Aimee Mann offers a 'Charmer' at Birchmere

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Photo - Aimee Mann (Getty Images)
Aimee Mann (Getty Images)
Entertainment,Music,Nancy Dunham

Fans of the cult television show "Portlandia" need not wonder if Aimee Mann takes herself as seriously as some other singer-songwriters.

Mann, who went from 1980s New Wave icon to indie singer-songwriter, played herself with a twist -- part-time cleaning woman, part-time singer/songwriter.

"Fred is a friend," said Mann of "Saturday Night Live" cast member Fred Armisen, who is co-creator, co-writer and co-star of "Portlandia" and invited her to guest on the show. "I was really flattered by the invitation."

The Virginia-raised Mann, who attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, is no stranger to high-profile opportunities. When her band 'Til Tuesday released its 1985 debut "Voices Carry," it became a hit on MTV. Mann found herself with an array of options. Those choices shifted but continued as the band evolved and Mann began her solo career, releasing the critically acclaimed 1993 debut "Whatever."

Onstage
Aimee Mann
When: 6 p.m. doors, 7:30 p.m. shows, Wednesday and Thursday
Where: Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria
Info: $49.50; ticketmaster.com; 202-397-SEAT

"I just didn't care about it," she said of chances to snag high-profile fame. "Obviously there were opportunities to make different kinds of records, to make a lot of money. I feel the point of money is so you don't have to [take projects with which] you don't feel comfortable. Playing the rock star or pop star is not my thing. I would find that [type of fame] so disruptive, intrusive. So I'd rather just say no now."

In a way Mann's latest album "Charmer" is something of a look back at those who hoped to lure her into that realm.

"I'm fascinated by charming people and the whole idea of charm. It's hard to remember sometimes that there is usually an agenda behind the act of being charming, and that is what I'm most interested in," Mann said in a press statement. "Is someone's charm being utilized just to try and entertain people, make them feel special and interesting, or is there a more sinister purpose behind it? Sometimes I think 'charm' can just be another word for 'manipulation.' "

Behind those fascinating themes is music Mann created as a tribute to classic pop played by Glen Campbell, Elton John, ABBA, the Cars and Blondie in the '60s, '70s and '80s.

"I wanted to write it in a new way and style that I felt suited the candy-like nature of the topic," said Mann of developing her new songs. "[To write] some of them, you just sit around and play something and hum a little melody and try some kind of words, some kind of structure. It's the Paul McCartney scrambled egg approach."

And the result -- an album full of reflective songs floating on pop friendly melodies -- is purely charming, without any sinister intent.

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Nancy Dunham

Examiner Correspondent
The Washington Examiner