Sunday Singalong: Alanis Morisette

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I’ll come right out and be honest and say that I’m not a huge Alanis Morisette fan but you know she did make one of the best angry, break-up songs ever and it feels good to have one of those written from the woman’s point of view.

Morisette’s Jagged Little Pill album was the second biggest seller of the 1990’s (will I ever stop mining the 90’s for my Sunday Singalongs?). Morisette is a little coy about owning the feminist label:

Does she see herself as a feminist? “What’s your definition?” she asks. Equal pay. Equal rights. That women should be able to fulfil their potential regardless of gender. “If that’s what the definition is, then yes, absolutely … Women are so powerful they’re scary, and the incentive to squash this has been going on for so long that some of us actually believe we’re subordinate.”

But she has frequently centred women’s issues and empowerment in her songs, addressing body image problems, for instance – she is an outspoken bulimia survivor. There has been something undeniably liberating about the way Morisette is so willing to lay bear her emotions in those break-up songs of hers. And she allows herself to sound so fierce, too, and man oh man, do you need that sense of resilience when you’re getting your heart smashed.

“You Oughta Know”

I want you to know, that I’m happy for you
I wish nothing but the best for you both
An older version of me
Is she perverted like me
Would she go down on you in a theatre
Does she speak eloquently
And would she have your baby
I’m sure she’d make a really excellent mother

’cause the love that you gave that we made wasn’t able
To make it enough for you to be open wide, no
And every time you speak her name
Does she know how you told me you’d hold me
Until you died, till you died
But you’re still alive

And I’m here to remind you
Of the mess you left when you went away
It’s not fair to deny me
Of the cross I bear that you gave to me
You, you, you oughta know

You seem very well, things look peaceful
I’m not quite as well, I thought you should know
Did you forget about me Mr. Duplicity
I hate to bug you in the middle of dinner
It was a slap in the face how quickly I was replaced
Are you thinking of me when you fuck her?

’cause the love that you gave that we made wasn’t able
To make it enough for you to be open wide, no
And every time you speak her name
Does she know how you told me you’d hold me
Until you died, til you died
But you’re still alive

And I’m here to remind you
Of the mess you left when you went away
It’s not fair to deny me
Of the cross I bear that you gave to me
You, you, you oughta know

’cause the joke that you laid on the bed that was me
And I’m not gonna fade
As soon as you close your eyes and you know it
And every time I scratch my nails down someone else’s back
I hope you feel it…well can you feel it

Well, I’m here to remind you
Of the mess you left when you went away
It’s not fair to deny me
Of the cross I bear that you gave to me
You, you, you oughta know

 



Categories: arts & entertainment, gender & feminism, relationships

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8 replies

  1. I am a HUGE Alanis fan and have followed her career for a while now. JLP is a great album, and although it’s the one that everyone seems to know, my absolute favorite of hers has to be the follow-up to that album, 1998’s Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (bizarre title aside!). Always good to see Alanis getting some love from feminist bloggers.

  2. will I ever stop mining the 90?s for my Sunday Singalongs?

    Only if you’d like me to start. So many to go. Veruca Salt! Liz Phair! Garbage!

  3. I came *that* close to doing Liz Phair today instead.

  4. I can remember when the song was first released. I loved it on first listening – this was someone female who was articulating the sort of rage I kept shoving down inside me, who was confronting the world with that rage right there, out front, up close and personal. And the way that guys reacted to the song was worth a giggle, too – the way so many of them seemed to almost visibly flinch from that anger, from the passion in it. I grabbed the album and it’s still part of my collection, although I don’t listen to it often these days (I’ve largely grown past the need to scream at the world). But there are some other gorgeous songs on the album which really hit on some nasty stuff in my psyche, and every so often I’ll dig it out and remind myself I’m not alone. Songs like “Perfect”, “Forgiven” and “Not the Doctor”.

  5. Alanis helped me put to rest some unresolved feelings about a semi-serious boyfriend (I was serious, he wasn’t) a long time ago. Maybe I should give those songs a listen again, it would be interesting to see how I feel about them now.

  6. Oh, too, too close to the bone. This was the album that was everywhere, constantly, during my backpacker time, and so is irretrievably enmeshed with debilitating crushes on unattainable boys, bewildering early mornings in absolutely the wrong kind of nightclub, and four-pounds-an-hour waitressing in a pub in Surrey. I do not need to return. Though I always loved the line “well, you’re still alive.”

  7. When I was a teenager, Alanis was one of the ways that I got to do anger – afterschool sing-alongs in the loungeroom with the music turned up loud and lots of trying out that fierceness. An excellent antidote to most of the depictions of women in music at the time…
    And then, more recently, I came across this cover of a truly awful Black Eyed Peas song and clip, “My Humps”. As a feminist critique of pop music and constructions of masculinity and femininity and issues of objectification, it’s really pretty awesome (not sure if mod-magic should be done for this one?).

  8. Something which has just occurred to me: the whole album, “Jagged Little Pill” was so full of songs which were pretty much 100-proof distilled feminism, which is probably why it sticks in the memory.
    Songs like “Right Through You”, which is just an anthem for any woman who’s been belittled and passed over purely because she’s female, regardless of the industry she’s working in (Morissette frames it in the entertainment industry, I suspect, mainly because that’s the one she’s familiar with). “Forgiven” is a wonderful look at religion (specifically Catholicism) and how its expectations of women can be thoroughly confusing. “Perfect” is a vision of the dysfunctional expectations some parents can heap on their children (“we’ll love you just the way you are if you’re perfect”). “All I Really Want” is about the whole process of actually wanting something while being female, and how problematic it can be, both as the person wanting something, and to outside observers seeing an actual desire expressed.
    The whole album is really full of songs which express a lot about being female in Western society, and the problematic way being female is constructed.

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