Aimee Mann has seen highs and lows in her long career — famously, she had a promising career with the ’80s band Til Tuesday only to later lose her recording contract as a solo artist. But in the past two years the tide has turned again, and now Mann’s latest, ”Bachelor No. 2 Or, the Last Remains of the Dodo,” has been chosen as EW’s No. 3 record of the year. But we talked to her in February, when one of her songs from the Paul Thomas Anderson opus ”Magnolia” was up for an Oscar. She didn’t win, but judging by what she told us then, that may not be an entirely bad thing. We present our February article in its entirety…
Aimee Mann has long been a symbol of the deserving artist who never gets the respect or success she’s due from a recording industry that values all the wrong things. But as she laughingly admits, things have been going so well for her these last few months, she may not be able to play that card anymore. ”At the point when you get nominated for an Academy Award, you have to resign the underdog status,” Mann tells EW Online. ”Gotta hand over the underdog baton.”
Not that she presumes ”Save Me,” the song she wrote and sang for the finale of ”Magnolia,” has a shot at the Best Song prize it’s up for. True, there’s no ”Titanic” to sweep the prizes this year, but she IS up against mainstream faves like Phil Collins and Diane Warren, whose work is more accessible to the Academy’s older voting bloc. And she’s mindful that the last time one of rock’s cult faves got a nomination (her pal Elliott Smith, who was up two years ago for a ”Good Will Hunting” tune), he lost out. Says Mann, ”It seems to me that I have a shred — like, a sliver — more chance of winning than the South Park song [”Blame Canada”], but that’s the best I can do.”
The Academy recently tightened its Best Song rules to make sure that nominees play a noticeably audible part in the films they’re in. ”Save Me” goes beyond that minimum requirement: It deliberately obscures the dialogue in ”Magnolia”’s final scene; when John C. Reilly expresses his love for Melora Walters, the tune’s tenderness breaks into an electric guitar lick just as Walters breaks into an uncharacteristic grin. The song gets special placement not just in the movie, but in filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson’s heart.
Says Anderson, ”There’s other songs where you love them 90 percent of the time, and then every once in a while you’re like, ‘Oh, let’s just skip this one, I’ve heard this one a lot lately.’ But there’s something about ‘Save Me’ that gets me every time, makes me cry every time, just f—ing hits me in the stomach.”
Mann, who’s currently on tour with her husband, Michael Penn, is promoting the ”Magnolia” soundtrack, which includes nine of her songs. And she’s sort of promoting her third solo album, ”Bachelor No. 2,” which is being sold only at shows while she decides whether to release it independently, as planned, or allow one of the major labels that are now after her to license it. If it does come out, and makes good on the momentum set up by the ”Magnolia” soundtrack, might we see her at other awards shows next year?
She doubts it, and here she may not be speaking as the underdog so much as the overachiever: ”As a musician [being Oscar nominated] is not something that figures in your daydreams, even in the early stages, because that’s sort of an actor-y thing. It’s totally out of left field. But it’s MUCH better than being nominated for a Grammy. As my friend Buddy Judge said, if he ever won a Grammy, his speech would have to be, ‘Now I know I suck.”’