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Alanis Morissette is Ironic

If you’re not old enough to remember Alanis Morissette at the height of her career as a pop star, I hate you.  And seriously, what are you doing on the internet without your parents’ permission?  Anyway, just to clarify, Alanis Morissette was a big deal back in the 1990s.  In the early 90s, she had this Tiffany-esque thing going (You don’t know who Tiffany was?  1980s pop star, sings at the mall, you know, Tiffany!  No?  Ugh, I hate you.) and was fairly unknown outside of Canada, but then she met producer Glen Ballard, and as with everything he touches, Alanis turned to gold… unless you’re like me and not a big fan of his pop sensibilities, but whatever.  In any case, they wrote her next album, Jagged Little Pill together and away she went.  The album’s first single, “You Oughta Know,” blew up after an influential Los Angeles DJ started running it into the ground, and the video got everybody’s attention right away.


Alanis:  Will she go down on you in a theater?
Me:  Why a theater?  Can’t we get it done before or after the show?
If you’re like me, you don’t like to be interrupted while you’re watching a movie – especially in a theater.

Anyway, Alanis got our attention when she started singing about performing fellatio at the cinema, and her follow-up singles continued to beat us into Alanis-submission, including “Hand In My Pocket,” “Head Over Feet,” “You’ll Learn,” and “Ironic.”  Before you know it, Jagged Little Pill was the most overplayed album since Nevermind (You know, Nirvana!  You can’t pretend you don’t know who Nirvana is because radio stations are still running this album into the ground – take that, kids!), and I often wondered if even Alanis was sick of it.  She’s still recording – in April  of 2010, Alanis released the song “I Remain,” which she wrote for The Price Of Persia:  The Sands of Time soundtrack…  and everybody liked that movie for not being racist, right?  Then in May, she performed, “You Oughta Know” with the American Idol runner-up, Crystal Bowersox… so that’s… you know…  uhm, she’s doing… uhm… good.

Years later, Alanis and I had a series of conversations concerning a number of different topics, some of which we have compiled into a book.  Today, I’d like to share an excerpt with you from one of the chapters that covers a conversation we had about grammar.

“It’s like raaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiaaaaaaaaaaaaaan.” ~NY Times

ME:  Real quick, just to get this out-of-the-way – you’re vegan, right?

ALANIS:  Yes, I am.

ME:  Awesome.  I just want to be clear that being vegan automatically makes you awesome, no matter where we go from here.  But let’s get the interview started.  Would it be OK if we talked about “Ironic” today?

ALANIS:  Sure – how ironic that you’d want to talk about that song!

ME:  Ha!  You’re way ahead of me…  Let’s take a look at the lyrics.

An old man turned ninety-eight
He won the lottery and died the next day
It’s a black fly in your Chardonnay
It’s a death row pardon two minutes too late
And isn’t it ironic… don’t you think

It’s like rain on your wedding day
It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid
It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take
Who would’ve thought… it figures

Mr. Play It Safe was afraid to fly
He packed his suitcase and kissed his kids goodbye
He waited his whole damn life to take that flight
And as the plane crashed down he thought
“Well isn’t this nice…”
And isn’t it ironic… don’t you think

It’s like rain on your wedding day
It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid
It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take
Who would’ve thought… it figures

Well life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
When you think everything’s okay and everything’s going right
And life has a funny way of helping you out when
You think everything’s gone wrong and everything blows up
In your face

A traffic jam when you’re already late
A no-smoking sign on your cigarette break
It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife
It’s meeting the man of my dreams
And then meeting his beautiful wife
And isn’t it ironic…don’t you think
A little too ironic…and, yeah, I really do think…

It’s like rain on your wedding day
It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid
It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take
Who would’ve thought… it figures

Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
Life has a funny, funny way of helping you out
Helping you out

ME:  And, if we could just take a quick look at the definition of irony…  The good people at Merriam-Webster define irony as -

ALANIS:  A comparison using ‘like’ or ‘as!’

ME:  That’s a simile.

ALANIS:  Oh.

ME:  Merriam-Webster define irony as “a pretense of ignorance and of willingness to learn from another assumed in order to make the other’s false conceptions conspicuous by adroit questioning.”

ALANIS:  Say what now?

ME:  Fair enough, that’s a bit long-winded – lets just say that irony is when you get the exact opposite of what was intended… let’s say you build a wall to protect your house from being destroyed by whatever, but then the wall falls down because you did a shoddy job of building it and destroys your house anyway – that’s ironic.

