Daily Song Study

Aimee Mann – Jacob Marley’s Chain

In songs on June 17, 2011 at 3:32 pm

When starting a blog about songcraft, Aimee Mann makes an excellent inaugural choice:

This is from her 1993 debut solo album, Whatever, when she was making an attempt at abolishing her Til Tuesday one-hit-wonder status and establishing herself as a serious songwriter.

The song is indeed serious, but it’s also very playful, and wordplay is one of her signature talents. Not very many songwriters would rhyme “hell” with “personnel.” In this she has much in common with writers like Lyle Lovett, those who never choose the obvious rhyme, but instead dig around for something more unique.

Note also the song’s brevity. In the classic Paul Simon school of cerebral pop songwriting, she and producer/arranger Jon Brion get the job done in three minutes. Many artists would string an atmospheric piece like this out instrumentally for at least four (something I myself have been guilty of), but here she illustrates the benefits of packing the goods tightly.

  1. […] hope to the hopeless even in the midst of impending apocalypse. Its call to discard old failures (Jacob Marley’s chain, if you will) and find peace in what time remains is a powerful one, and may be the only solace […]

  2. […] track is one of the better ones, bringing in Folds & Aimee Mann on the chorus vocals. The story is engaging, and the atmosphere is suitably somber, yet hopeful. […]

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