“Stupid Thing” / Aimee Mann
Men, you should be afraid of Aimee Mann. Be very afraid -- she knows all your tricks.
So maybe you don’t dare listen to this track from her 1993 debut album Whatever –but ladies, I’ll recommend it as the perfect song to crank up when your significant other has been messing you around. It’s not a revenge song so much as a putting-things-in-perspective song.
What woman hasn’t watched a relationship fall apart like this? Patiently Aimee rehearses the situation as she recalls it: “Nothing was saving our day / There was nothing to say, / But you said something anyway” (unable to resist that little dig there, with a shrug and a roll of the eyes). “Claiming I stepped out of line,” she continues, “Which forced you to leave me, / As if that idea was mine.” Maybe this is a Mars/Venus situation, but I can’t help but side with Aimee – I’ve seen how men overreact to perceived slights, with an air of offended pride (wounded vanity is more like it), and the woman’s side of the story just doesn’t count. In verse two, Aimee’s even more suspicious of her ex’s motives: “I bet you knew it would come / That’s just like you to sit back / And just play it dumb / One word of warning would help / But that sacrifice was made / Trying to save yourself.” He’s put his own ego first, instead of playing things for the good of the relationship. Just waiting to blame things on somebody else . . . just waiting for an excuse to give up.
The verses are sung wearily, just acoustic guitar and drums with a fragile, lilting melody – but hey, she’s only getting started. The chorus gets more vigorous, with electric guitar and piano joining the mix, and Aimee’s singing sharpens with a skeptical edge. “Oh, you stupid thing / Speaking of course as your dear departed / Oh, you stupid thing / It wasn’t me that you outsmarted / Oh, you stupid thing / Stopping it all before it even started.” That wry description of herself as “your dear departed” clues me in that she’s not even grieving the end of this relationship anymore – how could she? It never even got out of the gate. That blunt term “stupid thing” is a pretty dry-eyed description of a guy who wasn’t worth hanging onto -- it’s his loss, not hers (“It wasn’t me that you outsmarted”). But the slightly draggy tempo, the melodic repetitions, suggests how bone-tired she is of doing all the work and not getting any generosity in return. There’s a pattern here. Familiar?
This is why we need female singer-songwriters. Probably this was an autobiographical song, but I doubt I’m the only woman who can relate. Some days I want to wear my heart on my sleeve, and then I’ll listen to Dusty Springfield and Patsy Cline. But other days, I want to stand up for myself – and for those days, it’s good to have Aimee Mann around.
Stupid Thing sample