There was a time before the internet, the rise of technology as we see today in society, where life was simpler. We didn’t worry as much, we enjoyed things more (mainly because of the lack of accessibility that people have had to things, meant that once you had the thing that you wanted, you were more appreciative of it). We actually got excited about things. We appreciated the finer things in life, and without the advent of the social media juggernaut, facebook; we were more present in conversations, we hung out with our friends more often, and just made an effort to communicate with people better than currently nowadays where sending a tweet, a text or even a facebook post is much more of a commonplace than ringing someone on the phone or hanging out with them face to face. And maybe it goes with a lot of other things that are more accessible now, compared to back then, where things weren’t as readily available at our fingertips as much. Music in the 1990s and the 2000s carried with it, a sense of a different time compared to music of today, and ever since my blogging series that I started to embark upon, from February 2019 onward, I’ve noticed a few things. That the changing musical landscape over the last 20-30 years or so, reflects a time that was very much different than the one that we are in today. Not necessarily better or worse, just different. Exploring artists like Lady A, Keith Urban, Alicia Keys, Lifehouse, Switchfoot, Shania Twain, Train, DC Talk, Michael W. Smith, Chris Tomlin, Hillsong, Goo Goo Dolls, Ed Sheeran, Adele, Delta Goodrem, Owl City, U2 and Ronan Keating (to name a few), has me being appreciative of all genres encompassed in my blogging list thus far, and being reminded that each musical genre, across each decade in time, has its place in music history, impacting various people across the decades. I may like a band or an artist that is totally different than you, and that is ok. And as I’m about to start upon week 70 of this 2+ year musical experiment, I am reminded that God indeed can use whatever music that people are listening to (I guess, bar anything that is blatantly derogatory and downright nonsensical and wild), to bring people towards a sense of a revelation and realisation about love, life, God, and the rest of it. Music is most definitely the universal language; and has been the basis of coming together for people of varying colours and creeds for quite some time…but having said that; it still seems to be prevalent that people in the music ‘game’ and industry for quite some time (who had their starts in the 1980s and 1990s), seem to have more of a ‘realer’ career than artists in the current state of today.
Music of the 1990s and the 2000s have a sense of enjoyability about them that seems to be lacking (at least on the surface) in music currently. There seems to be a lot more purposefulness, intentionality, and the very sense of meaning, within these songs of the 1990s/2000s that sees me being drawn to these melodies over the last couple of years, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all. For an artist like Alanis Morissette (who had her major-label debut in 1995), who was born in the 1970s, started music in the 1990s, and will forever be remembered for her iconic decade-changing album Jagged Little Pill; her discography is a reminder of her music being instrumental to a lot of people growing up during that period of time (I also grew up in the 1990s, but was listening to all things CCM, up until my late teens/early 20s). While Alanis may not be as popular or even as ‘hip’ or ‘in’ as artists right now (like Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, Bebe Rexha, Anne-Marie or even Taylor Swift); she was back then, and hearing her music for a while now (the last blog on Hoobastank was unveiled in early November 2020, I’ve been steadily listening to Alanis and her music, for quite some time since then), I’ve been impressed with her level of maturity and realness in her music back then- she was only 20 or so when her 1995 album was unveiled, and in it, there’s songs about break-ups, angst, the irony of ____, and just plain themes and experiences that I’m sure every 20 year old right now doesn’t really write about. That’s not to say that music back then was good, and music now isn’t. That observation that I’ve found; that 1990s and 2000s music has a different quality about them, to that of today, is neither here, nor there. But what I will say is this- Alanis’s legacy, at least of Jagged Little Pill (and then to her music beyond that album!), is something to be in awe of, and together with another female Canadian artists, from Sarah McLachlan, Shania Twain and Avril Lavigne, to Celine Dion, Alessia Cara, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Joni Mitchell; remind us all that it is ok to love and enjoy music artists, that aren’t from the U S of A. In fact, dare I say that musicians not from one of the 50 states, seem to have more of a grounding, and music that seems to hit home a lot more, than artists within the confines of the red, white, and blue? Maybe I’m being presumptuous, and you can totally disagree with me, and that’s fine. But that’s what I’ve seen.
