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Music / Alanis Morissette

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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

Alanis Nadine Morissette (born June 1, 1974 in Ottawa, Ontario) is a Canadian singer-songwriter and the winner of seven Grammy awards. She began her path to fame by being a cast member on the Canadian kids' sketch show You Can't Do That on Television, and then going to New York City to compete in Star Search. Her first two albums consisted of poorly produced dance-pop with uninspired lyrics. She was the opening act for Vanilla Ice, too. She gained international fame with the New Sound Album Jagged Little Pill and its follow-up Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, which were considered improvements over her previous material and introduced her Signature Style of catchy pop-rock combined with Motor Mouthy, really wordy introspective lyrics.

She also invented (for her song "Head Over Feet") the term for a sexual relationship that is either an upgrade to a more committed relationship from a one-night-stand or a downgrade from boyfriend/girlfriend to "friend with benefits."


She portrayed God in Dogma.

Also, she doesn't understand the meaning of the word "ironic." Even if irony was simply any "amusing coincidence" (which is overly generous), most of the lines in the song are not - each one is either tragic, annoying, or inconvenient, but not ironic. The Irish comedian Ed Byrne did once describe some qualifiers which would MAKE certain lines ironic (such as the line about rain on your wedding day — ironic if you're marrying a weatherman and he set the date). As American comedian George Carlin put this in one of his books:

"If a diabetic, on his way to buy insulin, is hit and killed by a truck, that is an accident. If the truck was carrying sugar, then he is the victim of an oddly poetic coincidence. But if the truck that hit him was carrying insulin, then he is the victim of irony."

The real irony, of course, is that none of the situations in the song are actually ironic.note  Which would mean that the song was about irony after all.

Or at least, until she released a piano-ballad cover of The Black Eyed Peas song "My Humps", thus proving once and for all that she did understand it.


  • Alanis (1991)
  • Now Is the Time (1992)
  • Jagged Little Pill (1995)
  • Space Cakes (1995) (an acoustic EP released only in Japan)
  • The Singles Box (1997) (a box set released only in Australia containing five Jagged Little Pill singles and a bunch of live tracks)
  • Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (1998)
  • Alanis Unplugged (1999) (a live album recorded from Alanis' appearance on MTV Unplugged)
  • Under Rug Swept (2002)
  • Feast on Scraps (2002) (a combined CD/DVD release; the CD has nine previously unreleased songs that didn't make her other albums, and the DVD was filmed at a concert in Rotterdam)
  • So-Called Chaos (2004)
  • Jagged Little Pill Acoustic (2005) (an acoustic remake of Jagged Little Pill)
  • Alanis Morissette: The Collection (2005)
  • Flavors of Entanglement (2008)
  • Havoc and Bright Lights (2012)
  • Such Pretty Forks in the Road (2020)

Also worth mentioning is "Uninvited," one of the major singles from the soundtrack of the film City of Angels. It was a non-album single, but appeared on her Greatest Hits compilation The Collection. A demo also appeared on some special editions of Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie and some of its singles.

"You Oughta Know" is featured in Rock Band 2, with "Ironic" and "Head Over Feet" available as DLC. All songs are on the old platform (guitar, bass, pro drums, one vocal part).

Tropes related to the singer:

