There was a powerful moment in the latest episode of The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story when David Madson (Cody Fern) contemplates his options and killer Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss) gets emotional at a roadside bar. Part of what makes the scene so good is the soulful bar singer providing a haunting, familiar soundtrack. And it turns out that voice sounded familiar for a reason — it was none other than ’80s star and recent Grammy-winner Aimee Mann making a low-key American Crime Story cameo.
Producers Brad Simpson and Alexis Martin Woodall told Vanity Fair that the choice to include the ‘Til Tuesday singer in the episode came about as a way to both honor the era in which these real-life events unfolded and to celebrate the quirky artistic style of Twin Peaks creator David Lynch. It was showrunner Ryan Murphy who first suggested Mann, a singer who made a name for herself with hits like Voices Carry and What About Love. Mann, who just won a Grammy for Best Folk Album, was game.
In the American Crime Story episode, Aimee Mann sings the 1984 Cars hit “Drive.”
The producers said it got across the feeling of this point in the story — without being overly obvious about it.
The American Crime Story producers went on to talk about the emotional importance of the scene and the acting in it, saying it’s a turning point in the story. The surreal elements throughout the rest of the episode and the rest of the musical choices were also influenced by the producers’ love of Lynch and his ability to take pop music and inject it with deeper meaning in his movies and TV shows.
Mann’s performance was meant as both a nod to viewers who remember her ’80s music and as an unexpected musical backdrop for the show’s drama, the producers said: “We love Aimee Mann, but I think obviously there’s gonna be a whole group of people [unfamiliar with her] for whom it’s just, ‘Oh my God, that’s somebody with a beautiful voice.'”
Whether viewers are familiar with Mann or not, the cameo certainly worked.