Nevertheless, Alanis’s music has stood the test of time, and since releasing her brand-new 2020 album last year, her discography I’m sure has been revisited by many, and as I listened in preparation for this blog post, I discovered this one unique thing- that Alanis was the Avril Lavigne before Avril Lavigne. She pushed on something that wasn’t at all explored that much during the 1990s, and it was her going ‘out-of-the-box’ that created something so unique, polarising, but equally as impactful and profound, as we see the lasting influence of Jagged Little Pill, 25 years later. As I’ve heard this album the most (as well as her latest album), I’ve glimpsed a sense of longing and yearning for something greater than the self, in these sets of songs. A sense of wanting a song to be more than just a pop diddy, more about an expression of art, and a figuring-out-life-through-song. Maybe that’s the difference between songs and artists of yesterday and songs and artists of today. It seems like the industry right now is placing more emphasis on a song that sounds good and has a catchy beat, over a song that means something, that may not be the first to be played in a radio setting, but nevertheless would be a song that challenges us all to live better lives and ask the questions we want asked, and so desperately need to ponder. Alanis has been instrumental in the lives of many over the years, and even if her long-lasting album is just her 1995 one and that’s it, that album alone, and the enthusiasm and passion shown in it, is enough to warrant me even considering her to be in this blog series. As I’m getting to the pointy end of this blog post series (after this one, only thirty to go before the top 50 iconic artists that both myself and my brother will partake in writing in), I’m looking at such artists I’m going to embark upon listening to, and writing about as this year progresses- from Robbie Williams, The Chicks, Beyonce, Taylor Swift, and Coldplay, to Spice Girls, Crowded House, Lincoln Park, The Police and The Cranberries, to name a few. And while Alanis in and of herself, doesn’t really match up to any of the forthcoming artists I’m to discuss this year, she does however have her own niche of listeners she influences, and a genre market she serves well, and has been doing so over the years.
While her most popular and publicised album is indeed Jagged Little Pill, her influence goes far beyond that album, and while I must still admit that I’m not as well-versed in Alanis’s material as I know I can be, I’ve listened enough to understand that, even though Alanis and her genre of alternative-rock isn’t as well-received now in this pop landscape as it was back in the 1990s; her music nevertheless still challenges and impacts, and if anything that anyone can glean, either from reading this blog post, or even listening to her music; it’s this- that every genre has it’s place, even the ones that you don’t necessarily like. I went into this blog series as a narrow-minded person, always assuming that CCM = good, mainstream = bad. Now standing here, writing about my 70th artist in a 100-artist list, is something remarkable and awe-inspiring, a reminder that such a musical journey can take us into the depths of appreciation of music that one may not have listened to, had it not been for such experience. Songs like ‘Ironic’, ‘You Learn’, ‘Head Over Feet’, ‘Thank U’, ‘Hands Clean’, ‘Crazy’ and ‘You Oughta Know’, have all been instrumental in music itself, throughout the 1990s/2000s, and looking back on these songs now, I’m able to realise the timelessness of these melodies- that in 2020, these songs can still have emotion, power, heart, and relatability, for such a time as this. Alanis has crafted a career of hits and singles, but more than that, a 25 year stint of placing her feelings on paper, and singing the resulting songs, as melodies of introspection and reflection, and we as listeners and lovers of songs with meaning, and viewing these finished products of her 7 album career, as a result.
And what we as people have found, is that such an artist as Alanis, can still be as influential now to someone as they can be back during the height of their career. Music is universal and carries across decades, and Alanis’s music is a reminder to always search for truth and sing about things that matter, rather than settling on a song that will do high in the charts; but won’t necessarily pierce the soul. The artists of the 1990s and the 2000s understood this, and I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy a fair amount of artists over this last 2-year period; who have had their ‘heyday’ back, 20+ years or so, ago- from artists like U2, Sheryl Crow, Bryan Adams, Backstreet Boys, John Farnham, Tina Arena, Jewel and Hanson, to DC Talk, Phil Collins, Train, Shania Twain, Lifehouse, Swichfoot, Rascal Flatts and Skillet. Alanis’s inclusion into such a list of artists who have shaped music and the landscape of it throughout the 1990s and the 2000s, is certainly a no brainer, and as I’ve continued to hear this underrated alternative-rock icon, I’m able to become more open minded to see what the Lord continues to bring my way, artist-wise, in the upcoming blogs as the weeks and months progress!
Born in Ottawa, Canada in the 1970s and then moving to Los Angeles in 1994 to work and produce her first major-record label album Jagged Little Pill (that can be easily surmised to be one of 1990’s most critically acclaimed and well-received and respected!); Alanis Morissette’s magnum opus will forever be Jagged Little Pill; and will also be an album that’s destined to stand out in and amongst the 1990s, in years to come. Anchored with songs like ‘Ironic’, ‘All I Really Want’, ‘You Oughta Know’, ‘Hand in my Pocket’, ‘You Learn’ and ‘Head Over Feet’ (to name a few); this is a masterpiece of an album, one that delves deep into the human psyche of emotions and a welcomed departure from the dance-pop of her first two independent releases when Alanis was a teenager. Alanis’s album is one of emotion, heartbreak, poignancy, and challenging lyrical moments, all the while bundled up into this angsty atmosphere that can be very much relatable to people who were probably growing up during the 1990s; and could’ve related to what Alanis was discussed throughout her 1995 album. Needless to say; Jagged Little Pill is one for the history books- and an album that I myself keep coming back to, to listen, knowing that there is very much wisdom in these melodies, especially now in 2020 where people are longing and searching for answers to the very things they’re facing. While Alanis’s album doesn’t have all the answers, it does show us that we aren’t alone in what we’re feeling. Alanis has borne her soul in this album, and it shows (in a very good way). Even if this is your only album that you hear from her, I can guarantee that it’s well worth it- especially for songs like ‘Ironic’, ‘You Learn’ and ‘All I Really Want’.
