Alanis and me
For some reason, Alanis Morrisette moves me. I’m not really the target demo for Alanis (her mid-90s grunge-pop sound evokes images of girls like her: white, sarcastic and kind of angsty), but I have always somewhat identified with her sound.
Growing up I was vaguely aware of perhaps her best known song ‘You Oughtta Know’ – coming of age in the late 90s and early 00s makes it pretty impossible not to have some familiarity with that songs particular vulgarities and the swooping vocal screams of the chorus. But I didn’t really make any meaningful connection to Morrisette’s music until I was in year 12. I stumbled upon a video of her performing ‘You Learn’, a single from her 1995 smash hit debut album Jagged Little Pill and was mesmerised.
There was Alanis, dark hair down to her waist, bare feet, swaying and simply belting out those familiar vocal pitch drops. The lyrics, together with the general vibe or tone of the song were a soothing balm for an anxious teen: ‘you live, you learn’ certainly isn’t revolutionary, rather it’s quite cliché, but it is nonetheless rings true, particularly when performed with Morrisette’s soul splitting vocals.
Morrissette hasn't been at the centre of the pop-culture conversation for decades (she hasn’t had any prolonged or significant success since her second album), but I still find her captivating. I think to me she represents a kind of pop-anti-pop hybrid: she emerged from a grunge and punk scene but with a sound much softer and more friendly to my ears.
Morrissette released an album earlier this year and despite not making much of a cultural impact, the album’s lead single Ablaze briefly spent some time in the iTunes top 100. Dedicated to her two children, the song features her trademark vocal idiosyncrasies along with a trilling guitar chord throughout. It might just be me, but I find the song incredibly moving. Alanis can some up the totally of life’s enormous emotions into three short minutes better than almost anyone I can think of. Give it a listen and if you feel like, go back to Jagged Little Pill. It holds up.