Alanis Morissette: White Woman Needs Stillness

After a year and a half of touring to promote the album Jagged Little Pill (1995), everyone naturally expected Alanis to return to the studio to immediately record the next album. Despite them, she felt she needed time to rest and calm herself after a long time of recording, promoting, and touring.

What needs to be done next? She planned to visit Mother Teresa, who is now in a hospital in India. But first, she should call before coming.

One of the nuns picked up the phone and asked her if she wanted to talk to Mother Teresa. Understanding the feeling of being bothered by others asking to talk to her, how the hell would she refused because she was worried that Mother Teresa had to be very tired. The next morning, Mother Teresa died. People later asked her if she regretted not being able to talk to Mother Teresa. “Not really”—she felt like she was already talking to Mother Teresa.

Perhaps it was because the subsequent trip to India changed her life. The album Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (1998) released after the trip was a proof of that pilgrimage - from the angry white woman, Alanis was more mature and calm in the way she controlled her personality.

Alanis Morissette

Part 1. “Thank you India” - trip to India

Alanis decided to spend her time traveling to new lands where she could have her own privacy and relived her life as a normal human. During that trip, she spent six weeks on a pilgrimage to India with her mother, two aunts and two friends.

That trip marked an important milestone in her life as she explored the lives of Indigenous people in places she had never known before and gained insight into culture, people and religion. She volunteered for charity activities of the Missionaries of Charity founded by Mother Teresa in India. Here she also learned to meditate to balance her mind and spirit. After regaining her peace of mind, her person seemed to be enlightened. And this was where Alanis began to look at herself, and to see everything that came to her in an unprepared way.


Alanis Morissette

Part 2. “Thank you terror” - fear

Success that came early for a young girl like Alanis was like a double-edged sword. Unprepared for her accomplishments within a year and a half of the release of Jagged Little Pill, she began to experience sudden feelings of dread.

It all stems from the pressures of work, and from the unrepeatable success with more than 30 million copies of Jaggaed Little Pill sold. Concerns about what listeners and critics would judge after each release of a song gradually surfaced in Alanis' mind. How many "phenomena" are out there that immediately disappeared after the peak of their career in a short time?

Would she be concerned with what others expect of her, or was Alanis Morissette only at her best when she has done what she herself wanted? The question may not be difficult to answer, but its implementation may require more action than thoughts.

Like when she first started composing and recording for the Jagged Little Pill album with producer Glen Ballard, Alanis herself did not have any great pressure or expectations, and all emotions came naturally to her. She and Glen co-wrote and recorded at the rate of one song per day. Not to mention, the recording was so good that both only needed one or two turns per song at most. Thanked to that, Alanis's voice and emotions were kept as raw and authentic as possible.

Her trip to India inadvertently trained her to accept fear in a different way: Alanis Morissette now no longer has to try to compose music just for the sake of an anxiety that meets listeners' expectations. And when she wants to compose a song, even if it's about fear, it's only until she feels really emotional and in love with it.


Alanis Morissette

Part 3. “Thank you disillusionment” - disillusionment

Prior to the release of Jagged Little Pill, Alanis did not have high expectations. After completing the demo recording, Glen Ballard persistently sent it to each record label. Belief in this talented young lady made Glen willing to meet to convince each agent to sign contracts with them to record and release the album. But Alanis's unusual and strange music made record labels wary. They liked her music, but they did not think that the market would accept it.

Only when he met Guy Oseary, who specialized in finding young talents of Maverick record label, did Alanis have a chance. After only listening to 2 demos, Guy was immediately convinced. Perhaps at the age of 23, same age as Alanis, Guy easily "understood" the music she wanted to convey.

Even so, neither Glen, Guy nor Maverick Records had much expectation with the number of albums sold. They thought that Jagged Little Pill was good at selling a few hundred thousand copies. So when the number of records sold reached 25 million worldwide, the story began to turn into a whole new chapter. A young girl who searched for fame with refreshed image comparing to a pop girl in her former hometown of Canada is now bewildered by the peak, which female artist has ever reached at that time.

For someone who used to crave fame like her, it was ironic that she felt disgusted by the eyes of so many people staring at her everywhere she went.

From a person who only silently observed people around, now she has become the focus of many people. Even with the men she met, do you feel that they look at her not with the respect of a talented artist, but in the end, they just want to "go to bed" with her?

As it turned out, fame did not make her life happier, but on the contrary, it only made her have negative thoughts, even she was looking for a death. Her disillusionment with success and fame taught her a lesson about the price of fame, especially when that price was weighed against the rise from an unknown singer to a world-famous artist, with 5 Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year.

In India, she learned how to balance her life and appreciated taking care of herself. After all, career and work were not everything. The price to pay for fame and change, no matter what, does not have to be drawn from the source of one's own hope.