‘Ironic’ is perhaps the first song I heard from Alanis. Not sure where I heard it from, when or even what I was doing, but nevertheless, ‘Ironic’ would be the track that I’ll forever be reminded of being the song introducing me to the Avril Lavigne before Avril Lavigne. ‘Ironic’ the song delves into the depths of the definition of what ironic really means. Many people mistake being ironic for experiencing something that is coincidental, but in reality, irony is a way of expressing the fact that something has occurred that is unexpected, often shown in reality in situations where the expected outcome of a circumstance can be miles apart from what really is. Irony within the word, houses sarcasm, and much ironic statements involve this witty word, people don’t necessarily understand that much. Nevertheless, a song was created by Alanis on one of the most abused words in the English language, but also one of the most misunderstood words in the English language too. ‘Ironic’ depicts moments in someone’s life where they envisage something to happen, but in reality, it’s totally different. To classify something as ironic, is to delve deep into someone’s expectations of life in general, and to understand that often life doesn’t go to the plan that you want it to. ‘Ironic’ is Alanis’s way of making sense of things that don’t make sense; and calling things ironic because of such disparity between what is conjured up in the mind, and reality itself. A song that has become a cult-classic of the 1990s, and one of Alanis’s underrated songs ever, ‘Ironic’ for me, solidifies everything that is right with the 1990s, a cool melodic tune underpinning heartfelt themes of reconciling what should be, with what actually is.
While ‘Ironic’ for me is perhaps the song that will always be sentimental in introducing me to Alanis and her music, there’s plenty of other songs on Jagged Little Pill that stand out thematically and musically, as Alanis catalogues songs that make up one of 1990s best, irrespective of genre. ‘All I Really Want’, the first song on Jagged Little Pill, showcases a lot of frustration on Alanis’s part, as she depicts a persona who longs to have deep and meaningful discussions with people, about life, humanity, love, and the outlook of the world. All that his happening in the song, are very vapid, superfluous discussions with people who tend not to delve deeper and only talk about things that seem to skim the surface on the happenings of the world…and what has resulted is the birth of this song, a reminder for us all to hopefully go past the ‘hellos’ and ‘how’s the weather’, to the heart of what it means to wrestle with some of life’s big questions, that people don’t necessarily like to talk about, for whatever reason. ‘Head Over Feet’ is a song about a healthy relationship that the persona is in the midst of, as Alanis depicts this scenario where this person is falling ‘head over feet’ for someone, being swept up in the notion that this person can be kind, when all indications of what relationships have been the past for this persona, is all in the contrary. As Alanis herself depicts, this song is actually based upon personal experience- ‘…it’s very conversational and doesn’t adhere to any structure. I had been attempting to write without consideration for rhyming for quite a long time, and a lot of people would just stop writing with me – they would physically leave the room. So for me, “Head Over Feet” was a way for me to say, “This is actually what was happening. This was a real relationship. This person was very kind to me and it was really odd because I’d only been attracted to people who were mean to me.” It was odd to be working with and befriending people who were so preciously kind. That song is about the conflict of wanting to embrace these kind moments, but also there being a disparity between what I felt I deserved and versus how kindly I was being treated…’ ‘Hand in my Pocket’ is a song about dichotomies and dualisms; and reminding ourselves that in any moment in our lives, it is ok to feel different things and emotions, to be one thing, but also feel that you’re another, as well. You can be broke financially, but also happy in a spiritual sense beyond belief, you can be poor, but also have the heart of gold and be kind to people you don’t necessarily know. You can feel like you’re lost in a physical sense (and maybe even spiritual), but still understand that there is hope for whatever situation you may find yourself in. ‘Hand in my Pocket’ reminds us all that you can still be calm and collected, but all the while overwhelmed with life as well, that you can feel like you’ve arrived at certain points in your life, and in others, you could be far away from where you believe you’re supposed to be, and that is ok. For life is such a fickle thing, and what this song reminds me of, is that everything will be fine, because in spite of all that seems to be lacking in my own life (as this song suggests), I know who holds my world together, and who I know I can rely on.
