Song of the Day #1,145: ‘Ghost World’ – Aimee Mann

Best Songwriters – #9 – Aimee Mann

Aimee Mann is the artist on this list who earns the “most improved” designation. If you’d told me that the Mann of ‘Til Tuesday and her first solo album would grow into one of the most assured, mature and emotionally effective songwriters I know, I would have been highly skeptical.

But around the release of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, largely inspired by Mann’s music, her albums took a turn toward the sublime. Her Bachelor No. 2, which featured several of those Magnolia tracks, was confident, dramatic and stylistically diverse — a statement record by a woman nobody expected to make a statement.

Mann followed that stunner up with the similarly effective Lost in Space then released the gorgeous concept album The Forgotten Arm, which traced the fall and rebirth of a drug-addicted boxer through warm, piano-based ballads and mid-tempo rockers. That album might have been her crowning achievement had she not topped it a few years later with @#%$*! Smilers, a flawless collection that showcased her entire toolkit.

Mann’s greatest strength is one that perfectly matches my greatest weakness. She excels at the melancholy. I’m a sucker for a softly sad song, the sort of tune that applies deliberate pressure to an emotional bruise, and Mann can write those in her sleep.

‘Ghost World,’ from Bachelor No. 2, is a portrait of adolescent ennui, inspired by the comic book (and movie) of the same name. Its protagonist is fed up with her small town but knows that ultimately she won’t summon the courage to do anything about it.

Finals blew
I barely knew my graduation speech
With college out of reach
If I don’t find a job it’s down to Dad and Myrtle Beach

So, I’m bailing this town
Or tearing it down
Or probably more like hanging around

Everyone I know is acting weird
Or way too cool
They hang out by the pool
So I just read a lot and ride my bike around the school

Cause I’m bailing this town
Or tearing it down
Or probably more like hanging around, hanging around

And all that I need now
Is someone with the brains and the know-how
To tell me what I want anyhow

12th of June, a gibbous moon
Was this the longest day?
I walked down to the bay and
Jumped off of the dock and watched the summer waste away

Yeah, I’m bailing this town
Or tearing it down
Or probably more like hanging around

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,145: ‘Ghost World’ – Aimee Mann

  1. Dana says:

    I’m not sure you would find Mann on a substantial number of top ten singer/songwriter lists, but she is certainly deserving of that consideration. I am not as intimately familiar with all of Mann’s work as you are, but I have heard enough to know that I like what I hear every time I hear her. Perhaps one knock against her (and one you may hear from other commenters if they ever bother to comment:)) is that there is a similarity in sound and style to much of her work. While I understand that criticism, when what you are hearing sounds so good and often times has such lyrical depth, I think the lack of sonic diversity can be forgiven.

  2. Amy says:

    I like today’s SOTD, and I’ve liked much of what I’ve heard by Mann, but I do wonder what distinguishes her from myriad other talented female singer songwriters, who have a similar vibe. As I listen to this, I think immediately of Sara Hickman and Indigo Girls, but there are a dozen other names just under the surface. Not that I don’t appreciate all of that music; I do. I just wonder how one of them rises to the top ten list, while others are not even worthy of consideration. I guess it’s just a matter of what comes across our radar and makes an impression when it gets there.

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