Alanis Morissette - Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie

Alanis Morissette
Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie

(Maverick)

First Appeared at The Music Box, January 2000, Volume 7, #1

Written by Michael Karpinski

gif

Apparently, Alanis Morissette's jagged little pill habit has gotten tragically out of hand. Sad to say, but in the three brief years separating freshman effort from sophomore offering^, she has become a junkie. A "supposed former infatuation junkie," to be exact, an album title so god-awful pretentious even Prince/The Artist/Inexplicable Symbol would feel compelled to cringe. Fiona Apple: blanch. Garth Brooks: blush.

[^Actually, more accurately, her "junior and senior theses," as they were, in fact, preceded by Alanis' early excursions into Debbie Gibson/Tiffany territory — 1991's Alanis and 1992's equally-cheesy Now Is the Time.]

Of course, 1995's Jagged Little Pill was no run-of-the-mill "freshman" effort. It was, unquestionably, a genuine, head-over-feet, fairy-tale phenomenon — propelled, in no small measure, by its two most successful singles: the ironically non-ironical Ironic and the fellatio-emblazoned You Oughta Know (the latter no doubt destined to be resuscitated by Monica Lewinsky when she embarks upon her inevitable 15-minute foray into Vegas cabaret). History records the rest: Grammys and Junos were bestowed by the boatload, and a steady stream of carnivorous imitators — piranha flocking to the freighter's wake — was illegitimately spawned: Meredith Brooks' gaudily autobiographical Bitch...Heather Nova's Novocaine numbness...Jewel's puerile poetry...Natalie Imbruglia's putrid mewlings....

Alanis, you have much for which to answer.

For example: this charming little chestnut, prematurely pried from its time-capsule:

You live; you learn
You love; you learn
You cry; you learn
You lose; you learn
You bleed; you learn
You scream; you learn

Wisdom worthy of Wilde, to be sure (or, at least: Sheryl Crow). But, miracle of miracles, on Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, Morissette manages to ratchet up this vapid, fill-in-duh-blank, Chicken Soup for the Stupid banality to truly Himalayan heights. Offered for your consideration:

Exhibit A: Ubiquitous single Thank U with its:

Verse:

How ‘bout: [insert insensate phrase here]
How ‘bout: ______________________
How ‘bout: ______________________

Chorus:

Thank you: ______________________
Thank you: ______________________
Thank you: ______________________

Exhibit B: Are You Still Mad and its maddeningly invariant invective:

Are you still mad that: ______________________

Exhibit C: The giddily ambitious Sympathetic Character^^:

Verse:

I was afraid of: ______________________

Chorus:

You were my: ______________________

Coda:

And therein lay: ______________________

[^^Trust us: Other such exhibits exist in abundance on Junkie, but we've neither the space nor the stomach to cite them.]

In a predictable, "admirably" pragmatic bid to ensure that multi-platinum lightning strikes twice, Ms. Marionette (er...Morissette) once again enlists the slick production/songwriting assistance of Überguru/Geppetto Glen Ballard (erstwhile expander of the musical canon through his earth-shattering collaborations with Wilson Phillips, Paula Abdul, and David Hasselhoff). Using its predecessor as template, Junkie's formula is a familiar one: faux-funky confessionals built upon bland, drum machine-driven rhythms (hip-hop as emasculated by Muzak) and Led Zepplin-esque strings, storm, and stress. Which is not to say that progress has not been made, as Alanis expands upon her ersatz Rolling Stones harmonica stylings by tooting her own flute at the end of the mantra-swamped That I Would Be Good (uncannily apt theme music for Saturday Night Live's self-esteem-challenged Stuart Smalley).

Unfortunately, Junkie does nothing to expand upon Morissette's limited vocal palette. Once again, the listener is assailed with the "hysterical howl"...the "woeful wail"... the "bitter whine"...the "grrrlish growl." Regardless of the method, mode, or manner of her approach — mawkishly cataloguing her cache of unmailed melanchondria (Unsent); creepily channeling June Cleaver-on- Kahlúa-and-Quaaludes (Heart of the House); or unsuccessfully aborting the world's most mortifyingly inept string section (Your Congratulations) — Morissette's song remains, infuriatingly, the same.

Somewhat less ineffective in their deifications of déjà vu are second single Joining You (with its guitar-stab accents and Jagged-ly double-tracked chorus), One (its soothing, generic groove climaxing with Alanis indulging in hand-in-her-pocket, four-cornered orgasm), and the strings-and-synthesizer sinister I Was Hoping. But these infrequent, cubic zirconian glints of inspiration are diminished at every turn — every breathless, stuttering stanza — by Morissette's insipidly repetitious, absurdly over-syllabic soliloquies. These truths we hold self-evident: White men can't jump; Alanis can't rap.

It's ironic (don't you think?): For all her exalted status as takes-no-shit/takes-no- prisoners patron saint to the gender femme — whether she's "fearlessly" flaunting her physiognomy and physique on MTV or metaphorically FedExing anthrax valentines to every Tom, Dick, and Bill Clinton who's ever dissed her — Morissette's inability to exhibit even the most infinitesimal evidence of artistic ambition on her latest opus effectively pegs her a poseur; a paper tigress possessing all the street-cred cachet of a temporary tattoo. Unlike her trail-blazing Maverick label-matron Madonna, who has never hesitated to accept the Truth-or-Dare-to-the-death, Russian roulette risks that inevitably accompany the embracing of change, Alanis has opted to play it safe. Her pills are placebos. Her bullets are blanks. star ½

Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!

gif

Ratings

1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!

gif

Copyright © 1999 The Music Box