Alanis Morissette

Part 4. “Thank you frailty” - fragile

When she first met Glen, Alanis was a girl with many confidants. In her early twenties, she was reserved in singing lyrics that expressed her true thoughts. But with Glen's encouragement, her lyrics became more and more powerful and sometimes surprisingly realistic, something that almost no young female artist at the time could do. Although Alanis Morissette was not a pioneer, she was the strongest inspiration for an entire generation of descendants of "angry white" female singers: Michelle Branch, Arvil Lavigne, or even Pink and Katy Perry.

Like in "You Oughta Know" the lyrics were grudges against someone who cheated and treated her harshly. “is she perverted like me / would she go down on you in a theatre,” “it was a slap in the face / how quickly I was replaced / and are you thinking of me when you f*** her” / “every time I scratch my nails down someone else's back / I hope you feel it.”

Or in the song "All I Really Want", Alanis wished to find a soul mate or maybe simply a like-minded heart to share "all I need to know is intellectual intercourse / a soul to dig the hole much deeper.”

Then in the song "Right Through You", Alanis reproached the person who used to belittle and take advantage of her "you took me for a joke / you took me for a child / you took a long hard look at my ass / and then played golf for awhile.”

Even though her songs contained strong words with angry singing, Alanis seemed to be a fragile girl in reality. No matter how angry she was with men, she only dared to express it through songs and she had never mentioned anyone's name.

Not only that, but she also had to deal with the negative comments of the people out there who were always trying to analyze and attack this poor girl. Just like when she released her single "Ironic", people immediately complimented and pointed out that each detail in the song was not as "ironic" as she painted it to be. They laughed at Alanis, and said she was a silly girl for not understanding the meaning of the word.

The good thing was that her fragility could no longer bother her. She appreciated her fragility because it gave her a better sense of her surroundings, and the lyrics were the best outlet for all of those thoughts. Now, as Alanis Morrissette has learned to ignore the comments. And it told herself to take it lightly, musical ideas would once again have their way out without much difficulty.


Alanis Morissette

Part 5. “Thank you consequence” - consequences

In "You Learn", the only song that mentioned the word Jagged Little Pill, a metaphor for a small but choking pill, like the pain of life in situations where you we knew it would happen. However, bitter medicine cured disability, thanked to those mistakes that made us more mature.

After having time to reflect on the things that happened during the trip to India, Alanis seemed to understand an even higher meaning from the songs she wrote herself earlier. It was like coming back from a cycle. And that was what set her apart from other young artists because in Alanis Morrissette's music, the end point of every song or every song cycle opened up a meaningful world and living a more active life. Although the music and vocals were strong and tormented on the surface, Alanis's music was not the angry cursing music that many people thought that she just connected her feelings with the anger inside. So the listeners could understand her since no matter what "You Live, You Learn".

Sowing seeds of hope, and then returning at the end of that cycle after a period of contemplation were the best thing about the artistic experience in general, not just in music.


Alanis Morissette

Part 6. “Thank you silence” - silence

In the song "Thank U", the first single from the album Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (1998) followed by Jagged Little Pill (1995), Alanis’s appearance was shockingly naked in the video clip. This seemingly innocuous video became harmful when it jumped to the top of MTV, causing the channel to have to "censor" different versions, especially for Asian countries. In this clip, she stood nakedly in the middle of a public area right at the subway station, on the subway, right in the middle of the streets of central New York.

As the song "ding" was composed with inspiration from that trip to India, she thanked all the things that happened to her, especially the sad memories. Can you imagine that when the young girl who had previously stood out for singing about ironic and tattered things, complaining and condemning nasty things, now seemed to turn to thank all those things, all those things as if reverberated by her own words.

And there's a reason for it all, and it's that the most important thing Alanis has learned is the stillness she needs most after all this time. The stillness here isn't just about having her own space, but the privacy she needs most of all after satisfying the crowd with the furious music they need.

In the same way that Steven Tyler, singer of Aerosmith, still described his own quiet world when he was in his favorite corner of the woods, where he could hear the melody emerge from the middle of the wind. Sometimes, I often see before my eyes the musical note as if it is swinging through the bar lines. The quiet space is also the place where one can hear what others do NOT SAY, and see things that are NOT VISIBLE. And of course, the stillness I'm talking about here can't come from closing the door all the way to your ears and getting between two pillows.

Alanis Morissette

It was shown quite clearly in the clip of the song "Thank U", with the endless stream of people passing by without anyone looking at or bothering the girl, even though she is naked.

And then sometimes, the time seemed to stand still with the image of some people standing and gently placing their hands on her shoulders.

Or that Alanis Morissette came back to thank and share with us those priceless moments!

Then there was a reason to listen to music and gossip.