Alanis humps

Okay, I got no idea what Alanis Morissette is up to here. If she were an artist I have some respect for, I might buy that she’s offering a sobering feminist critique of the role women in popular play culture play in their own objectification. That’s certainly in line with what seems to be the consensus take, everywhere from the Ottawa Citizen to Feministe.

And the song here – well, without the video that kind of conclusion makes sense, maybe.

But the video sells that out, doesn’t it? The video – being officially billed as an April Fool’s gag – is a goof from top to bottom. So if I assume that Alanis knows what she’s doing – an assumption I never make in reality – then I have to conclude that she’s pulling some sort of double-reverse self-reflexive postmodernist undercutting of her own overly serious image, right? You know – I have fun, too, wink wink?

However, what I usually assume, based on the available evidence, is that Alanis is little more than the template for Avril Lavigne. “Angry feminist angst-rocker” is the image the label came up with that would sell records. You know, after a couple whacks at “dance diva” failed to pay off their investment.

If I take that as my starting point, then what seems to make sense is that somebody said “hey A, wouldn’t it be hysterical if you did, like, a Tori Amos hate/torch rip on ‘My Humps.’ Yeah, that would be really funny. And we could do a video and put it on YouTube and then pretend to play it off. That would be, like, viral and stuff.”

Penetrating artistry or shrewd marketeering? Stay tuned. But when they try and tell you that Morissette is the lone wolf of real feminism howling in a wilderness of product, just remember something. If you manage to lay your hands on one of her first two records (no, Virginia, Jagged Little Pill wasn’t her debut, and shame on All Music Guide for pretending otherwise) her management will send a couple of large lawyers in a black car to break your legs.

Isn’t that ironic?



9 thoughts on “Alanis humps

  1. Heh. Funny you mention all of the marketing crapola.
    When Jagged Little Pill came out, I thought, “Oh cool! A female singer who writes songs in which a woman reacts like a human being, not like a barbiedoll.” And yet everyone took one song from that album and projected this whole, “angry feminista chick,” schtick onto Alanis Morissette.
    Really, I look at one or two other songs on that album, like “Ironic,” (or whatever the title is), as holdovers from her previous pop-teen-divaette-corporate-tool albums. I can envision the suits leaning on Ms. Morissette to add something less “angry feminist” and more “sellable” to Jagged Little Pill.
    I think the best thing for Alanis or any other artist to do is write the songs she wants to, not the ones the record mafia companies tell her to.
    And one last thought for ya, Sam: When a man writes songs about what he’s really thinking and feeling, he’s called, “Deep,” or “Philosophical.” When a woman does the same, she’s called a Bitch.

  2. What’s it called when a woman sings songs that are about deep philosophical woman’s issues that are written for her by a man working for the label?

  3. Yet, in one of the other places you link to, there’s a comment from someone who’s buddy was in the video, and says that Alanis shot this in her own home for $2K. Doesn’t sound like it was written by a man working for the label to me.
    Also … and my memory might be flakey here … I recall interviews with Ms. Morissette in which she states that she got tired of being a label’s barbiedoll and started writing songs she wanted to sing, which is what turned into, Jagged Little Pill.
    But I only raised the “strong man == Good” “strong woman == Bitch” double-standard because it popped into my head as a tangential topic. My main beef is with the weird-ass “image” people project onto Alanis.
    Back in grad school, I was hangin’ out with a guy who was very into Jagged Little Pill. See, we gay men have always been drawn to the “strong women” in song & stage, because for a long time, they were the only role models we had. They become our “divas.” Anyway, one of the songs on Jagged Little Pill that by buddy played for me is the “prelude” for, You Oughtta Know (even though it comes later in the album). It’s starts out as very romantic, sung from the perspective of a woman very much in love … who discovers evidence that her guy is cheating on her near the end of the song. It ends with her heartbroken, torn apart, crushed.
    At the time, we thought these two songs summed up why Alanis had such gay appeal. You Oughtta Know is how jilted guys are supposed to act: angry. That second song (whose title I can’t recall) is how jilted women are supposed to react: weepy and heartbroken. We fags walk a line between the two, we thought, which is why both songs spoke to us.
    Now, I see that it’s not about how men/women are “supposed” to act or feel. It’s about human feelings and human emotions. Witness country-music songs from about the same time wherein the guy feels heartbroken. So, I think Alanis sold because so many women heard, You Oughtta Know, and thought, “Waaaaaaitaminnit?!? You mean I’m not the only woman who’s felt that way? You mean it’s okay that I’m pissed at what that skany boislut did to me?”
    So, her album sold. Of course, the labels just saw an Image they could sell, a Cash Cow they could milk until the teats bled. Is that really her fault? Or any artists?
    How does an artist stay true to him/herself when one’s work becomes popular and/or starts making money?

