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Albums Of The Week: Aimee Mann | Queens Of The Summer Hotel

Written for a stage version of Girl, Interrupted, the singer-songwriter's 10th album is an accidental sequal to 2017's Mental Health, but with more ’60s orch-pop elements.


THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Aimee Mann started developing the music that would become Queens Of The Summer Hotel in 2018, when she agreed to write songs for a stage adaptation of Girl, Interrupted, Susannah Kaysen’s memoir about her psychiatric hospitalization in the late 1960s. It was material that Mann understood well, having had her own struggles with mental illness. The album consists of a song cycle constructed from music that Mann wrote for the show, sung by Mann and orchestrated with her longtime collaborator Paul Bryan, using strings and woodwinds in a nod to the project’s theatrical origins.

In many ways, Queens Of The Summer Hotel is the unintentional Part 2 to Mann’s 2017’s Grammy-winning album Mental Illness, with both albums exploring themes of self-harm, depression and suicide. However, Queens Of The Summer Hotel was written more quickly than any of Mann’s previous records. The assignment to write songs for someone else’s project offered Mann a sense of liberation, freeing her to enter another person’s consciousness and story — and a brand-new set of musical structures — through the lens of Kaysen’s own alienation. Although several different characters narrate the songs, they’re not strictly tied to any narrative. But together, they form a portrait of one woman’s crisis of disassociation as seen through another woman’s eyes.

“I honestly felt almost possessed when I was writing this record as I’ve never written so fast and intensely,” recalls Mann. “I found the material very interesting and obviously really personal. I had specific ideas about what I thought the character’s backstory could be and incorporated a lot of shared experiences to flesh out specific characters discussed in the memoir.” In the song I See You, the narrator reassures a girl who struggles to keep despair at bay, letting her know that she’s not alone. The song concludes with Mann singing, “There is a girl over a cliff, trying to break her fall — I see you!”

After several albums with ’Til Tuesday, Mann began her solo career in 1993 with the album Whatever. Along the way, Mann forged a powerful new sound driven by her distinctive singing style — stripped-down, folky, acoustic but also forceful and cerebral, exploring psychological themes with dark wit and an eye for the world’s ugliest power plays.

In addition to her solo albums, she has appeared on many film soundtracks, most notably the score for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, with Save Me landing her Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Original Song. Mann has also made numerous cameo appearances in films such as The Big Lebowski and TV shows like Portlandia and The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, in which she sang an indelible cover of The Cars’ song Drive. Other extracurricular activities include performing for President Obama and the First Lady at the White House and starting a podcast with Ted Leo called The Art of Process.”