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Music / Alanis Morissette

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I'm sad, but I'm laughing
I'm brave, but I'm chicken shit
I'm sick, but I'm pretty, baby
And what it all boils down to
Is that no one's really got it figured out just yet
'Cause I've got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is playin' a piano
"Hand In My Pocket"

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 teen dance-pop songs. She gained international fame with the New Sound Album Jagged Little Pill and its follow-up Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, which introduced her Signature Style of catchy pop-rock combined with Motor Mouthy, really wordy introspective lyrics. Her most famous songs include "You Oughta Know", "Ironic" (which is about things the protagonist sees as "ironic") and "Head Over Feet" (which is credited with coining the term "friend with benefits").

She has had turns as an actress, for example she portrayed God in Dogma.


  • 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.
  • Better Partner Assertion: Implied in her song "You Oughta Know". She compares herself favorably to her ex's new flame and tries to make him regret his decision by e.g. asking if the new girl would go down on him in a theater like she did.
  • Bowdlerise:
    • "You Oughta Know" would remove the word "fuck" in radio edits. In Rock Band 2, the solution they came up with was echoing the "you" before the F-bomb while muting it.
    • 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". "Hands Clean" is disguised as this, but in actuality is a stealth confession of sexual abuse by her producer.
    • 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.
  • The Cover Changes the Gender: When Alanis performed "King of Pain" - a cover of the song by The Police - for her MTV Unplugged album, it was changed to "Queen of Pain".
  • 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.
  • Genre Mashup: 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.
  • Godiva Hair: The music video of "Thank U".
  • In the Style of: In the late-2000s, she recorded a joke cover of The Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps" as a slow ballad.
  • Irony: Some teachers have tried to use "Ironic" in an attempt to teach a class of kids the meaning of "irony" — even though Alanis has claimed the song is about misunderstanding the term as being a synonym for "coincidental", "unlikely", or "unfortunate". Some of them do actually fit ("rain on your wedding day", at least from the perspective of the bride), and most of them can feel ironic to the person it happens to, 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.
  • 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...
  • 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?