‘Mary Jane’, an underrated song on Jagged Little Pill, shows Alanis showing care and concern to someone who is losing their enthusiasm, spirit and zest for life, and a song that ought to be an encouragement for many. We long for times in our own lives that we can take care of ourselves and put ourselves first, especially if we are in the business of service and placing other people’s needs above our own on a constant basis; and ‘Mary Jane’ hopefully allows us to place ourselves first and be ‘selfish’ for a change. ‘Perfect’, another song on Jagged Little Pill that challenges and inspires, presents this theme of perfection and us being kids who try to reach it, as per the parent’s request of the child, and the damaging and harmful effects, that unattainable perfection can have on the growing child when they realise that no matter what they do (to try to earn the favour and love of said parent), falls short of expectations, for whatever reason. A hard-hitting song to be written by someone who was 20 at the time of the album release, Alanis presents arguably what I believe to be one of the hardest-hitting songs on the album, and thereby, one of the hardest hitting songs throughout her whole career as well. As Alanis showcases herself in her own words, ‘…if we are indeed these unique snowflakes, how is it there is one snowflake by which we have to measure ourselves by? It doesn’t make sense, but we continue to do it. The song [Perfect] is the plight of the overachiever. I had straight A’s as a kid and was on that end of the continuum, which is equally as traumatizing as the other end. We under-function or we over-function depending on what we think we can to best to survive. For me that survival was about chasing perfection and it was daunting. The pervasive message is that you aren’t enough and you’re innately bad, and I had to comment on it. I was sobbing on the ground when I wrote it…’ ‘You Learn’ and ‘You Oughta Know’, 4th and 1st single from Jagged Little Pill respectively, are the remaining standout songs, the former being a self-help track about learning from all your mistakes and going through life with an attitude of it being a learning experience, while the latter is an angry melody about a scorned ex-girlfriend, depicting their feelings to a former lover. While the song itself (‘You Oughta Know’) has a few expletives here and there, it does nevertheless present a real and honest account of what this person was feeling at that time, reminding ourselves in no uncertain terms, to be honest with ourselves and others, even if it is messy. ‘You Oughta Know’ can hopefully open up the things inside of us, that want to keep things nice and in a little bow, by delivering a warning of sorts, and to always be honest, no matter if it is uncomfortable for the other.
While Alanis’s 1995 album will forever be what she will be remembered for, for years to come; she’s nevertheless unveiled to us 6 more label-produced albums post-Jagged Little Pill, and all her newer albums still present relevant and prevalent themes…it’s just that as a whole, her 1995 album relates more to people than her other albums. Needless to say, Alanis’s poignant work continues to keep coming as the albums click on, and while you would never really get a lot of impactful songs on one album like you would on Jagged Little Pill, you would still nevertheless get standout songs across each of the other 6 albums, her most latest one being in 2020, in what I reckon is perhaps one of the most satisfying ‘comeback’ albums I’ve heard in quite some time (her previous album before her 2020 one, was unveiled in 2012). And though Alanis’s career has been littered with hiatuses here and there, her impact still continues to grow, primarily because of Jagged Little Pill, but let’s be honest for a bit- that album was a revolution for the 1990s, and an album that allows us all to check out other albums by Alanis to see her ability to craft music in a way that is deep and meaningful, but catchy and pop-orientated as well. Alanis’s follow-up album Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie in 1998 wasn’t as single-heavy as Alanis’s 1995 album, but nevertheless, her 1998 record was ever the more poignant and heartfelt, as we see Alanis continue to press into themes that can often be perceived to be too heavy for someone around that age to discuss about in song, but alas, it was, and I’m sure people who hear these melodies will commend Alanis for going there with these songs, of traversing into the crevices and canyons too delicate for other people to venture down towards.
‘Thank U’ is the first radio single from Alanis’s follow-up to Jagged Little Pill, and the song itself showcases a lot of introspection and contemplation, moments of being still and quiet, and reflecting on life, and moments of giving thanks, but not to the things that you may expect. Alanis’s song ‘Thank U’ is a realisation that often fame and adulation, can get to you when you least expect it. As Alanis herself relays to us about her immediate thoughts after the successful Jagged Little Pill, we see that ‘…I felt that I lived in a culture that told me that I had to consistently and constantly look outside myself to feel this elusive bliss. And I achieved a lot of what society had told me to achieve and I still didn’t feel peaceful. I started questioning everything, and I realized that actually everything was an illusion and it was scary for me because everything I had believed in was dissolving in front of me and there was a death of sorts, a really beautiful one ultimately, but at first a very scary one, and so I stopped. I stopped for the first time and I was overcome with a huge sense of compassion for myself first, and then naturally that translated into my feeling and compassion for everyone around me and a huge amount of gratitude that I had never felt before to this extent. And that’s why I had to write this song, ‘Thank U,’ because I had to express how exciting this was and how scary it was and all of these opportunities for us to define who we are…’ ‘Thank U’ shows the persona thanking things like terror, disillusionment, frailty and consequence, even silence, as we listeners also understand that sometimes it is the things that seem to be the darkest for the soul, that will change your own outlook on life the most. That once we discover the frailty of our own lives, we undertake things with a much more sense of intentionality and purpose, knowing our own mortality, while facing consequences for our own actions, allow us to grow and mature as people. The silence that comes from just contemplating and thinking with your own thoughts, can be scary, but also helpful for the soul- for without the constant noise around us, we realise what we believe about ourselves, others, God and everything else in between. And that is what ‘Thank U’ can have in achieving, and Alanis has catalogued all of her learnings from the mid-1990s all within this 4 minute song of life and everything else in it…a song that challenges myself as well. ‘Unsent’, a song that didn’t chart that well on radio, but nevertheless was still hauntingly compelling and emotive, is also on Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, as this song, with no choruses, is just 5 stanzas long, and in each stanza, Alanis depicts an ‘unsent letter’ to each person of her past where she needs to make amends. All ex-boyfriends, this song is about reconciliation and to make peace with the past, even if events aren’t to your own liking. While it is never known if Alanis tracked down these men to have closure face-to-face, or if this song itself was closure for her; what I will say about this song is this- that sometimes we need to face the things in our own lives that seem to be holding us back from pursuing and accomplishing the things that we are to move into right now, and yet, if we down wrestle with and resolving issues left buried deep, then our lives won’t look as rosy as we think they are. Whether it is actually visiting people to say sorry, or just writing a letter to express your own feelings, ‘Unsent’ is a challenge for us all, to not let bitterness, anger, sour feelings, come between us and the lives we want to lead. For letting go and moving on can only occur if we acknowledge our own areas of improvement, and hopefully this song challenges us to do so.