  • Abusive Parents: "Perfect" is about parents who live vicariously through their kids and humiliate and berate them for not meeting expectations.
    We love you just the way you are / If you're perfect
  • AcCENT upon the Wrong SylLABle:
    • "Uninvited" does this quite a few times. "I am flattered by your fascination with me"... "an unfortunate slight"... "must be somewhat heartening"...
    • She does it in "Everything" as well: "I am the wisEST woMAN you've ever met...I am the kindEST soul with whom you've CONnected..."
    • It might be easier to just list the songs in which Alanis does NOT do this.
  • Adaptive Ability: The entire point of "You Learn" seems to be that whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.
  • Album Title Drop:
    • "You Learn" has "Swallow it down (what a Jagged Little Pill!)".
    • "So Pure" goes "So pure such an expression, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie".
    • "Hands Clean" features "What part of our history's reinvented and Under Rug Swept?"
    • And finally, "Moratorium"'s line "I do need a breather from the Flavors of Entanglement".
    • Havoc and Bright Lights gets half of its title from the song "Havoc", and the other half from a line in "Celebrity".
  • Award-Bait Song: "Wunderkind" from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and "I Remain" from Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
  • Back to Front: "Eight Easy Steps" is basically a review of all of her music videos up to that point, in reverse order. Including those from the first two albums.
  • Bowdlerise: "You Oughta Know" is a classic case of Bowdlerization not working. The song was very popular among teens, but of course, there's an F-bomb in it. At school dances and similar functions, the radio edit version would play where the offending word was simply muted. So what would happen when that spot in the song came up? Everyone in the room would shout out the offending word at the muted point.
    • To be fair, most radio stations played it such that it went, "When you ffffff- her." Which actually sounded good too.
      • In Rock Band 2, the solution they came up with was echoing the "you" before the F-bomb while muting it. Not that players cannot sing "fuck" (since there's technically no lyrics in that space, there's also no penalty).
    • The radio edit of "Everything" also changed the word "asshole" to "nightmare" in the first line of the song.
  • Break-Up Song: "You Oughta Know" is the most famous one, but there's also "Are You Still Mad" and "Hands Clean".
    • Breakup songs comprise a good chunk of Flavors of Entanglement, the album written in the aftermath of her split from Ryan Reynolds.
  • Canada, Eh?
  • Catholic School Girls Rule: "Forgiven"
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Zig-zagged. Her harshest and angriest material came in the mid-to-late 90s, at the peak of her popularity. She's mellowed a bit since then.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: "Sandbox Love" has the f-word sung three times in each chorus of the song.
  • Continuity Cavalcade: The video for "Eight Easy Steps" is made up of clips from all of Alanis's other music videos... including a few from her teenybopper phase... and a clip from You Can't Do That on Television... and some home videos of Alanis as a little kid.
  • Crosscast Role: "A Man" is sung from the point of view of, well, a man. It's basically a defense against Straw Feminist stereotypes (and perhaps a reminder that Alanis is not one of these).
  • Denser and Wackier: Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. 17 songs, 70 minutes, stylistically all over the map. Musical genius.
  • Driven to Suicide: In "Joining You", Alanis is called upon to talk a friend out of this. Her approach is basically to demonstrate that You Are Not Alone.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Her early career as the Canadian Debbie Gibson.
  • '80s Hair: Her early career as the Canadian Debbie Gibson. Perhaps even more so on You Can't Do That on Television, on which she sported hairstyles that made her look much older than her 11 or 12 years.
  • Friends with Benefits: "Head Over Feet" is the Trope Namer.
  • Godiva Hair: The music video of "Thank U".
  • In the Style of...: The Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps" as a slow ballad.
  • Irony: It is extremely amusing (that is to say, annoying) when a teacher tries to use her below-mentioned song in an attempt to teach a class of kids the meaning of "irony". By having them listen to a song that uses "ironic" as a synonym for "coincidental", "unlikely", or "unfortunate" — it isn't. Some of them do actually fit ("rain on your wedding day", at least from the perspective of the bride), but most of them don't. This leads to some very frustrated high-schoolers who are confused in their upper-level Lang courses when they don't understand irony properly. Granted, having a song about a number of unironic things and then naming that song "Ironic" is an example of irony.
    • These days, when she sings "Ironic" live, she changes a line to "It's meeting the man of my dreams, then meeting his beautiful Husband"... which, is kinda... ironic?
  • Isn't It Ironic?: The Trope Namer, though not an example.
  • "I Want" Song: "All I Really Want" and "21 Things I Want in a Lover".
  • Lighter and Softer: She's slowly gravitated in this direction from Under Rug Swept onward. Especially noticeable on Havoc and Bright Lights, her first album released after getting married and having a baby.
    • The acoustic remake of Jagged Little Pill for its tenth anniversary is a very obvious example of this. The lyrics are (mostly) the same, but the harsh guitars and acidic beats are entirely absent, and the vocals as a whole are a lot less shrill than they were on the original.
  • List Song: Alanis is practically the patron saint of these.
