Review Summary: This record represents a stage of transience by an artist on an indefinite musical journey, in search of better ways to expressing herself, musically, lyrically: in search of her own niche.4 of 4 thought this review was well written
Alanis Morissette is a pioneer in more ways than one. When Jagged Little Pill
came out, to say that it took the world by storm would be the understatement of the century. This album gave voice to the so-far-silent female angst and spoke to a whole generation of modern women. It gave an already dwelt on story a very fresh perspective; a woman’s perspective. In the wake of this album’s success came an army of female artists, all pouring their hearts out into their music. But her greatness not only lies in being the first but also possibly the best. Not many women, in my knowledge, surpassed her either musically, or success-wise and that remains her greatest legacy.
Despite all the praise I give her for her first album, I’m not a very big fan of it. Maybe that’s because I heard it very late and like many great albums, the praise it gets should be evaluated in the context of the time of its release. Maybe heard at the right time, it’s magic. I don’t know but when I heard it I was actually a little underwhelmed. Sure it was raw, sure it had good songs, but not something worth the amount of hype it got. But again that’s just me.
But the point is that the first album got me interested enough to check out her second offering: this present album – Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie
. The name says it all. In your face music and lyrics – no glossing over the raw emotions with poetic metaphors or some imaginative imagery. And the moment the album is popped in, you realize it’s exactly that.
At 17 songs long, this is a long album. Really long. This is accentuated by the fact that there’s no filler material. All are songs, with radio friendly material, radio friendly lengths, giving the idea that this is very accessible. It is. So was Jagged Little Pill
. But the focus of the predecessor was purely Morissette – her voice, her lyrics, what she wanted to say out loud. While the focus doesn’t shift much here, it shifts enough to give this album way more maturity and more variety.
What do I mean more maturity? Well, for starters, the songwriting has vastly improved here. One must admit that Morissette doesn’t have the best of voices, nor the maximum range in her voice. In fact, during the previous album, in the first few songs, she got very whiny in parts. Here she’s realized what her limitations are and stays within them throughout and so sounds amazing, fitting the music like a glove. Another songwriting aspect that one notices is the lyrics. Here they are more introspective, more personal, more delving inward for answers to her questions. In fact Are You Still Mad
is almost an apologetic song with lyrics like:
Are you still mad that I kept you out of bed
Are you still mad I gave you ultimatums
Are you still mad I compared you to all my 40 year old male friends
Are you still mad I shared our problems with everybody?
Even on the superficial sounding front, she doesn’t try to fit too many syllables in one line everywhere which makes for an overall much better vocal performance.
The second aspect I mentioned was variety. There’s a lot more of mixing things up here. There’s no straight out pop rocker like Hand In My Pocket
. But in its place are carefully crafted songs which are either darker, or softer (for the introspective side), more alternative and sometimes all three. Not to say they aren’t catchy; there’s just a lot of added depth to the songs.
This variety extends especially to genres. The opener of the album Front Row
sounds something straight out of Whoa! Nelly
, fusing elements of hip-hop with straight forward pop backings but alternative sounding vocals. Baba
, on the other hand, is a much darker all-out rocker, with a very catchy opening riff. Then there’s the very Sade
sounding synth-techno track One
. There’s even an oriental percussion based (the tabla here) and very mystic sounding The Couch
. The closest to pop rock on this record derived from the previous album is possibly Thank U
in which she thanks everything from India (!!) to providence to disillusionment.
Another aspect where there is more than a visible variety is in the song dynamics itself. Instrumentations in songs range from very dense like in The Couch
, to very minimalist like in That I Would Be Good
(acoustic guitar) and Are You Still Mad
(single note piano hits like in Uninvited
). A few songs use very rich techno based soundscapes and songs overall convey the mood of the lyrics very emphatically this time around.
The one thing that bothers me everytime I listen to this record is its length. As mentioned before, it’s 17 songs (proper songs) long and therefore becomes too much to take in one sitting. Add to that fact that her strongest album material is in the first half of the record; well, getting through it can get very tiring. In my opinion, this is one of the only weak points of the album. Otherwise its well produced and flows nicely.
Maybe a lot of people may not agree with my opinions – especially the fact that I hardly criticize this album. I could do that. I could write down a list of things that could have been improved on on this album. Rather, my evaluation was only based on a few very simple questions. Did I have fun listening to the record? Yes. The album has very rewarding listens and musical depth ensures that when you come back to it, there’s something there waiting to put a smile on your face everytime. Is this better than the last record? Hell, yes! Showing that, well, she loves her music and evolves her songwriting with her own personal emotional growth. Finally, is it perfect? No. But who cares? Not every record ever made was intended to be a classic or to change your life around. For an artist to release one such record is an achievement in itself and Ms. Morissette already has that.
Do not approach this record as a record by a pioneering artist whose previous record went onto become one of the best records of all time. Rather listen to it as a stage of transience, by an artist on an indefinite musical journey, in search of better ways to expressing herself, musically, lyrically: in search of her own niche