In 2018, Aimee Mann revealed she was working on songs for a planned “Girl, Interrupted” stage musical, to be based on Susannah Kaysen’s memoir, which was adapted into a 1999 film. The musical isn’t destined to land any time soon, but the music pegged for it will, in the form of “Queens of the Summer Hotel,” an album Mann has coming out Nov. 5, her first in four years.
Previewing the album is a track released today, “Suicide Is Murder,” which lays out the musical framework that will characterize the coming non-cast album, as Mann’s piano is matched with longtime producer Paul Bryan’s string-and-woodwind arrangements.
Mann’s last album was 2017’s Grammy-winning “Mental Illness,” which sported a title that perhaps had its tongue partly in cheek, even as it addressed serious psychological issues. But there’s no doubt about how much material rooted in “Girl, Interrupted” is really going to go there, as the source memoir dealt with the memoirist’s time in a psychiatric hospital. And “Suicide Is Murder” doesn’t flinch from addressing the issues of self-harm head-on.
“I started to write this song because I’ve known people who committed suicide and friends who’ve had loved ones die from suicide,” Mann said in an announcement statement. “I think the phrase ‘suicide is murder’ took on a meaning for me as it’s the worst thing to have to deal with in the aftermath. It’s just terrible. Because every person who knows the person who committed suicide will blame themselves in some way for not noticing or stepping in or doing something. They’ll till the end of their days, say, ‘was there something I could have done?’”
The song arrives with an accompanying video starring actor James Urbaniak, directed and produced by Puloma Basu and Rob Hatch-Miller.
The song’s chorus cleverly but poignantly looks at the literalness of the title metaphor: “Suicide is murder / You’ve got to have motive, means and opportunity / Suicide is murder / Pre-meditated, rehearsed tragedy.” The bridge looks at the aftermath of the act: “But beware ’cause anyone who knew you / Will be cursed and part of them will also die / There’s no end to the asking of the question / Why?”
Development of the musical itself is said to have been delayed indefinitely because of the pandemic. As for the album of songs that Mann didn’t think had to remain in limbo: “I honestly felt almost possessed when I was writing this record as I’ve never written so fast and intensely,” Mann said. “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.”
Mann will likely be performing some of the new material as she does a brief series of dates in California with Rufus Wainwright in September, including a stop at L.A.’s Greek Theatre Sept. 10.
The track list for “Queens of the Summer Hotel,” coming on Mann’s independent SuperEgo label:
- You Fall
- Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath
- Give Me Fifteen
- At The Frick Museum
- Home By Now
- Little Chameleon
- You Don’t Have The Room
- Suicide Is Murder
- You Could Have Been A Roosevelt
- Burn It Out
- In Mexico
- Check (reprise)
- You’re Lost
- I See You