Lindsay Woods: Alanis Morrisette gave confidence to so many questioning teenagers

Recently, an online article featured on Jezebel, entitled, ‘Jagged Little Pill is actually very bad???’ Before I had seen the piece, my inbox began to ‘ping’ with messages asking, ‘Have you seen this?!!’ It was a literal ‘hold my bag’ moment for fans everywhere, compounded by the topic trending on Twitter for an entire day.

The title was in reference to the album of the same name, ‘Jagged Little Pill’, by Alanis Morrisette.

I read cautiously, given the writer’s use of not one, but three question marks in the opening line; maybe she had questioned such initial thoughts and would spend the next few paragraphs outlining why?

Because surely, if she had felt so strongly about her dislike of such a seminal album, she would substantiate such a statement with reasoned debate?

Surely, she would not begin by offering a weak apology thus invalidating any opinion which followed, as the author dragged and slagged and compared the entire album to ‘Baby Shark - for mid-nineties, angsty teenage girls’?

I still remember purchasing the album. I was 13 and returning from a school tour with my class. We had stopped at a shopping centre to stretch our legs and tucked away in the corner was one of those haphazard record shops, most likely called ‘Hot Trax’ or something of a similar ilk.

You know the ones? With the ‘Irish Country Music’ section proudly displayed at the front of the shop alongside the range of tin whistles? Luckily for me, that Aladdin’s cave of music also included the current Top 20.

There it sat in cassette form, its cover artwork a mix of crisp white and moody hues of blues, greens and reds. Getting back on the bus my geography teacher noticed my purchase and asked if I wanted to listen to it.

I had to sit up the front, on the step by the bus driver, as some of the girls were trying to sleep down the back which meant the volume had to be kept low. As the strains of ‘All I Really Want’, kicked into gear, I turned to see my teacher nodding his head in approval.

He let me listen to the album in its entirety and by the time he handed back the cassette and I returned to my seat, my teenage mind was suitably running amuck with notions of picking up an electric guitar and screaming relentlessly into the void, without caring one jot what people thought of same.

Unfortunately, we live in the era of ‘drag and slag’. One in which everyone has an opinion and a platform to voice same, myself included. But drawing a comparison between such a pivotal album as this was and the offering of ‘Baby Shark’ strikes me as odd.

The album was released just a beat before the onslaught of the teen pop era which gave us the likes of Britney Spears et al (no shade Brit Brit, I still have mad love for you!).

I often wonder how the landscape of my teenage years would have looked if the situation had been reversed? Alanis and her work gave confidence and reassurance to so many questioning teenagers. She told us that it was ok to just be; whatever that version of ourselves was.

Therefore, I am willing to give the author the benefit of the doubt purely for the following reason. She acknowledges that Morrissette’s work ‘…channelled all of my simmering rage’, as a teenager. Thus, was her willingness to introduce her toddler to the album, ‘I…was becoming the cliché parent imposing youthful cultural artefacts upon her offspring’. There it was… she is a parent, to a toddler.

If you have run the gauntlet of the toddler years, then you will know the level of exhaustion I speak of. ‘Baby Shark’ et al are veritable ear worms played on repeat therefore skewing your perception of the real world. I’ve been there; albeit the ear worm which I had to contend with was the theme tune to ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’.

Hearing anything outside of the spectrum of cartoons feels alien and inevitably leads you to question why in the name of Sir Topham Hatt you liked it in the first place. As the writer herself states, she is, ‘… in a different era and life phase’.

In years to come, she will, like us all, enter another phase. When the kids go to school and have demanding schedules of after school activities, parties, doctors appointments etc. I hope she will revisit the album and know the sheer joy and release it brings to blast ‘Ironic’ from your car as you drop your children at the school gate and you have some precious time alone. Alanis taught me to scream and for that I am grateful.

@thegirlinthepaper

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