  • Ludicrous Precision: "This Grudge". She knows the exact length of time, to the second, that she's held a grudge against someone. Justified in that the point is to illustrate that she thinks about it way too much and needs to let it go.
  • Mood Whiplash: Jagged Little Pill can induce this, as the themes and moods shift drastically from song to song.
    • Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie makes the whiplash on Pill seem like child's play.
  • Motor Mouth: She has this obsession with fitting as many syllables as possible into a line...
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Starting with Junkie, Alanis incorporated electronic and world influences into her music. Which is not to say Jagged Little Pill wasn't already pretty genre-fusiony, with its combination of lots of drumloops and electronics filched from Beck with Post-Grunge guitars.
  • Never Heard That One Before: She has said that one of the most common things she hears from her fans is how "Isn't It Ironic" doesn't have any examples of Irony.
  • New Sound Album: Both Jagged Little Pill and Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie; the latter was an even larger departure.
  • Pass the Popcorn: "Front Row" makes a reference to this in the song's chorus:
    "I'm in the front row/the front row/with popcorn/I get to see you see you close up."
  • Pie in the Face: The "You Learn" music video features her getting into a pie fight. Also, in one episode of You Can't Do That on Television a decade earlier.
  • Place Worse Than Death: "Front Row" (the first song from Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie:
    We said let's name thirty good reasons/why we shouldn't be together/I started by saying things like "You smoke" and "You live in New Jersey"
  • Poe's Law: "Doth I Protest Too Much" and especially "Spineless". (The tone of both songs is sincere enough that it's easy to miss the irony.)
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • "You Oughta Know." Although the song has a number of sex references, none are as blatant as the line "Are you thinking of me when you fuck her?"
    • "Straitjacket" drops one right before the chorus: "I don't know who you're talking to with such fucking disrespect."
    • "Hand In My Pocket" has: "I'm brave but I'm chicken-shit."
  • Religion Rant Song: "Baba".
    • "Forgiven" from Jagged Little Pill, where Alanis slags off her Catholic upbringing pretty thoroughly.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Just look at that page picture!
  • Split Screen: Done in the video for "Precious Illusions". One side is how Alanis imagines the situation playing out with the man of her dreams, the other side is reality.
  • Stage Mom: "Perfect", while not directly using the trope, describes the overbearing attitude and unrealistic expectations that many such mothers seem to have.
  • Stalker with a Crush: "Your House", the Hidden Track at the end of Jagged Little Pill. It's a song about sneaking into her ex-boyfriend's house and smelling his clothes. And now you know why men get scared when they hear Alanis' voice or find out that their girlfriends listen to her music.
  • Strange-Syntax Speaker: Sing like Yoda she will if better rhyme make it does.
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: Alanis, in a show of support, altered the lyrics of her song "Ironic" to:
    It's like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife,
    It's like meeting the man of my dreams... and meeting his beautiful ''husband''
    • What would be rhyming couplets in the chorus for "Hand In My Pocket" are instead jumbled so that the second line from couplet A is instead the second line in couplet B, and so forth.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: "Doth I Protest Too Much". The entire song is a series of these - Alanis keeps insisting she's not jealous when her guy looks at other women and that she doesn't miss him after the relationship ends, but the fact that she keeps going into detail about it makes it seem quite the opposite.
  • Surreal Music Video: "You Learn".
  • Take That!: A rather brave one in "Right Through You", considering that it was released on Jagged Little Pill and thus released before she knew she'd be a runaway success.
    "Now that I'm Miss Thang/Now that I'm a zillionaire/You scan the credits for your name/And wonder why it's not there."
  • Teen Idol: (Where did you get that idea?)
  • Unplugged Version: Jagged Little Pill Acoustic
  • Utopia: Alanis's personal vision of this is described in the song of the same name.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: It might be due to the fact that Alanis got pigeonholed early on due to the majority of Jagged Little Pill being angry and/or cynical, but it can be surprising enough to hear a thoroughly positive song from her that it's easy for something like "Utopia", "Citizen of the Planet", "In Praise of the Vulnerable Man", "Win and Win", etc. to feel like this trope.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: The song titles "Thank U" and "UR".
  • Word Salad Lyrics: While there might be a meaning behind it, "Thank U" has verses that qualify in this trope:
    How 'bout gettin' off of these antibiotics?
    How 'bout stoppin' eatin' when I'm full up?
    How 'bout them transparent danglin' carrots?
    How 'bout that ever-elusive kudo?
    • The line about 'transparent dangling carrots' is often cited as Word Salad, but does make sense. 'Dangling carrots' is a phrase meaning bribing somebody (like when you hang a carrot in front of a horse to make it trot after it, you know?), and 'transparent' means it's obvious to her they are trying to do this. Therefore, the line means 'Why do you think you can save a failing relationship by buying me things?'.


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