“The Slow Formulation of the Formidable ‘Me’ on Jagged Little Pill.”

Ah, there’s always girlpop. It will tell us men exactly who we are, or who we might as well try to be, if we want to avoid a lot of awkward silences (which condition is kind of a variable on its own, of course). Intimate music with a verse/chorus structure sung by women, and usually produced by men (one notable exception being Grimes, of course) will always occupy that trusty area between not enough truth and too much of it, the type of thing that can go toward grafting “culture,” if you’re not too homophobic, or if you pass it off as some hipster thing.
I was never abashed about liking Alanis Morissette. I was, as they say, “head over feet,” yuk yuk. “Hand in My Pocket” more than did it for me — no one else was saying stuff like that, male or female, even dating back to Motown. Kevin Smith, then, solidified her comic-book-nerd “coolness” by starring her in Dogma, and then featuring her (somewhat horrible) song at the end of the nonetheless jarring Clerks II. Consider all this, and I’m sorry to say this, but cinema offering music a much-needed helping hand, the latter being an industry whose total revenue waned from $14.6 billion in 1999 to $9 billion in 2008. [1] [2] Think about that, that’s against increased population AND inflation — it’s not just like a price-per-unit statistic, which would only involve dollar value and not populace matters. So at some point, any viable “music” has to traceably comment on its own dying condition, and we’ve probably had a lack of this exact technique of artistic efficacy, though we did get that Sufjan Stevens spout-off about how much of a “joke” that album-about-each-U.S.-state appeared to him as in light of how nobody listens to full albums in the mp3 age (looks like this current douche bag vinyl craze hasn’t softened him up on this, either). [3]
Well, as many of us know, the ‘90s were full of the piquant mental fomentation of actually BUYING an entire album, and having no idea if even half of it would be good (there was also the risk that it would be TOO good, would steal our hearts and never give it back, the way Third Eye Blind seemed to do to my sister). Ahem. Yeah, Alanis Morissette scared me. That was one pi**ed-off bit**. I could see why a lot of these songs weren’t on the radio, other than the fact that you usually don’t release 12 singles from one album (I’m surprised nobody ever tried that, by the way)… even scarier than the vivid sexual imagery and blatant profanity in “You Oughta Know” was just the very level of FEELING and CERTAINTY in opener “All I Really Want”: plus she sang like some sy borg coming straight at your jugular! Track three “Perfect” paled in comparison, and indeed sounded like some soft-rock etude when stacked up against those first two veritable juggernauts of emotion, although ultimately “Perfect” has proffered some more than passable lyrics and life images. But then, that’s part of the nature of a well-structured album: you get breaks between the respective climaxes (see you, Grateful Dead – Europe ’72).
Well, here’s one not many people, least of all me, would have mentally toted with them through the 9/11 and the file-sharing years: “Not the Doctor.” Remember, this is the age of CD’s, not tapes: if you wanted to ignore the end of the album, all you had to do was hit stop, and the whole darn thing would start over again the next time you played it. This was only a curse for the feeble-minded, but it probably did at the same time detract somewhat from a track like this which comes on an album just SO rife with classic songs, from the tarot-cards-for-living anthem “You Learn” to, ok, “Ironic,” probably the wrongfully most famous song on the album.
What makes “Not the Doctor” so great? One word. “Me.” And I have a thing for when women say “me.” Something about it just gets me: the female’s use of the accusative form of the first-person noun. It seems so right, like a man saying “I” — the bastion of the ego, the active, nominative. Fiona Apple just came out and said “I’m a frightened fickle person / Fightin’ cryin’ kickin’ cursin’,” and granted, she sounded, and was, pretty ingenious saying that, but Morissette’s technique is even more disarming. Laying down a chorus that’s got more words jammed into it than some Phish songs, she makes the ultimate cry for help — she says “I want INTO those visiting hours, even if I show up an hour and 10 minutes late,” like some pompous wh**e. No, she’s not talking about the same guy she was on “You Oughta Know.” We’ve already had “You Learn,” we know that that situation has been buried in the Serengeti Desert. But here’s the kicker: the “me” is a totally different person on the opener, “What I Really Want.” Interestingly, I just looked and she sparsely utters the term “me” at all throughout the whole of “What I Really Want,” amidst a bevy of “I”’s, and she even identifies with the male “spiritual man.” Think that “woman” is cuddly and cozy when Morissette finally discovers it within her, circa track 11? Heck, just the utterance of that two-letter word is like a chisel on my heart… or, a jagged little pill, to be more specific.
[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2000s_in_the_music_industry
[2] If you want a rubric on how the economy acts on the music industry, just look at the ‘80s: when there were essentially only four pop stars (Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince and Bruce Springsteen), and a record exec. even passed on “Free Fallin’” by Tom Petty (although a musician/producer would later pick it up and jerry-rig it into the biz).
[3] Pointless side note: I just discovered that this ubiquitous thing “Metacritic” on almost every album’s wikipedia page is actually its own website, “metacritic.com,” and its simple m.o. is just compiling every available major review of sundry to-be-listed albums, and creating a composite score for each one. And then, at the end of the given year, they rank them. Nothing could be more objective. Stevens’ Come on Feel the Illinoise edged My Morning Jacket – Z out for #1 in 2005, although I happen to slightly prefer Z.

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