Copyright 1999 New Haven Advocate
New Haven Advocate
July 29, 1999
LENGTH: 456 words
HEADLINE: Mann Overboard
BYLINE: Amy Kroin
The recording industry's exploitation of Aimee Mann was common knowledge long before New York Times reporter Jonathan Van Meter profiled the singer-songwriter in a recent edition of the Sunday magazine. After all, the title of Mann's brilliant second solo album, I'm With Stupid, is a not-so-oblique reference to the record execs who have bungled her career from the start.
Mann reached her widest audience more than a decade ago as the frizzed-out lead singer of 'Til Tuesday. The hit single "Voices Carry" -- a staple on MTV, and a ballad blasted at homecoming dances and late-night clubs alike -- threatened to pigeonhole Mann as an '80s trivia question, but it wasn't long before she distinguished herself from the Flock of Seagulls pack.
After recording three albums for the band's label, Epic, it took three years for Mann to extricate herself from her contract and go solo. In the meantime, the label forbade her from recording elsewhere. Her first solo album, the irony-heavy Whatever, was released on Imago in 1991. Then, just as Mann was preparing to release her second solo disc, Imago lost its distribution deal and refused to release the album or free her from her contract. Finally, Mann was able to sign with Geffen, which released I'm With Stupid to critical acclaim in 1995. As Jimmy Iovine and other bigwigs at Interscope dilly-dallied with Mann's third solo release -- a work that's been in production for two full years -- the cycle began all over again. The powers-that-be announced their distaste for the record at the 11th hour -- threatening to slam the door shut on a disc many insiders view as Mann's most promising work to date.
These assorted headaches have prompted Mann to take steps to remove herself from this major-label madness and follow in the steps of Righteous Babe Ani DiFranco, who has had her own label from the start. It's not as groundshaking a move as Dylan's decision to go electric, but it will finally give Mann control over a body of work that's on a par with anything served up by Elliott Smith, Beth Orton or the other critical darlings du jour.
Aug. 3-4. Mann will appear on the second stage of the final Lilith Fair tour at the Tweeter Center for the Performing Arts in Mansfield, (508) 339-2331, on Aug. 3 and at the Meadows Music Theatre in Hartford, Conn., (860) 548-7370, on Aug. 4.