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.
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
(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?)
May of that year she released the raga-rocker Uninvited, her first single
ages. I listened to an .MP3 of this
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
down there and buy tickets!
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
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
devoured biographies from Amazon. I was
surprised to discover
the Ottawa native had already enjoyed two
Child TV actor, on Nickelodeon's You Can't Do That on TV;
and teen pop star/"The
Tiffany of Toronto."
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,
guitars, old 45s, and much, much
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
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.
got something to say to Charlie Anderson, you
best say it
And Alanis does.
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
better choices, we can be better people in a
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
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
The Alanis Quote Project
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