Thursday, March 17, 2016
Artist: Alanis Morissette
Track: “Mary Jane”
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a ’90s Christmas, and I could feel the excitement surge through me as I dug through my stocking and yanked out my very first CD: Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill. It wasn’t long before this excitement was put on hold, however. My parents were a bit overprotective, and as soon as they caught wind of the sexual references and language glittered throughout the album, my new gift vanished before my very eyes like a magic trick.
Jagged Little Pill became a forbidden fruit of sorts to me. Not only was it the first CD I ever laid my hands on, but my parents’ objections only further piqued my interest in the breakthrough album. I found myself sneaking over to my friend’s house to get my Alanis fix, and was always left wanting more. My obsession eventually waned, but to this day Jagged Little Pill remains a nostalgic and satisfying treat.
Fast forward twenty years later, and I’m able to revisit my old favorite with fresh eyes. What I’ve uncovered is both familiar, yet somehow hazy. Perhaps it’s because my younger self would skip over the less instantly gratifying tracks, but several songs on Jagged Little Pill stand out as if I’m hearing them for the very first time. Many of the hits on the album feel designed for radio play, with Morissette’s sarcastic delivery and sing-along choruses refusing to be dismissed. Yet, slow-burner ‘Mary Jane’ utilizes a different method to win you over. With lyrics that are relatable enough to help you through life’s turmoil, Morissette unleashes what could very well be her most poignant performance on the album. There’s something unmistakably sincere about her voice as she inquires “Please be honest Mary Jane, are you happy?” It’s as if she’s singing to the listener, and Mary Jane is simply the insert-your-name-here persona that could very well be each and every one of us. Whether it’s examining one’s happiness, motives behind weight-loss, or the curse of insomnia, the song hits all the right notes on a personal level. The lyrics are depressing, sure, but they’re also a helping hand in hard times; a confident reminder that despite the rough shit life throws our way, we’re not alone.
‘Mary Jane’ is just one example of a handful of tracks on Jagged Little Pill that hold up surprisingly well over two decades later. It’d be all too easy to dismiss Alanis Morissette as just another ‘90s fad, only good for some nostalgic singles – but dig a little deeper and you’ll reveal her lasting talent as a songwriter.