Aimee Mann’s romance with her boyfriend has turned abusive in the piercing “Voices Carry.”
A tense guitar and resigned keyboard open the single, setting a shaken tone. A trembling Mann is in their room. She’s hiding in there to escape him for a while. They’ve had a major fight. He’s told her that she isn’t any good and that her pain is only acting. She can’t understand why he would say such hurtful things. She would like to know why he became that way. But she’s afraid she may find out something she doesn’t want to know. She explains to him that she loves him, which is why is she’s crying.
“I’m in the dark, I’d like to read his mind/But I’m frightened of the things I might find/Oh, there must be something he’s thinking of/To tear him away/When I tell him that I’m falling in love/Why does he say.”
Her boyfriend tells her to stop yelling and making a scene. Other people could hear her. He does want to listen to her.
“Hush hush/Keep it down now/Voices carry/Hush hush/Keep it down now/Voices carry.”
Usually, she chokes back her tears and bites her tongue. If she speaks up, he will punish her. Her boyfriend thinks crying is a manipulative thing woman do to get their way. Crying also unleashes other troubling emotions. It could only cause more pain. She’s been holding her anguish inside for such a long time. She feels as though she is ready to blow. She can’t do it anymore.
“I try so hard not to get upset/Because I know all the trouble I’ll get/Oh, he tells me tears are something to hide/And something to fear/And I try so hard to keep it inside/So no one can hear.”
The resigned keyboard and tense guitar have a brief solo.
In the bridge, Mann admits to herself that the relationship is an unhealthy one. He only wants her to be his girlfriend when it’s convenient for him. He also demands total control of her.
“He wants me/But only part of the time/He wants me/If he can keep me in line.”
The chorus is sung twice, with Mann shouting to him to shut up.
In an adlibbed chorus, Mann says their daughter will hear their fighting and wake up. He repeatedly shuts her down. He tells her to quit questioning everything he says. She begs for him to be quiet. Their daughter is old enough now to understand their insults and have an idea of what’s happening. Mann wants to be heard for once.
“Hush hush, darling, she might overhear/Oh, no, voices carry/He said shut up he said shut up/Oh God can’t you keep it down/Voices carry/I wish he would let me talk.”
Mann handles the abusive relationship in “Voices Carry” with subtlety. The put-downs, humilation, and ridicule which happened in the relationship are implied. Like in real life where women are reluctant to talk about it, so is she. She still loves him and sympathizes with him. However, she is fearful of him. She knows something is wrong but is not ready to deal with it yet. The single finds her at her breaking point.
In her solo work, Mann is subdued and conversational. She keeps to her indoor voice. However, she has far more vocal talent than realized. She’s frail and tormented in the single. Each yell feels catharic while each word seems to fall from her quickering lips.