Monday, February 13, 2012

Stupid Thing / Aimee Mann


Don't know about you, but about this time of year I've had it up to here with Valentine's Day marketing.  All that pink-and-red, hearts and cupids crap -- who needs it?  No doubt there are a few dutiful couples who really do buy each other lavish gifts for this holiday and have a special night out -- but for the rest of us, Valentine's Day is just another day to feel guilty and unloved and lonely.  So here's my Valentine overload antidote:  Hell Hath No Fury Like A Woman Scorned Week.

You gotta love the chicks that kick back. I've already blogged about some of my favorites -- Jill Sobule's whimsical "Guy Who Doesn't Get It," Amy Rigby's feisty "20 Questions," or Thea Gilmore's savage "Things We Never Said."  Get me in a bad mood and I could play just those three tunes on a continual loop.

So here's another for your Valentine Eve's listening pleasure:

I really should listen more to Aimee Mann -- every song of hers that's drifted into my personal jukebox is fantastic.  I like her spiky intelligence, her don't-mess-with-me spirit, and the snarky  insinuations of her throaty vocals.  This one's from her 1993 album Whatever, her first solo album after leaving the band 'Til Tuesday (remember "Voices Carry"?) which gave her her start. It's a fearless declaration of independence indeed.

We're definitely in post-break-up mode here -- the withering scorn tells you there's no going back for this girl.  "Nothing was saving our day / There was nothing to say / But you said something anyway."  And what does this clown say?  He claims she "stepped out of line" (hunh? since when was there a line?) "Which forced you to leave me / As if that idea were mine." Ah, the weaselly logic of love. 

In verse two, the guy's even more passive-aggressive: "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." Yep, he'd rather let her go on on her merry way than communicate with her. While she's assuming everything's a-okay, he's critiquing her from inside his self-protective shell.  By the time she knows, he's already written her off.  Case closed.

Yeah, sure, they're finito.  But our girl Aimee gets the final word.  "Oh you stupid thing," she scoffs wearily in the chorus. She has so little respect for him left, he's not a person anymore, just a thing.  "It wasn't me that you outsmarted / Oh,you stupid thing / Stopping it all before it started." Because the guy would rather feel justified, secure in his timid unimaginative armor, than take a risk and give love a chance.  Isn't that just like men?

Aimee's no victim here.  She's not wailing her fate or anguishing over the guy she's lost.  Self-doubt? Regret?  Not in her feminist vocabulary. She likes herself just as she is, and she's not about to let a man mess with that. 

She knows she's better off without him; she wouldn't take him back even if he did change (like that would happen). She's got nothing to lose -- might as well fire off this parting salvo.  The wrung-out tempo, the scolding slap of the drums, even the wry exhale of that semi-cheesy organ intro -- the message is clear:  this chick is DONE.


Uncle E said...

Her version of "One" is amazing, and used wonderfully in the movie Magnolia. Great post, Holly!

NickS said...

Fun idea. I should mention that I've been listening to Amy Rigby lately, due to your mentions of her.

Interesting to compare the list of people that you mention in this post, to you set you mention in your Kirsty Maccoll post:

"I've got several of her songs now on a playlist I call simply "Chicks" -- it's full of tracks like this, sung by smart, confident women who aren't afraid to be who they are. (Bonnie Raitt, Aimee Mann, Jill Sobule, Thea Gilmore, Jenny Lewis, Susan Cowsill, Cyndi Lauper, Annie Lennox, Dusty Springfield -- those kinds of chicks.) "

Two other songs that come to mind:

"Untouchable Face", a perfect anti-valentine's day song and the best pop song I've heard by Ani Difrano*

The Pretenders cover of Thin Line Between Love And Hate which is, really, the darker, more threatening predecessor to "20 Questions." (But I am fond of "Learning to Crawl" as an album).

* (just brilliantly funny lyric. Look at the opening lines "think i'm going for a walk now / i feel a little unsteady / i don't want nobody to follow me / 'cept maybe you" -- there are a lot of songwriters who would give their eyeteeth to write something that good)

NickS said...

Okay, one more. I concede that both of the songs above have a touch of victim-hood (though very slight). So how about, "Better Be Good To Me" (somewhat cheesy production but scorching vocals).

Yes, in that song the relationship isn't completely over at that point but she's definitely ready to move on:

"We stand face-to-face / you present your case. / Yes I know you keep telling me that you love me / and I really do want to believe. / But did you think I'd just accept you in blind faith."

Holly A Hughes said...

No question who's wearing the pants in THAT relationship! I love Tina, and that was a killer album. Thanks for reminding me of it!

wwolfe said...

For me, the all-time, hands-down winner in this category is Timi Yuro's "What's-a Matter, Baby?" Remarkably strong vocal, an open double drum roll that sounds like a firing squad, and the best laugh in the history of revorded music from Timi in the last verse. A totally thrilling experience, that simultaneously makes me glad I'm not the target of her wraith.