OK, here’s the first matchup in Round One of Montauk Madness that hit me right in the gut: Aimee Mann vs. Ben Folds Five.
Why hurt me like this, oh musical gods, by pitting two of my all-time favorite artists against each other in what should be the easiest round?
I discovered both of these acts right around the same time, 20 years ago. I know that because I gave their latest CDs (Mann’s I’m With Stupid and BFF’s Whatever and Ever Amen) to my brother-in-law as a birthday present in 1997.
My examination of songs that utilize metaphors has brought me to an Aimee Mann track that is apparently despised by a significant percentage of her fans. I didn’t realize that until reading about it for this blog entry. I’m often surprised to find out which songs are either loved or hated by an artist’s fan base.
‘Superball’ certainly isn’t among my favorite Mann songs, but neither is it something I’d ever think of skipping when listening to her albums. Tucked between two slower songs on her 1995 record I’m With Stupid, the song works as an oddball pick-me-up.
After the demise of Imago, Aimee Mann jumped to Geffen for her next release, 1995’s I’m With Stupid. Again, the album met with critical success but didn’t sell very well, eventually leading to problems with the new label (yes, a pattern is developing here).
Mann has always struck me as a great example of an evolving artist. Looking at her material through the years, the talent is always there and so is her melancholy tone and thematic focus on life’s losers, but her style is very fluid. After exploring new wave pop in her ‘Til Tuesday material, she moved to a more acoustic, organic sound on Whatever. On I’m With Stupid, Mann went electric, but with a minimalist production style that sharpens every song to a deadly edge.