Copyright 1999 Nylon LLC.

Nylon Magazine

LENGTH: 451 words

SECTION: First Run

HEADLINE: Mann On the Moon

BYLINE: Elizabeth Wallace


Mann On the Moon

After years of struggle with mega labels, Aimee Mann really goes solo.


It might be a stretch to say that Paul Thomas Anderson's new film Magnolia - for which his friend Aimee Mann wrote and performed eight songs - is a metaphor for Mann's rollercoaster career. The themes of the much-anticipated follow-up to Boogie Nights are profound: sin, betrayal, forgiveness, salvation. But the songs themselves - sorrowful, beautiful acoustic ballads like "Save Me," "Wise Up," and "One" - clearly speak not only of Anderson's desperately vulnerable characters, but also volumes about Mann's more than decade-long career struggle.

By now, Mann's history reads like a music industry cautionary tale: She found Top 40 success in the '80s with the new wave band 'Til Tuesday's "Voices Carry"; gleaned critical acclaim with two solo albums in the early '90s but became disheartened by big label politics; and finally, by her accounts, became a casualty of the Universal Music Group - Polygram merger. Mann was transferred from Geffen to Interscope, who, she says, requested that she rework her last album. She refused, Interscope released her, and recently, Mann bought back the rights to the album, Bachelor No. 2.

Like fellow Lilith-esque singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco, Mann is now both record company and artist. "The difference," syas Mann, her huge eyes peering out of appropriately intellectual glasses frames, "has been that I realize that whatever work I do, if I do a photo shoot or send a FedEx, or make a phone call, or play a show, or go out ot a business lunch - whatever I do is for my own benefit." And Mann is doing it all herself: recording the music, getting the CD manufactured, and figuring out how to sell it, sans the MTV Total Request Live guest host appearance. "It's a little on the level of having a lemonade stand, " Mann admits, now able to look back in laughter, "but it's a lot more fun to have a lemonade stand than to work for McDonald's."

In the past few months since she broke with her label, Mann has been "extremely buoyant," she says, "for the first time in a decade." And while she's free from those corporate shackles, she still knows how to rant about her imprisonment: "I don't think those people really want me, anyaway. I'm not perceived as a team player, and I'm not. If you want Britney Spears, don't sign me. 'Cuz I'm not getting the breast implants, and I'm not singing those songs, and I don't like that kind of music."

She'll still do photo shoots, though, and only on her own terms - which today means not having her eyebrows shaped by the makeup artist.

"It's my last act of rebellion," she says, laughing. Well. maybe not her last.