My wonderful sister gifted me tickets to see Alanis Morissette all the way back in 2019 for my birthday, and I cannot express how excited I was: not only was Alanis going to be singing directly to me (shut up), but Garbage and Liz Phair would be there, too?? What kind of fever dream was I living in??
And then fucking Covid happened.
Pause for the obligatory: WEAR YOUR MASKS AND GET VACCINATED.
But it wasn’t canceled, just delayed, so a bit of hope remained. Even when it was rescheduled for this past Friday, I wasn’t quite sure it wouldn’t just not happen, because I am having a hard time believing that good things happen for me. To some degree, that even continued until I actually saw her tiny frame walk out onto the stage. And it was glorious. Cat Power, who replaced Liz Phair (I wasn’t upset about it, honestly – Cat Power is phenomenal), set the tone with her beautiful, soulful music, and of course, Garbage killed it (how has Shirley Manson not aged??). But Alanis? Y’all. Alanis. This woman is one of the most incredible performers I have ever seen live: never missing a note, directing her band, playing with the crowd … I could not have asked for more.
Now, we all know “You Oughta Know” and “Thank U,” but some of my favorite moments were her lesser known songs, even ones from Jagged Little Pill, so that’s what we are going to focus on for this on rotation …
1 – “NOT THE DOCTOR”
Probably one of my favorite songs off her first (well, first in the US – technically, it’s her third) album because of how unapologetically defiant Alanis’ younger self was regarding her autonomy. She admits in an Independent article that she would update the song a bit if she were to write it again, but for the most part, refusing to be a part of a co-dependent relationship 100% resonates with me.
2 – “SMILING”
Okay, so this is technically off her newest album, Such Pretty Forks in the Road, so I’m not sure it can be considered a deep cut, but it stands with Kesha’s “Praying” as one of my songs about healing and moving on from my disaster of a marriage.
3 – “NARCISSUS”
So similar theme as #2, at least in terms of healing, I play this song whenever I break up with someone because it’s nice and cathartic. It especially applies to a specific few people, but I don’t necessarily have anyone in particular that I think about when this pops up on Pandora (at least once a week LOL).
4 – UNPRODIGAL DAUGHTER
Even though I identify with so many of these songs, “Unprodigal Daughter” is probably the one that makes me wonder if Alanis and I aren’t connected in some sort of cosmic way. It’s incredibly inspiring to me – I want to accomplish a lot in my life, and honestly, I am the only one in my way at this point. I want to be that “unencumbered daughter [who hits] the ground running at last.”
5 – “TORCH”
Flavors of Entanglement and its predecessor, So-Called Chaos, got a lot of bad press for some reason, and I mean, maybe they deserved it? I don’t know. I’m not a music critic, but I have this belief about critics, especially on artistic things: art is subjective, and I’m not going to let someone dictate what I like. I like Surf Ninjas, for god’s sake. Alanis working through her breakup with Ryan Reynolds was just different; she had no animosity toward him and was just sad about it. Anyway, I think “Torch” is an absolutely beautiful song, and any critics of it can just shut up. Let people enjoy things.
6 – “REASONS I DRINK”
I am working on having the hard discussions with myself – why I do what I do, how I can change, will I be able to, am I willing to, why or why not, etc. As a student, I don’t really have a ton of time to actually do that, but I’m trying to make space for it. I think I may just start listening to this song over and over again, because it just puts me in that mindset.
7 – “KNEES OF MY BEES”
Remember how I said that So-Called Chaos got some bad press because they felt she’d “sold out” or that her music sounded like vintage Bryan Adams. I’m actually still mad about that, because I really enjoyed Alanis’ happy turn. Sure, some of the lyrics are sappy, but I genuinely enjoy this album, specifically this song. It’s just fun!
8 – “FORGIVEN”
God, I cannot tell you how many times I have listened to “Forgiven” and been like, “Hey, Alanis, it’s not just Catholic girls to which this applies.” It really does speak to my experience being a student at what amounted to a parochial school, where I was constantly bombarded with Christian theology disguised as fact and confused to the point where I’m still deconstructing a lot of what I was taught. But as always, Alanis knows the right words.
9 – “NO PRESSURE OVER CAPPUCCINO”
Her unplugged album is fantastic in general, but this song … gah, as I get older, I appreciate it more and more. My life hasn’t necessarily followed the typical path that I was told I was supposed to follow, as so many Millennials have experienced, so I feel like this is an ode to my generation.
10 – “MARY JANE”
And to come back to Jagged Little Pill, I can say that this was one of the songs that made me cry at the concert. Its intro was “Everything,” which honestly was an absolutely perfect transition. Remember how I said above that Alanis would be singing to me? I have always felt a special connection to this song, partly due to my struggle with chronic depressive episodes and bouts of mania (yay, ADHD!), and I just feel hopeful every time I listen to this. I just have to work through this, and tomorrow is going to come.