Alanis’s discography can be a lot to swallow, and while it can seem like the easy way out, to delve into each of her remaining hits here in this blog, it indeed is a cop out- because you can check songmeanings, songfacts, and every other google avenue for information about these songs from Alanis. What I will say is this- that from what I heard about Alanis (which isn’t as much compared to a lot of other people who have been fans of Alanis from the beginning!), I’ve been impressed with the songs I’ve heard. ‘Eight Easy Steps’, originally from the album So-Called Chaos, is a song that delves into the realms of self-help; and provides a song-like manual to provide help and solace in the form of a self-help song, a message that reminds us all that improvement, even though it can be accomplished through ‘eight easy steps’, can still take longer than what we envisage improvement to take, that we can often be in a lifetime of improvement. The rock aspect of ‘Eight Easy Steps’ allows Alanis to showcase a different side- a rockier one, compared to previous albums; while ‘Everything’ speaks about all the inconsistencies and ways that a persona can fall short, listing all the things that this persona is good at, and all the things that they are ashamed about. The persona is singing to their significant other, declaring that ‘…You see everything, You see every part, You see all my light and you love my dark, You dig everything of which I’m ashamed, there’s not anything to which you can’t relate and you’re still here…’ It is a moment of unconditional love right there, and it is in this song ‘Everything’ that I’ve been reminded recently, that this is how God sees us- He sees everything that we are, good and bad, and He’s still here, even if we think that there’s things about ourselves that we know He will be repulsed by; and walk away. ‘Crazy’, a Seal cover, was given the Alanis Morissette treatment as this song challenges this notion that to go through life means to play it safe- the song speaks about how ‘we’re never gonna survive unless we get a little crazy’, an understanding that sometimes it is in the craziness of life and our decisions we make, that we can make sense of world equally as that. ‘Simple Together’, a song present on her 2006 best-of project The Collection, is a song that depicts the aftermath of a breakup, and the lamenting thoughts of the persona as she comes to grip with the fact that this certain relationship is broken down, even though ‘…I thought we’d be simple together, I thought we’d be happy together, thought we’d be limitless together, I thought we’d be precious together but I was sadly mistaken…’ While this song in and of itself isn’t a happy one, and doesn’t have a happy ending, the song nevertheless has reminded me in my own life, that sometimes what we envisage to become reality, be it in a romantic relationship or even just with friends, or even other career circumstances, often doesn’t, and sometimes, we can feel the things present here on ‘Simple Together’. Songs don’t necessarily have to have a happy ending for them to be poignant and heartfelt, and this song is one of them.
