David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
4 Indications That Aimee Mann's Songs Are Really About Academia

February 9, 20134 Indications That Aimee Mann's Songs Are Really About Academia

As readers of this blog know, since the new year I have usually turned to song parody to express thoughts about higher education.  Recently as I watched an Aimee Mann concert video, I found myself dying to work with the chorus of "Save Me" as a way to express my exhaustion with all the academics who show their ugliness through comments trailing any number of Chronicle or Higher Ed articles:

Save me from the ranks of the freaks

who suspect they could never love anyone.


Then it hit me.  I don't need to parody an Aimee Mann song.  I am convinced her songs are already about academia.

Simply put, Mann is one of the greatest songwriters of the last thirty years.  It is also well known among her followers that her songs about dysfunctional relationships contain messages about the dysfunctional relationship she has had with the record industry.  However, after listening to her recently, I believe Mann has been secretly working in higher education for the last several decades.

Thus I give you 4 indications that Aimee Mann's songs are really about academia.

Allow me to present my evidence:

1)  Let's start with the obvious and the non-controversial stuff.  She's clearly a literate writer, turning phrases most academics dream of dropping into meetings or class lectures:

I won't find it fantastic or absurd

when the gun in the first act goes off in the third

'cause it's rare that you ever know what to expect

from a guy made of corpses with bolts in his neck



But it's not like life is such a vale of tears

it's just full of thoughts that act as souvenirs

for those tiny blunders made in yesteryears

that comprise Jacob Marley's chain

(Jacob Marley's Chain)


We got through the 30's but our belts were tight

we conceived of a future with no hope in sight

we got decades ahead of us to get it right

I swear, fifty years after the fair

(Fifty Years After The Fair)

2)  She writes about huge egos that can only exist in academia.  I'm sorry, but the biggest rock star or the most powerful music mogul can't compare with the egos found in higher education, ranging from the lowest assistant professor to the highest president.  And those egos, dripping with charm, often hide great insecurity:

When you're a charmer, the world applauds

They don't know that secretly charmers feel like they're frauds



But when you make such claims

in searching for something that explains

please take a good look at our remains

'cause if you were everything you say

things would be different today

(Say Anything)


As we were speaking of the devil you walked right in

wearing hubris like a medal you revel in

(It Takes All Kinds)


3)  Her protagonists (or antagonists,  I suppose, depending upon song perspective) resist change, especially when tied to any potentially legitimate criticism:

Acting steady always ready to defend your fears

what's the matter with the truth, did I offend your ears

By suggesting a change might be a nice thing to try

(That's Just What You Are)


Even when it's approaching torture I've got my routine



It's pretty clear you'll have to choose

Between what you lack and what you excuse

(You're With Stupid Now)


4) And, let's not neglect the tendency to spiteful non-forgiveness of opposing points of view:


There's some flaw that you can't help but foster

There's some weakness you can't forgive

and from that, you've been turned into a monster

(Gamma Ray)


You can go whichever way you choose

though you ought to kill the whole vindictive bit

(Soon Enough)


Was every enemy as bad as you made him be

or were they just some gullible stooge like me



No one bears a grudge like a boy genius just past his prime

gilding his cage one bar at a time

(Living a Lie)

So, Aimee, I implore you to come out, to 'fess up, to come clean about your secret life in higher ed.  There's a 12-step program to help you recover.  But, the first step is to admit you have a problem.  We'll be waiting for you at the meeting.