  4. 1: Alanis didn’t write “My Humps.” And I don’t know that she arranged it.
    2: Alanis said she wrote those songs. Avril Lavigne says she writes hers, too, except we KNOW that she’s been “helped” by people like The Matrix. Just because it has her name on it doesn’t mean that she wrote it – she could have bought the right to put her name on it. Happens all the time.
    Can’t say that she DIDN’T write those songs – stuff like “Ironic” is certainly vapid enough. But growing up Southern I had all kinds of opportunities to see scoundrels find Jesus. Her discovery of credibility doesn’t compel me.

  5. Understood.
    (BTW – I realized all along that she didn’t write, “My Humps.” Give me some credit. ^_^)
    And, I respect your point of view and where you’re coming from. We were roommates, after all, so I do understand your perspective on artists and the music industry.
    I just disagree with you here.
    Her discovery of credibility doesn’t compel me. I guess I didn’t make myself clear. The interviews with Alanis that I was describing in my earlier comment? They were from 10+ years ago. And they did ask her about her earlier albums, and the gap between them and Jagged Little Pill
    I could be wrong. My memory could be flakey. Maybe Alanis is a fake and total sellout. Or maybe she’s another Nina Hagen and defies categorization.
    You wanna convince me to the latter? Well Sam, remember what my PhD is in — show me the data. ^_^

  6. (BTW – I realized all along that she didn’t write, “My Humps.” Give me some credit. ^_^)


    I guess I didn’t make myself clear. The interviews with Alanis that I was describing in my earlier comment? They were from 10+ years ago. And they did ask her about her earlier albums, and the gap between them and Jagged Little Pill

    No, I got that. I’m saying that this is exactly the answer she’s going to give whether it’s true or a put-up job. I’ve read that twit Lavigne talking about her songwriting process, too. She’s so earnest I wonder if they actually convinced her that she DID writer “Sk8r Boi.”

    You wanna convince me to the latter? Well Sam, remember what my PhD is in — show me the data. ^_^

    You know me, dude – this is a faith-based op.
    No, I can’t PROVE any of this, and I’ve said so. All you can do here, in cases where the data has been litigated into non-existence – is to make informed analyses based on your experience. The thing is, even if I give AM credit for writing everything attributed to her, she’s still useless, for reasons noted earlier.

  7. So, having understood your perspective and accepting that it’s different than mine, can we dscuss some of the other points I raised? I’m curious to hear your sage perspective on two things:

    The male/strong-female double-standard
    The challenge of artists vis-a-vis creative integrity in the face of “success”.


  8. 1. The male/strong-female double-standard

    I kinda hate what has happened here. Once upon a time a woman observed that there’s a double standard – a man does it and he’s assertive, but a woman does it and she’s a bitch. Overnight this became an article of unquestioned fact.
    The problem is that while I think it’s certainly true in cases, I simply don’t see this as the rule it’s taken for. There’s no question that men and women play by different rules (although if you want to argue that those differences always disadvantage women I’m more than ready to challenge that one, too – usually, probably, but always? Nuh-uh…) But I really don’t think I buy the idea that boys get a pass for things women get smacked down for.
    I’ve worked in corp environments, agency, academic, consulting, etc. I know a bit about a variety of other industries, including music and media. And by the way, I just know a lot of people. And when I start thinking about the legendary asshole stories – people who needed killing, people whose attitudes ruined every organization they walked into, people with out-of-control egos, etc. – honestly, most of them are men.
    Take music. I have been told by those who have worked with her on shows that Tori Amos is … difficult. But on a scale of 1-10, it sounds like she’s maybe a 7, and given what we know about her, that’s actually about what you’d expect. And by rock star standards, it’s hardly out of line. And I’ve heard negative comments about other female performers, as well. But I’ve never heard any suggestion that any woman is even playing in the same league as male performers like Evan Dando and the late Shannon Hoon (who apparently deserved to have his ass kicked at least three or four times a day).
    So I guess I’d say be careful with this motif. There’s undoubtedly a measure of truth in it, but it’s not something I think you want to overgeneralize.

    2. The challenge of artists vis-a-vis creative integrity in the face of “success”.

    Well, it’s probably too late if you wait until you’re enjoying success. If you’re like a lot of artists, you signed away your soul in order to get a shot at success. But that, too, is one you don’t want to take as an absolute. A successful artist calls a lot of his/her shots.
    I think there are moments where the artist has to decide. X will sell more records and make more money. Y is something that, all other things being equal, I’d rather do and that I’d feel better about. What choice gets made?
    Can you act on your integrity is rarely the question. Do you have the will to do it – that’s the issue. And you don’t have to be a rock star to face that kind of choice, either.

  9. Sometimes Lefsetz is on the money and sometimes he’s off his rocker. Yeah, this is an interesting analysis and all, but none of it really addresses my thing about her fundamental lack of cred.
    But hey, I never forgive musicians for the sell-out, so what do I know?

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