Born on August 9, 1960, in Richmond, VA; married to Michael Penn (a musician). Education: Attended Berklee School of Music, Boston, MA. Addresses: Record company--SuperEgo Records, 511 Avenue of the Americas, #197, New York, NY 10011. Website--Aimee Mann Official Website: http://www.aimeemann.com.
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This was not only the essence of the great physicist Sir Isaac Newton's third law of motion, it also seemed to be the governing principle of Aimee Mann's life. Her breakthrough success with 'Til Tuesday in 1985 eventually became a struggle against a label that wanted to mold her into the new flavor of the month. When she finally went solo, her debut album was critically received but she soon became enmeshed in rather torturous negotiations to extricate herself from her now defunct label. She was signed to a new label and finally got the chance to release her sophomore effort and faced the rather dubious task of re-establishing herself in the minds of her fans. What kept Mann going was her songwriting drive, as she commented on in her DGC website, "at one point before Whatever [her debut solo album] came out, things were looking pretty grim and I was getting really depressed. I was talking to a friend and I said, 'I don't know how to get out of this hole.' He said, 'your job is to write songs. So you just keep doing your job.' You do it because there are people who will get it. You do it for them. And you do it just to say it. Just telling the truth has power and value. Whether or not anyone understands, just tell it. Just say it."
Mann was born on August 9, 1960, in Richmond, Virginia. Her parents divorced when she was about three years old. She continued to live with her father after the divorce. When she was four, her mother absconded with her, as Mann related to Billboard's Timothy White. "My mother and her new man concocted this plan to kidnap my brother and I and go off to Europe, with his kids from a previous marriage. They couldn't get my brother, but I went with them. My father, an advertising executive, was searching for me with private detectives for a year!" She was eventually reunited with her father after the ordeal and remained with him while she was growing up.
A bout with mononucleosis when she was about 12 turned young Mann's attention to music. She began to learn how to play her brother's guitar and while she was recovering, she struggled to master the songbooks of Neil Young and Elton John. Mann then practiced the guitar through out high school. After graduating from high school, Mann was undecided about what to do with her life. Her father suggested that a summer course at the Berklee School of Music in Boston might help her to sort out her vocational choices. The move to Boston and life in the big city changed Mann's life. She grew confident in her playing as she progressed from only knowing four Neil Young chords to identifying the structural compositions of songs.
After a few years at Berklee, Mann left the school and joined up with a Boston area post-punk outfit called the Young Snakes. Discord as opposed to harmony was the rule of the day for the Young Snakes. The band managed to garner attention in and around the local area before Mann decided to call it quits, citing her love of melody and music as opposed to chaotic noise.
Mann formed 'Til Tuesday in 1982 and by the following year they were signed to Epic Records. In 1985, 'Til Tuesday released their debut album, Voices Carry. The album, which went gold in America, catapulted 'Til Tuesday from Boston area favorites to new pop sensations and media darlings of the moment in a few short months. This was due to the success of their top ten single "Voices Carry." "Voices Carry" seemed to strike a nerve with 'Til Tuesday's audience as it detailed a relationship gone wrong and how the woman came to grips with it. The video for the song earned kudos as well earning the band MTV's Best New Artist in a Video Award in 1985.
1986 saw the release of Welcome Home, the follow up to Voices Carry. Although popular, Welcome Home failed to ignite the charts as its predecessor had done. By this time, Mann's savvy at writing pop songs had been noticed and remarked on by numerous critics, fans, and fellow musicians alike. She was developing a propensity to write somewhat scathing indictments on bad relationships and the pitfalls of life all under the guise of pure pop songs. But, as her critical acclaim grew, her popularity among the populous waned so that by the time of 'Til Tuesday's third and final release, Everything's Different Now, they were critical darlings with an ever-decreasing fan base. 'Til Tuesday had, in effect, disbanded by 1988 and the tour in support of Everything's Different Now became more of a solo outing for Mann than a full band venture.
For three years, Mann wrangled with Epic to either release her from her contract or to release her new solo work. The label finally relented and released her from her contract in 1992. Mann's manager helped to finance her debut solo album, Whatever. Whatever was finally released on Imago in 1993. It generated rave reviews and she started to win back some of her estranged fan base who, not knowing of the impasse between Mann and her old label, had thought that she had called it a day.
Much of 1994 was spent in London working on the sessions for her sophomore effort I'm With Stupid. The only real diversion from this task was when Mann was asked to contribute a song to the soundtrack for the television program Melrose Place. The resulting single "That's Just What You Are" grazed the top 100 and became Mann's first semi-hit in quite some time.
