Songcatcher Superball

Superball by Aimee Mann

If you know the work of Aimee Mann, you’ll know there is a wealth of material to choose from. For God’s sake, Paul Thomas Anderson built a whole movie around her songs. The cataloging of personal anguish, struggle, and general navigation of a difficult life is her forte. She does it and she does it well. 

So out of all of her canon that so poetically puts a name to your pain, it’s odd that I would pick a song that, on the surface, seems so frivolous. And “Superball” does, at first glance, seem that way. It’s a pop rock confection, a playful little respite from her more dire tunes of doomed men and the damaged women that accompany them. But to write it off as just that is a sonic mistake.

The song is about a terror in the toybox, the one plaything that delights but is also dangerous. The one that seems like a good idea at the time until you see its energy is quickly out of your control and it ends up poking you in the eye. It’s a bouncy song, but one that also bruises.

The song begins with a threat:

I’m a superball
You can bounce me once
And I’ll ricochet

Right up front, you know this is a person defiant, someone not to be messed with. The playtime metaphor continues throughout the whole song, pinging and ponging “around the room” like a shark circling. A second warning is issued right away in the next verse, a call to be careful for the friction she causes is dangerous mayhem. Toys are scattered, fallen, moved. Handclaps add to the crazy merry-go-round feel of the song and at its end, you’re advised, in a rather offhanded manner, that you should stick to the kiddie toys if you can’t handle this.

The music then pauses and a rowdy little guitar solo ensues with Mann’s looped voice warning seductively in the background as the guitar makes madness. But it’s a danceable madness.

“Superball” is a song best played when you have to gut up, gather your forces, roll up your sleeves. It’s also a nice little pep rally song to listen to so you can be motivated to deal with a particular foe. It’s ruckus is playful, but dangerous. Take on the persona of the ball, warn that motherfucker that he “better get out of (your) way.” And if not?

Well, they’ll get what’s coming to them. They should’ve stayed in the sandbox where they belonged. Let the bigger kids have the room, ya crybaby.

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