ALANIS:  I’m with you.

ME:  Great!  So please explain why the following is ironic:  An old man turned ninety-eight/He won the lottery and died the next day

ALANIS:  Because he was old and as soon as he got money, he died.

ME:  Right, more situational irony… but the problem is, I don’t have enough information about the old man to know if the situation is ironic or not.

ALANIS:  What more do you need?  He’s old, got money and immediately died.  That’s ironic.

ME:  No, that sucks, it’s not ironic.  Now if he was an old man who was poor his whole live, played the lottery everyday of his adult life and always wanted to be rich – if he  turned ninety-eight, won the lottery and died the next day, that would be ironic.

ALANIS:  That doesn’t rhyme with ‘Chardonnay.’

ME:  I guess it doesn’t.  And about that:  It’s a black fly in your Chardonnay/It’s a death row pardon two minutes too late – how are either of those things ironic?  And do flies come in other colors besides black?

ALANIS:  The fly ruined the expensive drink – and if the guy on death row doesn’t get pardoned until after he’s executed, that -

ME:  Sucks.  Both of those things suck.  They’re not ironic.

ALANIS:  What about [singing] raaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiaaaaaaaaaaaaaan on your wedding day?

ME:  Hm… that’s actually a tough one.  My off the cuff reaction is to say its not ironic… yeah, I’m sticking with that.  You didn’t provide enough information.  If the ceremony was planned for months to be outside in a beautiful garden and it rained…  no, I think that still just sucks and is not ironic.  Sorry.

ALANIS:  Who would’ve thought?  It figures.

ME:  And what’s the deal with this?  I don’t even know what to make of it.

Mr. Play It Safe was afraid to fly
He packed his suitcase and kissed his kids goodbye
He waited his whole damn life to take that flight
And as the plane crashed down he thought
“Well isn’t this nice…”

ALANIS:  He was always afraid to fly, and when he finally did fly, the plane crashed, but he enjoyed it.  That’s ironic.

ME:  He was killed by his greatest fear… just like Richie Valens.  Hey, did two planes collide over Mr. Play It Safe’s junior high school yard?  That’s why Valens was afraid to fly.  So it’s ironic because he was always afraid to die but when it actually happened, he wasn’t scared at all?

ALANIS:  What you just said.

ME:  Hmm…  I guess I’ll let that one slide, mostly because I have no idea what’s going on.

ALANIS:  [singing It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid/ It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take

ME:  Right, I forgot about the rest of the chorus!  I don’t even know what “a free ride when you’ve already paid” could possibly mean, and I won’t bother guessing now -

ALANIS:  That’s probably for the best.

ME:  But how can “It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take” be ironic?  Isn’t that just a damn shame?  And frankly, I demand an explanation for this last verse – or, at least an apology.

A traffic jam when you’re already late

That sucks, it’s not ironic.

A no-smoking sign on your cigarette break

This is one of your better ones, actually.  Not terrible.

It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife

Again, your situational irony needs context and more details.

It’s meeting the man of my dreams
And then meeting his beautiful wife

Again, that sucks, it’s not ironic!

ALANIS:  Is there any time when a spoon is not ironic?

ME:  Well, maybe that spork thing at Taco Bell and KFC…  And what the hell is happening in this video?  Especially during the chorus – why are all of the yous freaking out?  Why is it ironic that you bought a cloning machine?


ALANIS:  The love scenes in Attack of the Clones are awesome!

ME:  What the hell is wrong with you?

Here’s an excerpt on the chapter from religion:

ME:  So, “One of us” was a big hit for you -

ALANIS:  That wasn’t me.  That song was written by written by Eric Bazilian and released by Joan Osborne.

ME:  Oh.  Did she have a nose ring?

Here’s an excerpt from the chapter on music:

ME:  So why does your music suck so bad, anyway?

ALANIS:  Two words:  Glen Ballard.  Did you ever hear that Dave Matthews Band album, Everyday?

ME:  More like EveryCRAPPYday.

ALANIS:  Exactly.  Ballard has this weird power to create mega hits that have absolutely no staying power whatsoever.

ME:  True that.

So yeah, it’s an interesting book.  We’ll both be signing copies of the book at the Paramus New Jersey Home Depot… because you’d expect a book store… and that’s ironic.  (Alanis’ idea, by the way.)

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About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of CreativeJamie.com and BomberBanter.com

Posted on June 23, 2011, in music reviews, observations and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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