If a movie was ever made of Aimee Mann's life, the 1990s would be the sequel. As a singer who made it big in the '80s with the Boston band 'Til Tuesday, Aimee Mann is practically an unknown in the '90s. But that's not to say she isn't content with keeping a low profile. Touring small clubs to promote her new album, a smiling and relaxed Mann greeted the sold-out crowd at the Paradise in Boston recently.
Dressed in white vinyl pants and a long-sleeved waffle-knit shirt, she looked comfortable on stage as she launched into some of her new songs, including "All Over Now" and the bouncy "Superball." She has reason to feel at ease on stage: Her career began here in the late '70s, and after ironing out major problems with her record label in the '80s, her career is back on track. "It's great to be back in Boston," she said to the audience. "I've missed it."
The hair is still platinum-blond, but gone is the moussed-up mop she had in the '80s. With short hair parted down the middle, Mann's laid-back look reflects her down-to-earth style of music. She no longer sings pop-driven songs. She sings with a lower voice to music that is more cutting edge; the music relies more on guitars rather than synthesizers; and her songs contain lyrics that are more mature, brutally honest, and brilliantly crafted. And her new image suits her fans just fine.
Mann roused the crowd when she performed her popular single "That's Just What You Are." Played on the TV show "Melrose Place," the song was her first big hit as a solo artist.
Mann sings about relationships, but they aren't always boyfriend-related. They can range from her relationship with her former record company, a friend's relationship with her father, or another friend's relationship with his girlfriend. Take the title of her new CD "I'm With Stupid." It reflects her long, drawn-out struggle with Epic Records. After 'Til Tuesday's second album, her ideas began to clash with Epic and her band. Mann wanted to write more songs based on acoustic guitar rather than drum machines and synthesizers - sounds that the band started out with.
In 1989, 'Til Tuesday was history, and Mann began touring on her own. But Mann said that she still toured under the name 'Til Tuesday because "we got four times as much money."
After getting out of her record deal with Epic, the record label Imago stepped in and released Mann's 1993 solo debut "Whatever," a CD that was the Critics Choice of 1993. She describes "Whatever" as having many different sounds, ranging from Simon and Garfunkel to Randy Newman.
But since Imago folded, another record company took over. "I'm With Stupid" was released on Geffen - almost a year later than scheduled. The album has a crankier edge than previous ones because Mann is venting her frustration with her former record company.
Her career took off with a video for "Voices Carry." But so far, she has no plans to make a video for "I'm With Stupid."
Given her troubles with the band in the '80s, it wasn't surprising that she only performed one song from her days with 'Til Tuesday - "Voices Carry" - and turned it into more of an acoustic version.
In any case, Mann wasn't the only one who had to endure a long wait. Charlie Festel, a fan in the crowd, said, "I've been waiting to see her ever since I heard her first single 'I Should've Known' in college. It was definitely worth the wait to see her."
* Aimee Mann will be performing Feb. 6 at the Bayou in Washington; Feb. 7 at Ziggy's in Winston-Salem, N.C.; Feb. 8 at Variety Playhouse in Atlanta; Feb. 11 at the 7th House in Pontiac, Mich.; and Feb. 12 at the Park West in Chicago.