After her London sojourn, Mann returned to Boston to record I'm With Stupid. During the recording, Mann's label Imago lost its distribution deal and was forced to file for bankruptcy. Imago's president, who owned Mann's contract, decided to pitch Mann's now completed album to the various major labels. As a personal favor to the president of Imago, Warner offered to release the album. Mann insisted that she would not promote the album if it was released on Warner because the label lacked a commitment to her and her album. Mann eventually extricated herself from this predicament and was able to sign with Geffen Records, who eventually released I'm With Stupid in early 1996. Despite the fact that I'm With Stupid was more guitar driven than her previous album, Mann still managed to release an album full of melodious pop. Also in 1996, Epic released the 'Til Tuesday retrospective Coming Up Close.
Mann soon began to record songs for her next solo effort, to be titled Bachelor No. 2. When there were major label mergers at Geffen however, she was reassigned to Interscope, who promptly refused to release her finished album. Unable to put out her record, Mann had time to record nine songs for the Paul Thomas Anderson film Magnolia. Her collection of songs on the soundtrack played throughout the dramatic film, often serving as part of the narrative, loosely holding together the plots. At one point, the cast sings along to her song "Wise Up." The collection of songs, which included a cover of Harry Nilsson's "One," were nominated for a Grammy in 2000 and the stunning Magnolia single "Save Me," was up for an Academy Award. The notoriety from the film reignited Mann's career and the sales from the soundtrack eventually enabled her to buy back the master tapes of Bachelor No. 2 from Interscope. In the spring of 2000, Mann was finally able to put out Bachelor No. 2 on her own newly formed label, SuperEgo Records.
After touring for the album as well as an acoustic tour with her husband, singer-songwriter Michael Penn, Mann began to collect songs for her next album, which she was eager to record. Over a year and half of recording and working on songs, Mann released the album Lost in Space in 2002. The somewhat morose album took intimate looks at depression and addiction, though Mann said they weren't personal stories about her life, but others around her. Now that Mann could make records her own terms, she felt freer than ever to write music that had no constraints.
She teamed up with producer Joe Henry for her fifth solo album, the 2005 concept record The Forgotten Arm. The album, which Salon called Mann's "...most straight-ahead rock record to date..." was based upon a collection of descriptive songs that followed the lives of two fictional characters through the beginning and end of a relationship. Mann, who had taken up boxing in 2004, was inspired to create the songs about a junkie boxer and his girlfriend. The title of the record, The Forgotten Arm, was a boxing term she had picked up. Recorded in nine days, faster than she had ever recorded before, The Forgotten Arm was her first real concept album, though it seemed a long time coming as Mann said in an interview with the Boston Phoenix: "...it's more to my taste to take an idea and really explore different aspects of it than to try to write 12 different songs about 12 different things, most of which I don't care about."
As she gets older Mann only seems to get wiser and more talented, and has proven herself to be as successful, if not more on indie terms rather than a major label. "It's not that I view myself as the greatest artist of all time," Mann told Billboard's Larry Flick, "But I do believe that it's important to put all kinds of ideas and music out into the world. It's good to feel like you're making a contribution, even if it's on some level."
by Mary Alice Adams and Shannon McCarthy
Aimee Mann's Career
Joined the Boston based Young Snakes, c. 1980; left and formed 'Til Tuesday, 1982; signed with Epic and released Voices Carry, 1985; Welcome Home, 1986; released Everything's Different Now, 1988; disbanded 'Til Tuesday and pursued a solo career; signed with Imago and released Whatever, 1993; released Coming Up Close, 1996; signed with DGC and released I'm With Stupid, 1996; contributed to Magnolia soundtrack and nominated for an Academy Award, 2000; started record label SuperEgo Records and self-released album Lost in Space, 2002; released concept album The Forgotten Arm, 2005.
Aimee Mann's Awards
Music Television (MTV) Award for Best New Artist in a Video (with 'Til Tuesday), 1985.
- Selected discography
- Solo albums
- Whatever Imago, 1993.
- (Contributor) Melrose Place (soundtrack), Giant, 1994.
- I'm With Stupid DGC, 1995.
- Bachelor No. 2 SuperEgo, 2000.
- (Contributor) Magnolia (soundtrack), Warner Bros., 2000.
- Lost in Space SuperEgo, 2002.
- The Forgotten Arm SuperEgo, 2005.
- With 'Til Tuesday
- Voices Carry Epic, 1985.
- Welcome Home Epic, 1986.
- Everything's Different Now Epic, 1988.
- Coming Up Close Epic, 1996.
February 8, 2006: Mann shared the Grammy Award for best recording package, for The Forgotten Arm, with Gail Marowitz. Source: Grammy.com, http://grammy.com/GRAMMY_Awards/Annual_Show/48_nominees.aspx, February 9, 2006.
- Billboard, March 20, 1993; January 6, 1996; July 6, 1996; July 13, 2002.
- Boston Phoenix, February 16, 1998; June 3, 2005.
- New York, July 15, 1985.
- People, November 11, 1985.
- Rolling Stone, September 26, 1985.
- "Hit Mann," Salon, http://www.salon.com/ent/feature/2005/04/04/aimee_mann/print.html (July 5, 2005).