Alanis Morissette



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Why I Like Alanis Morissette

I became a serious Alanis Morissette fan in 1998, although like just about everyone else on the planet, I had previously purchased and played the grooves out of her 1995 US debut album, Jagged Little Pill

In the summer and fall of 1998, several events and perhaps strange Diet Coke-altered brain chemicals conspired to bring the young Canadian singer/songwriter more closely into focus.  (I see that Front Page’s spell-checker doesn’t recognize the words “Alanis” or “Morissette.”  How many records does a girl have to sell?)

In May of that year she released the raga-rocker Uninvited, her first single amsingup.jpg (57369 bytes)in ages.  I listened to an .MP3 of this fantastic song about 200 times, and it reminded me just how much I had enjoyed listening to Jagged Little Pill.   Then she kicked off a world tour with two shows at the Catalyst nightclub right here in downtown Santa Cruz.  (Initially, I was too lazy to drive am107.jpg (11867 bytes)down there and buy tickets!  If my sister-in-law hadn't called to tell me to get two for her, I wouldn't even have seen the show.  So I wasn't an obsessed fan then.)  Finally, in October Morissette released her second US album, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie—featuring the single Thank U—and its strangely compelling nude-on-the-subway video.  Somewhere around in there, I decided that this Alanis Morissette chick was a musician that I liked, a lot. I had become a serious fan of a musician, for the first time since the Ford administration.

I prowled Internet fan sites and devoured biographies from Amazon.  I was surprised to discover alanis_m.jpg (3912 bytes)that the Ottawa native had already enjoyed two showbiz careers:  Child TV actor, on Nickelodeon's You Can't Do That on TV; and teen pop star/"The Tiffany of Toronto."  alanis_dance.jpg (17017 bytes)I learned that in 1990 she appeared with big hair and a perky smile on Ed McMahon's Star Search, as "Alanis Nadinia." 

Thanks to the miracle of MP3 downloading, I heard the lightweight pop music in her professional closet--in addition to unreleased new songs like London, Weekend, No Pressure Over Cappuccino, Death of Cinderella, and Pollyanna Flower.  Great original tunes all, apparently produced with such ease there was no need to put them on an album. 

In a strange turn, I began to buy Alanis stuff on eBay.  Lots of it.  Someday, when I'm brave enough, I'll list it all here—we're talking concert posters, publicity stills, backstage passes, bootleg CDs, European singles, high school yearbooks, handmade cards, autographed harmonicas, sneakers, and guitars, old 45s, and much, much more. 

During this period I almost could not hold a conversation without the subject of Alanis coming up.  I interrupted Thanksgiving dinner 1998, with 14 guests around the table, to play a bit of Ironic because someone had said they weren't sure they had ever heard any of her songs. Whew.  I want to thank my wife and friends for putting up with me that first year. 

But I digress. Why do I like Alanis Morissette?  It isn't her long-haired, neo-hippie good looks.  Shania and Britney look even better, but I don't visit their fan bulletin boards a couple of times a day to pontificate on the significance of obscure interview quotes.

I like Alanis because her music sounds good.  She favors melodic, mid-tempo rock and roll, with catchy and heavy guitar grooves—and almost no boring solos.  She constructs songs so that the intensity level goes up throughout.  The vocals are always clear and her pitch is flawless; she could track twenty vocals and it would sound like three.  She is also a powerful performer in concert.

But it's not just the music.  Alanis uses her forum to say intelligent things, plainly and honestly.  She tells all, revealing things about herself that most of us feel but will not admit to our wives or husbands or best friends.   If nothing else, Morissette is brave.  I admire bravery.

I was never that big on lyrics in the past.  I could love a song like The Who's Won’t Get Fooled Again without caring exactly what it was about.  It rocked, and the snippets of words I understood somehow fit the tone of the music.  Most rock lyrics are a bit obtuse; that's part of the songwriter's art, I suppose.  But I'm not one to look too hard for hidden meaning in books or movies or songs—I'm far too literal. Symbolism goes right over my head—for  20 years it never occurred to me that Puff the Magic Dragon was about pot smoking.  I had to read it in a magazine.

If you've got something to say to Charlie Anderson, you best say it plainly.  And Alanis does.

I like Alanis because, like me, she is a mildly neurotic optimist.  She believes that she can make a difference in her own life through reflection, willpower, and action. She doesn't believe that the world is doomed, that mankind is fundamentally evil, or that free will is an illusion.  Alanis believes, as I do, as I think most of us do, that if we think better thoughts and make better choices, we can be better people in a better world. 

If you will indulge me an analogy, a good Alanis song is a little like Lawrence Kasdan's 1992 movie Grand Canyon—an earnest and entertaining look at life in late 20th century Los Angeles. At its core it deals with America's hairiest social problem, the gap between white and black—a problem that makes most of us turn away, shaking our heads at its utter intractability.  But Kasdan refuses to do that. Instead he delivers a hopeful and uplifting message wrapped in an entertaining package. Releasing this movie made the world a slightly better place to live. 

If the same could be said about all movies and all music, the world would be a better place to live.

On the other hand, Morissette is a liberal Democrat. <g>


Some have a hard time accepting Alanis as the real thing given her show business past.  But shouldn't everyone be given the opportunity to grow into adulthood?

Listen to the music.  What you're hearing is the sound of a gifted musician, speaking hopefully from the heart.


Morissette has released four studio albums in the US:  Jagged Little Pill (1995),  Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (1998), Under Rug Swept (2002), and Feast on Scraps (2002). 


Visit The Alanis Quote Project here.


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