‘Citizen of the Planet’ is one big weird song…it has a definite Indian flavour musically, while the lyrics promote…some kind of unified religion that speaks about being one with the earth and…let’s just say that this song was a definite low-light of Alanis’s entire discography, and that’s saying a lot. Because apart from this uber-catchy song which says ‘not that much’; there isn’t really much to pinpoint that is gravely wrong, with Alanis’s music. It’s just that ‘Citizen of the Planet’ made it seem like the song was promoting its own religion. Then again, maybe I’m wrong. But whatever the case, there are some songs that you can connect with, others you can’t. And this is definitely one of the songs where I couldn’t. Nevertheless, there are more from Alanis’s albums that challenge us in our own lives as we interact with people we meet. ‘Underneath’ is a song personal to Alanis, as it depicts her relationship breakdown during that 2000s. The song itself is a reminder to make sure we as people deal with our own issues and problems first; before we take on new issues and deal with new circumstances. In the corresponding video that coincides with the song, we see Alanis taking on new projects and helping out people, while her own issues are bubbling to the surface. ‘Underneath’ is a reminder that there are things underneath people and the relationships that they have, that people just don’t see, and to always keep our house in order; before we try to help someone else. ‘Incomplete’, the last track on her 2008 album Flavours of Entanglement, is a reminder for each of us to always live our lives right now, rather than to look towards the future and say ‘one day, I’ll ____’. ‘Incomplete’ is about a persona who longs for things to happen in their life, but one day. So preoccupied with the future and longing for things to happen way down the line, when totally neglecting what has been happening now. Which is what a lot of people do, unknowingly of course. ‘Hands Clean’, from Alanis’s 2002 album Under Rug Swept, is ‘You Oughta Know’ part 2, and maybe, the only people that can relate to this song, is anyone who has had messy breakups, which isn’t everyone. I know it’s not me. But this song nevertheless showcases a lot of honesty against the backdrop of powerful electric guitars, as the persona laments that the other person involved in the broken relationship has ‘washed their hands of it’, a moment of not taking responsibility for their role in communication breakdown. As Alanis has mentioned about this song in particular, ‘…my intention in writing this song was to get to a place where I could be as truthful and as honest as I possibly could be about certain relationships in my past. It’s definitely not with the intention of seeking any sort of revenge for the person who is at the heart of the song that I’m singing about, but it was in my silencing myself to protect somebody else that I was ultimately completely abandoning myself. And any time I speak untruths in my life, and often-times I feel by not speaking the truth, by being silent, there’s an element of an untruth in that. Withholding the truth sometimes can feel just as horrible as a lie to me. So as I get older, I think I want more and more to introduce the bliss of speaking transparently and truthfully and as honestly as I possibly can, knowing that the truth in this case is my truth only…’ Also on Under Rug Swept are songs like ‘Flinch’, a heartfelt moment about Alanis longing for a day when mentioning an ex’s name or even running into them, won’t cause her to flinch or even have any negative reaction. A song that delivers an honest portrayal of how someone’s presence in your life, can have more of a desired effect, than what you think, Alanis imparts to us that ‘…I was surprised at how many years had past but still I was responding to the situation as though I had been spending time with him two minutes earlier. I was kind of ashamed and a little embarrassed, but it was where I was at: just really being curious about how someone can have that much of an effect on me and attributing some of it to the fact that I was very, very young when I was in contact with him. I do believe that I will be able to get to a point where hearing his name or even running into him or hearing from him won’t trigger me as much as it did and still does. I don’t know when that day will come but I’m singing about it hopefully coming…’
‘Precious Illusions’, ‘You Owe Me Nothing In Return’ and ‘That Particular Time’ are other songs on Under Rug Swept, an album that I reckon is one of Alanis’s underrated, and it is these songs that speak a lot about this concept of love and the ability of love to impact someone’s life at various points in life and it to be different each time. ‘Precious Illusions’ is an awakening to the unfortunate moment of having to leave behind idealistic fantasies conjured up during childhood about how things will go later on in life, and realising that not everything will turn out like you think they should, and to be at peace with this revealing truth; while ‘That Particular Time’ is an understanding that often love changes over time, that ‘…love doesn’t always stay, sometimes love leaves, sometimes love stays, sometimes love steps back and there are so many different forms that love can take in a relationship…’ ‘You Owe Me Nothing’ is at the heart of it all, what love really is. A light acoustically driven track with the piano at the forefront, Alanis herself expresses so eloquently about what the song means to her- ‘…what love is to me is wanting for someone that you love what they want for themselves. And at the same time not sacrificing my own life and my thoughts and my own beliefs. Supporting someone in their choices and at the same time being able to express what mine are, even if they differ, is the ultimate healthy, loving interaction…the highest form of love is to really listen to someone and honour them and accept them and have my own version and definition of who it is that I am. And if they can both cohabitate or spend time together or feel compatible, great. And if they don’t, that’s okay too -there’s still a lotta love – but maybe the form of the relationship would change…’
So-Called Chaos unveiled to us in 2004, and together with ‘Everything’ and ‘8 Easy Steps’ (discussed previously in this blog, a few paragraphs before), deliver to us the powerful tracks of ‘Out is Through’, ‘Excuses’ and ‘Doth I Protest Too Much’, to name a few, as this album, alongside Under Rug Swept, would have to be 2 of Alanis’s most underrated albums throughout her whole career thus far. ‘Out is Through’ is a moment of understanding that not all problems in life can be fixed by travelling around them, and that sometimes, the only way out is through, in a similar thematic vein to Jason’s Gray’s 2020 standout song ‘Through’. Alanis reminds us that to travel through something requires guts and determination, and to move through the murkiness is often what is needed for us to bring about more resilience and perseverance as we press on through our trials; and move to the other side with a more grounded perspective on life in general. ‘Excuses’ speaks about this theme and notion of excuses that people have in their lives, as a form of a crutch in order for them not to move on with their lives. Something that they wave around like a badge of honour, not wanting to move forward in life because of ____, when in reality, while these excuses can be convenient for the person using them, they are indeed things that we use when we don’t want to do the hard work, they have ‘…served me so well, they’ve kept me safe, they’ve kept me stuck, they’ve kept me locked in my own cell…they’re so familiar, they’ve kept me small, they’ve kept me blocked, they’ve kept me safe inside my shell…’ ‘Doth I Protest Too Much’ is a challenge for us all to consider the feelings of the other in a relationship, especially when the guy seems to wander his eyes, and the girl tells him that she doesn’t feel threatened, when we really know that’s not the case. ‘Doth I Protest Too Much’ portrays a persona, trying hard to convince themselves that the antics of the other in the relationship, hasn’t affected them as much as they know it has, and this song’s lyrics is a result. ‘Doth I Protest Too Much’ allows us to see, that if we’re in relationships- are we having wandering eyes, and causing our significant others to become insecure, or are we respecting them, and giving attention when needed?
