All Songs Considered Blog
4:03 pm
Tue August 14, 2012

First Watch: Aimee Mann, 'Charmer'

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 6:38 pm

Aimee Mann's eighth studio record, Charmer, comes out in a month. Charmer is also the title — and subject — of the album's first video, which features a robot double of Mann played by three-time Academy Award-nominated actress Laura Linney of The Truman Show, The Squid and the Whale and The Big C.

The video, directed by Tom Scharpling, deals lightheartedly with the idea of fame and persona with Mann playing herself and Linney playing her robot double.

Mann wrote that even though the video's concept seems out-there, it still resonated with the ideas she was singing about in the song:

"Even before I started making a record I knew I wanted Tom Scharpling to direct a video for it. I'd seen the videos he did for the New Pornographers, Ted Leo, Wild Flag, John Hodgman and The Ettes etc... I thought they were really well put together. He had an ability to extract a lot more from a video than the budget would usually indicate.

We talked about the song "Charmer," how it was about people whose charm can become like a persona that then starts to block the person's real self. I definitely wanted something lighthearted and his concept did the perfect job of skirting the line between funny and still acting a bit as a metaphor for the more serious bits that are in the song. He came up with the idea of having a robot stand-in for me in the video, a perfect replica I could send out to do tours and signings and what-not so the me of the video could stay home and do other things. It's a funny idea because there really IS an element of having to having to craft a separate persona when you perform; you fight against it but it makes sense that it happens. I love this video concept because the idea completely falls apart when the robot double begins to do a better job than the original. Such are the pitfalls of relying on a persona! I think Scharpling did a great job, and honestly, it's a rare experience for me to have complete confidence in a video director. But he has great and funny and interesting ideas, and knows how to make things happen.

The biggest surprise was having Laura Linney agree to play the robot double. I had met her at a show of mine in NY a few years ago and just took a huge chance and got in touch with her. It is very hard to ask someone so talented to be a part of something so ridiculous. The miracle was that she was not only willing to do it, she was available and in NY. It goes without saying that she was terrific, but that she could put up with the sort of no-budget, 100-degree-heat, shooting-in-filthy-warehouses shenanigans we put her through with such good humor practically qualifies her for sainthood."

Director Tom Scharpling:

"I had a great time working on the video for "Charmer" — it was a total thrill to do a video with Aimee after having talked about it with her for so long. When I write the treatments for the videos I listen to the song over and over again, walking around a park or city streets or wherever. And with "Charmer" I kept zeroing in on two things — the lyrics and the icy synth melody that runs through the song. And somehow the concept of Aimee using a robot double to help her get out of touring popped into my head. It made sense to me, at least.

When Aimee told me that Laura Linney was interested in playing the robot double, I couldn't believe it. But I don't think I've worked with anybody as game as she was — totally into it and happy to be a part of it, bringing all kinds of awesome ideas to the table. And we filmed it during a blistering heatwave. The fact that we shoved a three-time Oscar nominated actor into a cardboard box covered in a huge sheet of plastic wrap on the hottest day of the year still baffles me, but Laura was a total champ."

Aimee Mann's Charmer is out on Sept. 18 on Mann's own label, SuperEgo.

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