One such zeitgeist led to the popularity of Alanis Morissette in 1995. The boys had had their fun with their mumbling lo-fi guitar rock and now it was the girls’ turn. And after the bubblegum pink candy rock we’d had to endure during the Tiffany/Debbie Gibson abomination of the late 1980s, we had to go in a different direction which opened the doors pretty wide for Alanis’ brand of bitch rock to come growling through.
I was 13 when Jagged Little Pill came out and man, did that album hit me hard. It was kind of funny on the surface. I hadn’t gone on a date yet and I hadn’t really had any notable physical contact with boys at that point, and there I was, jamming out to a song which openly discussed things like fellatio and fucking. But at the end of the day, that wasn’t really the point. The point was the visceral experience of the thing, and the first time I heard “You Oughta Know,” I knew it was a major game changer. It was like someone had taken all of the omnidirectional angst and stress and unnamed sexual frustration I was experiencing and turned the mess of them into something useful and beautiful.
For those of you who might be reading who haven’t experienced it, – hey boys – it is incredibly hard to reconcile the transition from a girl to woman. People often make you feel you’re supposed to be forging ahead into womanhood in this confident, elegant manner. But it is not like that. AT. ALL.
Your emotions are on some tripped-out, nauseating rollercoaster ride. Your body is constantly betraying you by twisting and stretching and ballooning in all sorts of new and horrible ways*. But perhaps the thing that is worse than all of that is the fact that you are still in that stage of life where things are not really in your control. Things happen to, but are mostly not initiated by, you because you don’t have the knowledge or the wherewithal to do that yourself yet.
So instead you sit, angry and pimple-faced, off to the side, just hoping and wishing and waiting for something to happen, to feel sated, to let the low and steady growl of angst that has been building inside of you release somehow.
And that was why Alanis Morissette worked for me. She was angry the way I couldn’t logically give myself permission to be, so instead I embraced the music and released with it. I loved listening and imagining myself as an older person with real problems, but in the more immediate sense, I also really enjoyed singing along and saying the word “fuck.” I mean how decadent did it feel being 13 and swearing? The guttural stomach-dropping sound of the “fu” and the crisp edge of the “ck” made it so much fun to say, plus you got the thrill of feeling like a total badass**.
So anyway, that album pretty much lived inside my boombox – yes kiddos, I had a boombox – for a year. I think it was only when I could no longer stand the sound of it due to CanCon that I moved onto something else***, but even then, I remember being really stoked about the idea of Alanis resurfacing in a couple of years to blow my now fully teenaged socks off.
And then came Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie . . .
The thing about that album was, it was always going to be disappointing. Always. The world was no longer Alanis’ to have. Jagged Little Pill sold 33 million copies and spawned 6 singles. It was the biggest selling debut album of all time and spent a year in Billboard’s top 20. So, hitting it big like that, what can you really do? Well, you have two options. You can either produce Angry Bitch Rock, Vol. 2 at which point, you’ll be branded uninspired and derivative, or you can try something new . . . which she did by producing a zened out I Do Yoga Now maharashi phase type album. So it was no shock when this new album with its new direction saw diminishing returns. People weren’t interested in well-adjusted Alanis. They wanted to see her stomping around in the desert with stringy hair and speculate about whether or not she’d actually boned Dave Coulier.
Therefore, unfortunately, it was never quite the same for Alanis again. No matter how hard she tried to pull us back under her spell with new albums****, she couldn’t recapture the love we had in the mid nineties.
But the good times were good, and for that, I salute the woman. Thanks for the angry shouty times, sweetie. They were the best.
*By the way, thanks menstrual cycle for kicking off at age 10 – you really made the 5th grade fun!
** Unfortunately for me, I got a little too bold with my swearing in front of my parents one day and earned quite the smack across the face for it. Ouch.
*** The Cranberries “I Can’t Be With You.” This was my heartbreak jam through most of high school. *sigh*
**** Including an acoustic rerelease of Jagged Little Pill which, really, Alanis? That’s like neutering the junkyard dog! The entire appeal was that he was snarly and pissy! We don’t want to see him wimpering and licking his crotch in the corner! Not cool!