Havoc and Bright Lights and Such Pretty Forks in the World are the last two remaining albums in Alanis’s career thus far, and while I said previously that Under Rug Swept and So-Called Chaos were the underrated albums in the whole Alanis Morissette discography so far, I’d have to say that Havoc and Bright Lights would have to be the ‘non-existent’ album Alanis has created. Out of all the songs present on an automatic ‘This Is Alanis Morissette’ playlist that I listened to in preparation for this blog post, only one song was cycling through from her 2012 release- ‘guardian’…and I dunno if that means that much of Havoc and Bright Lights isn’t memorable enough, for any of the songs on the album to be placed on the automatically-curated ‘This is Alanis Morissette’ playlist, but what I do know is this- Havoc and Bright Lights brought to the fore, three singles, in ‘guardian’, ‘lens’ and ‘receive’. And while I myself haven’t heard much, if at all to this 2012 album (except a few times, of ‘guardian’, what I’ve heard of Alanis, earlier on during her career, as well as her 2020 release, is enough to make me want to hear more of her 2012 album, more songs than ‘guardian’ on repeat. Not that ‘guardian’ isn’t good, the song is. ‘guardian’ is a song about protecting someone else who is in a more vulnerable state than yourself, in Alanis’s case, she’s singing about her child during this song, as we’re reminded that such a song as ‘guardian’, brings out this parent instinct that only comes to the surface when you have children of your own. ‘guardian’ is a great reminder for us to always place other people’s needs above our own, much more so, if the need is of a child. ‘receive’ speaks out towards all the people in service who are pouring their efforts into other people; and being the person who gives all the time- their time, efforts, money, anything to make someone else’s life better, at the unfortunate detriment of their own. Learning how to receive is just as important as learning how to give, and some people are just better at one than the other. ‘receive’ is a moment of understanding that at times in your life, in order to continue giving of yourself to others, you need to be replenished too, and thus you have to receive help and assistance from people every once in a while, as well. ‘lens’ is the last radio single from Alanis’s 2012 album; and is a song that really hits home for people- how there seems to be a sense of other-ising someone in an us-v-them category when someone’s POV about life, or even their religion, is different from yours. ‘lens’ asks people to look from the lens of love in spite of the differences, rather than finding ways of setting up ‘camps’ and only interacting in your own echo chamber and not wanting to learn from someone else’s outlook in life. And it’s not just about religion, this song- it can be about anything that seems to divide. Politics, passionate viewpoints, topical studies about this or that, and yes, even religion can cause people to hate one group or another because of the beliefs. And yet this song is a great reminder for me; as a follower of Jesus, to act in a way that people will know who we are, by the way we love them. Not by the way we segregate people into groups, but to love them without any condition. Without any expectation, and to just love them because we know of how Christ loved us. ‘lens’ calls us all down from our high-horse of believing we know better than the other, and to be humble in our own approach in life. For if we attest to loving God, but not loving our brothers and sisters and people who see different from us, then who are we to be called Christians in the first place? Havoc and Bright Lights is by far an album that I want to check out in the future, but from the very few songs I’ve heard from it, seems to be such an album full of lyrical goodness and messages much needed for such a polarising time in the society of today.
