of course it works because this song is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever heard.

It’s not
What you thought
When you first began it
You got
What you want
Now you can hardly stand it
Though by now you know
It’s not going to stop
It’s not going to stop
It’s not going to stop
‘Til you wise up

You’re sure
There’s a cure
And you have finally found it
You think
One drink
Will shrink you ’til you’re underground
And living down
But it’s not going to stop
It’s not going to stop
It’s not going to stop
‘Til you wise up

Prepare a list for what you need
Before you sign away the deed
‘Cause it’s not going to stop
No, it’s not going to stop
‘Til you wise up
No, it’s not going to stop
‘Til you wise up
No, it’s not going to stop
So just give up

One thought on “Song of the Day #484: ‘Wise Up’ – Aimee Mann

  1. Dana says:

    I totally agree that this is a gorgeous and powerful song, and was mesmerizingly used in the movie.

    I think this third album and Magnolia experience is where Mann finally gave up any illusion (either on her part or projected onto the record labels) of being a big commercial artist in the way Til Tuesday was, and instead “settled” on making her music her way for a core group of very appreciative fans. In doing so, she joined the ranks of so many other great artists we love (Costello, Lovett, Ben Folds, etc) who have “settled ” in the same way.

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