Mann Power

Aimee Mann bought her way out of corporate enslavement; now she can be as sad as she pleases

Fortunately, Mann has figured out a way to beat the system. Although she'll never get much airplay on triple-A radio, she's gotten just enough exposure on TV and film to reach a small but loyal audience. She's the first to admit that she's unusually lucky: "I got a lot of recognition from the Magnolia thing, so my profile was large enough to be able to parlay that into a distribution deal and get records in the stores and have people know who I was enough to sell a few records, even without a big company marketing and promoting the record for me. I'd imagine that I have it easier than most people do."

Under the circumstances, it's no surprise that Mann's a big fan of the television series The West Wing, that liberal-arts fantasyland where smart people prevail and justice is served without soul-killing compromise. When the producers asked her a few months back to film a performance for an episode set at a Rock the Vote function, she jumped at the chance. "It was really a last-minute thing," she says. "They wanted me to be sort of a backup because they wanted Joan Armatrading to do a song but didn't think they could get her in the country in time. I'm a big fan of the Wing, so I was happy when it turned out she couldn't do it. They really wanted this James Taylor song ["Shed a Little Light," from 1991's New Moon Shine], so I went to the studio and recorded it in a day, and then we filmed it a couple of days later."

Even the enlightened Bartlet administration isn't ready for a Mann original, it seems. But at least she's getting heard in the real world.

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