Such Pretty Forks in the Road was released in 2020, and while the album in and of itself doesn’t really have that many ‘standout’ tracks for me, compared to music from Alanis back then, the album holistically does paint a picture of standing in the middle of a road with a fork in it, and wondering and pondering about what to do next, to see if you can travel one way or another. Issues like drinking is presented in the first radio single from the album, ‘Reasons I Drink’, as such a vulnerable topic is delved into front and centre, with a song presented in a joyful upbeat melody, whilst ‘Losing the Plot’ discusses the topic of insomnia and PPD (post-partum depression) that often comes when nursing a newborn and trying to juggle a lot of things at once. Mind you, insomnia can also occur from a lot of other things, like stress and unrealistic expectations, while the song ‘Sandbox Love’ is a song about longing to go back to a love between people that is like a sandbox. For a sandbox is such where castles were built out of sand between children in an innocent and playful way, and longing for a love to be like a sandbox is a longing for love in and of itself, to be innocent, pure, unadulterated, a bond so connected, that it can’t easily be broken. Whilst the f word is repeated multiple times throughout the song, I reckon the essence and message of it is still the same- to experience something childlike in a way that we don’t worry about this or that in a relationship, we just be, and that ought to be enough. ‘Smiling’, the second radio single from the album after ‘Reasons I Drink’, was originally written, composed, and used in the 2018 stage production of Jagged Little Pill, an original play written and using the music of Alanis throughout her whole career. ‘Smiling’ is a song depicting a persona probably at the end of their rope, with all sorts of things happening to them, and them realising that even in spite of all of that, you just have to keep on smiling. Keep on having humour and placing things in perspective. Because once you have an outlook on life that is not your own, and you see things from a different point of view, gratitude sometimes comes to the fore, and you’re more appreciative of your own life, when you realise what others may have to go through. ‘Ablaze’, a song that wasn’t a single, but nevertheless was a song that was on repeat on my Spotify playlist of Alanis’s songs (in preparation for this blog), is such a song that reminds us to always keep the light within us ablaze. To never let hope die out, to always look on the bright side of things, and to never get jaded and down, especially if we look at society today and see the hopelessness around the place. While the song itself was probably written and sung for her children, Alanis’s encouraging word is for all of us, to never lose our sparks inside of us, to always keep the faith, keep running towards our goal, and to always do these things with such grace, humility, honour and respect. ‘Pedestal’, the last song on Such Pretty Forks in the Road, warns us all of this danger of placing someone on a pedestal, especially when this someone is who you’re in relationship with. Idolising someone beyond what they themselves really are, can be detrimental to the relationship, and thus, this song is a warning for anyone who knowingly or involuntarily place people on an elevated plane, that that shouldn’t be what people should be doing. ‘Pedestal’ is a sober reminder to not think of people more highly than you ought to, but also not to lower yourself to the point where the other person in said relationship has an unequal power, as well.
Alanis has been famous for her music, and that is first and foremost, her main impact on society. But there are a few other things she has undertaken aside from music as well. For a stint in 2015, Alanis was the host of a podcast titled Conversation with Alanis Morissette, and according to Wikipedia, ‘…features conversations with different individuals from different schools and walks of life discussing everything from psychology to art to spirituality to design to health and well-being, to relationships (whether they be romantic or colleagueship or parent with children relationships)…’, while in 2016, she wrote a few columns for The Guardian, advice pieces for people struggling with everyday things. Because of the success of her 1995 album Jagged Little Pill, a musical of the same name, with songs from Alanis, was presented as a stage production in 2018, diversifying Alanis from being a musician, to now having a whole stage production revolving around her music. Alanis also delved into the form of acting throughout the years, most notably recurring in the Showtime comedy Weeds from 2009-2010, while also having guesting standalone episodes in shows like Up All Night, The Great North, Nip/Tuck and Top Wing. All in all, Alanis’s career, music and otherwise, has been a unique road to be on, and the result are 7 powerful albums full of heart, poignancy, emotion and enthusiasm. While Alanis’s popularity may not go back to what it was in 1995, ever again; Alanis’s impact on music has been huge, to the point of where I boldly asserted way back at the beginning of my blog post, that Alanis Morissette was the Avril Lavigne before the Avril Lavigne…I still stand by my comment. I know that can be all kinds of controversial; but hearing Alanis and all the musical gems she has to offer, we see a woman delivering hard-hitting themes during a time where poignancy in music wasn’t necessarily what people were actually going for. Nevertheless, Alanis’s career can go one of two ways, after her 2020 comeback album- it can flourish, or it can lay dormant for some more length of time. Regardless, her music will always have a lasting impact on society and music as a whole- I mean, has anyone’s music been the subject of a musical, and the musical was titled after an album of said artist? Not sure if anyone else, other than Alanis, has had that privilege. And so to sum it all up, Alanis’s music has indeed been a gift, and a way of providing hope to people around the world, myself included. With the songs being rock-like and edgy, poppy and music with a message, Alanis’s music has opened me up to other female artists who have a strong sense of self, delivering music that empowers as much as it confronts and comforts. Songs have the ability to affect change, and that is true of a lot of Alanis’s music as a whole.
Does Alanis Morissette and her music make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Best Influential Artists of All Time’ list? Is there any song, like ‘Ironic’, ‘You Oughta Know’, ‘Everything’, ‘Reasons I Drink’ or ‘guardian’; that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!