“Ironic” — Alanis Morissette

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Photo by David Brooke Martin on Unsplash

“Ironic”…isn’t it iconic, don’t you think?

25 years after Alanis Morissette released her global best-selling album “Jagged Little Pill” people…by which I mean mostly men…still think it’s funny to comment about the lyrics for “Ironic” containing very few examples of situations which meet the dictionary definition of irony.

Alanis Morissette is going on tour shortly to celebrate the 25th anniversary of “Jagged Little Pill” and saw yet another interview…yes, by a man…on TV the other day in which she was asked about whether she’d worked out what irony really meant in the intervening 25 years.

I must be honest, after 25 years of smart alecs ribbing me about it, I’d probably have done something unspeakable to the interviewer with his own microphone at this point.

However Alanis Morissette is clearly a much nicer person than I am because she just smiled sweetly and said she was grateful for all the attention this debate had sparked over the years, so she didn’t take it too much to heart.

Maybe Alanis Morissette had the last laugh after all. Partly on the strength of the “Ironic” controversy, and partly just because her album is full of great songs, “Jagged Little Pill” went to Number One in album charts around the world.

With worldwide sales approaching 40 million albums, “Jagged Little Pill” has outsold albums like “Sgt Pepper”, Adele’s “21” and Springsteen’s “Born In the USA”.

Isn’t that ironic…

What really troubles me about the people who criticise the lyrics of “Ironic” is that it’s not like pop song lyrics are generally intended to be interpreted literally.

As far as I remember, Lucy in the sky with diamonds wasn’t a real person. Elvis Presley was never in jail, despite him claiming to know Spider Murphy on the tenor saxophone and Little Joe on the slide trombone during their incarceration. And 35 years after REM sang about the end of the world as we know it, the world still seems to be here.

And the lyrics to “Ironic” are perfectly decent lyrics in their own right. Maybe after 25 years it’s time to get off Alanis Morissette’s case…

It’s like rain on your wedding day
It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid
It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take
And who would’ve thought, it figures

Yes, despite our best endeavours, sometimes life doesn’t work out the way we’d hoped.

Although much pilloried at the time, and indeed since, there really was something in former US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s “known unknowns and unknown unknowns” statement to the press back in 2002.

Admittedly he hasn’t been pursued every day since by smarty-pants male music journalists questioning his use of the English language, so Alanis Morissette has probably had a lot more grief over the years than he has.

But “The Unknown Unknowns” is probably a less promising subject for a pop song than “Ironic” ever was.

Well life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
When you think everything’s OK and everything’s going right
And life has a funny way of helping you out when
You think everything’s going wrong and everything blows up
In your face

There’s an old saying that goes something like “God laughs when men plan”. That’s probably what Donald Rumsfeld was trying to explain, and it’s certainly what Alanis Morissette’s lyrics for “Ironic” are all about…

A traffic jam when you’re already late
A “no smoking” sign on your cigarette break
It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife
It’s meeting the man of my dreams
And then meeting his beautiful wife
And isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?
A little too ironic

I don’t much care if it’s ironic or not, quite frankly. “Ironic” is a great song, full of energy, well-observed situations and some interesting plot twists along the way…pretty much like life itself.

We’ve all had experiences like those Alanis Morissette described in “Ironic”, so let’s just enjoy the song for what it is. A well-judged pop song describing a series of unfortunate situations which could happen to any of us without warning.

No other pop song has been poured over by the dictionary police to the same extent that “Ironic” has.

Perhaps after 25 years we can put that line of questioning to bed now and just enjoy an iconic song for what it is…a great song, rather than an English Language class at college.

Written by Alanis Morissette and Glen Ballard, “Ironic” was a Top 10 song in most major markets around the world, it spawned an iconic music video and played a major role in turning “Jagged Little Pill” into one of the best-selling albums of all time.

As a result, Alanis Morissette has been a lot more successful than any male music journalist who’s made snide remarks about her English grammar over the years.

Now, isn’t that ironic…?

If you’ve read this far, thank you for spending a few moments in the company of one of my favourite songs. The video is below, but if you prefer listening to your music on Spotify, you can find today’s track here… https://open.spotify.com/track/1d6KS9GH06JAd19uiBy9IE

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Without words, it’s just a nice tune. Add words — now you’ve got a song. And songs can change your world. I write about some that changed mine.

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