Song of the Day #487: ‘Red Vines’ – Aimee Mann

bachelorno2The Magnolia soundtrack changed Aimee Mann’s career. Saddled by a record company that refused to release her third solo album because it wasn’t commercial enough, she was suddenly in a position to buy back the rights to that album and release it herself.

So that’s what she did, forming Superego Records and selling that album, Bachelor No. 2, through her own Web site. Critical reception was very strong and sales were brisk enough that she eventually was able to get distribution in record stores. She’s released every album since through her label, becoming a poster child for successful self-distribution.

Listening to Bachelor No. 2 highlights just how out of touch the record company was. Sure, maybe it doesn’t contain a “single” in the traditional sense, but it’s jam-packed with smart, elegant music — the sort of thing Elvis Costello, say, has been putting out for decades (without many hit singles). That a corporation would work to prevent the release of such wonderful material is depressing.

Bachelor No. 2 contains some of the songs that appeared on the Magnolia soundtrack, most notably ‘Deathly’ (the song that inspired the movie in the first place) and the closing ballad ‘You Do.’ But the nine new songs are among the best Mann has ever written or recorded.

One of my favorites is ‘Red Vines,’ today’s Song of the Day. I’m curious to hear interpretations of the lyrics as I’m sort of at a loss. I’ve read that the song is about Paul Thomas Anderson, but even with that clue I can’t quite piece it together.

Doesn’t stop me from loving the song, though. (Red vines are the Twizzlers of the West Coast, incidentally).

They’re all still on their honeymoon
Just read the dialogue balloon
Everyone loves you – why should they not?

And I’m the only one who knows
That Disneyland’s about to close
I don’t suppose you’d give it a shot
Knowing all that you’ve got

Are cigarettes and Red Vines
Just close your eyes, cause, baby
You never do know
And I’ll be on the sidelines,
With my hands tied,
Watching the show

Well, it’s always fun and games until
It’s clear you haven’t got the skill
In keeping the gag from going too far

So you’re running ’round the parking lot
‘Til every lightning bug is caught
Punching some pinholes in the lid of a jar
While we wait in the car

With cigarettes and Red Vines
Just close your eyes, cause, baby
You never do know
And I’ll be on the sidelines,
With my hands tied,
Watching the show

And tell me, would it kill you
Would it really spoil everything
If you didn’t blame yourself
Do you know what I mean?

Cigarettes and Red Vines
Just close your eyes, cause, baby
You never do know
And I’ll be on the sidelines,
With my hands tied,
Watching the show

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #487: ‘Red Vines’ – Aimee Mann

  1. Dana says:

    My interpretation is that Mann seems to know the object of the song (presumably Anderson) in a way few others do. She knows he has enormous talent largely unrevealed to the world, but also knows the private side, which contains deep rooted insecurities and a child-like playfulness. She knows that his talent is soon to be discovered by the world, and she will be watching from the sidelines as he gets the well-deserved attention. She sees Anderson in that moment of transition, from child to man, from nobody to somebody. Cigarettes and red vines are a perfect way of capturing that transition–with the red vines reflecting the more carefree child inside and the cigarettes reflecting the more adult vice.

    Another great song from Ms. Mann:)

  2. Rick says:

    I always heard this song as the inner lament of a woman several years older than her love object, a man-child probably inappropriately younger (maybe the teenager son of her best friend). Adolescence is about to end (“Disneyland’s about to close”) and she knows she has nothing to offer him but the cynicism of the crushed dreams of a bleak washed-up adulthood (“cigarettes and red vines”). She is tortured knowing what she feels/wants with him is wrong (“would it really spoil everything/ if you didn’t blame yourself”) and meanwhile watches him continuing his golden-boy blissful existence, full of idealistic dreams appropriate to the invincibility of late adolescence, unaware of her feelings (“you’re running round the parking lot… while we wait in the car”). We never know if she acts on her feelings, as she is ashamed of how she feels but envies the joy and innocence of the younger person chasing the lightning bugs.

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