MUSIC REVIEW | Aimee Mann – I’m With Stupid (1995)

Aimee Mann has been at this rock and roll game a long, long time.  She got a big profile boost at the turn of the century when her soundtrack to Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia lead to an Oscar nomination for her song Save Me.  She might not be a superstar, but Mann seems to have carved out a solid and manageable level of fame and success.

I haven’t listened to enough Aimee Mann, but I have heard enough to know she’s the kind of solid singer, song writer I can trust to always deliver the kinds of songs that I like immediately, and never have to work hard to find something to latch onto.  It might sound like a back handed compliment, but I mean this in the best possible way, Aimee Mann songs are easily digestible.  And all of that rings true with her second solo album, the almost twenty year old I’m With Stupid.

In my limited exposure to the music of Mann, one thing that has always stuck out is her unique vocal delivery.   It’s epitomised here on Long Shot, where Mann offers almost deadpan vocals, but still finds a way to pack in plenty of emotion.  It never sounds like it’s about limited vocal range.  Instead, I always get the feeling that Mann is holding back, never trying to hide anything with over the top or showy singing.  Just letting her words and music do all the work.

While I’m With Stupid is far from dark or depressing before this point, Superball adds an extra level of shiny, happy sunshine.  A sweetly optimistic guitar solo and bouncier melody really crank up the positivity.  Musically positive anyway, the lyrics could be super dark or depressing for all know, but the overall sound of this song is just so smiley.

Then it’s time to slow things right down and quiet things right down, with the piano lead Amateur.  This stripped down approach means the focus is almost exclusively on Mann’s voice, and she meets the challenge.  I love it when she takes on rocking guitar and drums, but it’s nice to hear this other dimension to her voice.

The moody Par for the Course slows things down to a molasses coated crawl, and it just means more room for Mann to really sink her teeth into it.  In the old days of vinyl, Par for the Course would have been the first track on side 2.  Combined with You’re With Stupid Now and Ray, they do a great job of regrouping I’m With Stupid.  They’re a little half time breather, so you can take in and appreciate what’s come before, and make for an all together subdued second half.

Until the soaring closer, It’s Not Safe.  A big, solo laden, vocally ambitious, almost anthem.  It takes all the restraint that’s filled I’m With Stupid and unleashes all that pent up energy for a grand finale.

I’m With Stupid is just further proof of one of the few things I already knew about Aimee Mann, she makes easily digestible songs that grab me straight away and never get in the way.  They might not make me go on a Mann binge, listening to everything I can get my hands on, but it’s comforting knowing that her music is there, always ready and waiting, when I’m in the mood for easily digestible songs that grab me straight away and never get in the way.

Aimee Mann


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