‘I highly recommend getting older! There’s less tendency to people-please’ – Alanis Morissette
When I was 13 (long before Facebook, Twitter and Youtube) the only way I could listen to songs that were charting in America was the Rick Dees weekly top 40 which Metro FM would play on a Saturday evening. This is were many a modern classic first appeared on my radar; Waterfalls by TLC, Runaround by Blues Traveller and You Oughta Know by Alanis Nadine Morissette. Rock, alternative and indie music was dominating the charts in the UK but it was all male artists; Blur, Oasis, Pulp etc. Even the pop music was all boy bands. We didn’t get the R n B wave that they were having across the pond until a few years later so a female voice stood out. And a female voice singing rock music blew my tiny 13 year old mind.
A few weeks later I remember being in Geordie Jeans and they were playing her album. My dad’s a massive music fan and I’m not sure if he was giddy from being surrounded by cut price stonewash denim and Eclipse jumpers or whether he was just in a good mood, but, knowing that our next stop would inevitably be Our Price, I persuaded him to buy me the album that soundtracked my pre-teens: Jagged Little Pill.
Personally, I like to believe the phrase ‘all killer no filler’ was coined after listening to this album. There’s not one bum track on it at all, so much so that I think they’re all so good, I forget which ones were released as singles and which ones are album tracks. Of course, the songs that were released as singles were distinguishable as the ones that came with music videos on VH1 of her dragging the carcass of her ex boyfriend through the desert by his hair (You Oughta Know) embarking on a snowy road trip with a car full of Alanai (Ironic) or getting her Sinead O’Connor on circa ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ (Head Over Feet). I felt I’d finally found an artist who spoke to me, which is weird really, considering she was singing about being jilted and having sexual relationships with older men and I was a 14 year old with Backstreet Boys posters on her wall. What I did understand or at least admire, was the rebellion, the escapism of feeling you had to conform to what people expected, although admittedly when you’re 13 expectations are pretty much set at doing your homework on time and tidying your room on a Sunday night (talk about pressure!). It was jump around your room hating your parents music and I did that a lot.
Two of the best things to come out of the 90’s: Alanis and Pop Up Video
As is usual, with great success comes great criticism. Many people criticised the song Ironic saying that the most ironic thing about it is its a north American who doesn’t understand the meaning of the word irony. Well yes, but can you hold everything Bob Dylan or John Lennon said up against a dictionary definition and confidently say it won’t fall short sometimes? Isn’t the woman allowed a bit or artistic licence? I’m sure she’s crying into her millions.
Her eagerly awaited (by me at least) second album came in the shape of Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie and it was very much a case of ‘you have your whole life to write your first album and 6 months to write your second’ (and I know technically she released music back in the early 90’s but they never made it as far as Cramlington unfortunately). So ‘Junkie’ it was widely panned, quite how selling 469,000 copies sold in the first week week can been seen as a failure I’ll never know, but that’s the music industry for you and over time it has sold a fifth less than Jagged Little Pill so I suppose comparatively speaking…anyway. I’ll admit it took a few listens but there’s still some really good songs on there (Thank U, That I Would Be Good, Joining You and Unsent are particular faves – but they were all singles so seems she thought they were the best ones too!)
I’ve loyally bought or downloaded every one of her albums since 1995 and although they haven’t quite moved me as much as Jagged Little Pill did, there have been some great songs over the years that my ipod would be bare without:
Hands Clean from Under Rug Swept
This Grudge from So-Called Chaos
Not As We from Flavors of Entanglement
It’s A Bitch To Grow Up from Flavors of Entanglement
Woman Down from Havoc & Bright Lights
Lens from Havoc & Bright Lights
It’s rare these days that I come across an artist or song that stops me in my tracks and gives me that feeling that I’ve just stumbled across something special, most recently was discovering Childish Gambino on Last,fm in 2012. And perhaps that’s a good thing, if you were having life changing music moments once a week you wouldn’t remember them all and they wouldn’t be so special. Alanis will always be in my top 10 artists of all time, I even jumped out a plane with her on my honeymoon, she’s not going anywhere!