Thursday, September 13, 2012


Alanis Nadine Morissette was born in Ottawa, Ontario on June 1, 1974. Her fantastic 1995 rock record JAGGED LITTLE PILL birthed such great songs as ‘All I Really Want’, ‘You Oughta Know’, ‘Ironic’, and ‘You Learn’. During this time I was attending Emmanuel Bible College in Kitchener, Ontario. Her angst-filled songs really struck a chord with me. I would blare her songs from my dorm room, wore a self-made fan t-shirt in her honour, had her poster on my wall, and used her lyrics in a sermon I preached in front of my classmates. Over the years Alanis has won sixteen Junos and seven Grammy Awards. Over the years she has also been romantically linked to Dave Coulier (Uncle Joey on Full House) and Ryan Reynolds. In 2010 she married rapper Mario MC ‘Souleye’ Treadway. Alanis is a vegan and an environmentalist. She had a Catholic upbringing, but more recently has practiced Buddhism. HAVOC AND BRIGHT LIGHTS (2012, Collective Sound) was produced by Guy Sigsworth and Joe Chiccarelli. It is her eighth studio album.

The lead single, ‘Guardian’, starts things off and is a refreshingly joyous pop song. It contains these words that we’d all love for someone to speak to us: “I’ll be your keeper for life as your guardian/I’ll be your warrior of care, your first warden/I’ll be your angel on call/I’ll be on demand/The greatest honor of all, as your guardian.” ‘Woman Down’ is another cool pop song. It has a chorus that is akin to a feminist rally cry: “Calling all woman haters/We’ve lowered the bar on the/Behavior that we will take-come on now/Calling all lady haters/Why must you vilify us?/Are you willing to clean the slate?/Woman down.” ‘Til You’ is a, dare I say it, pretty tune with airy vocals. It includes these words of someone waiting for another to come and enter a relationship with them: “I’ve been taking notes, nursing the thought of you/Research and develop as I’m biding my time/I’ve been holding up this magnet that calls to you/Entertaining myself with these consolation prizes.”

‘Celebrity’ has a dark, rock feel musically. It takes aim at our culture’s obsession with fame and how far people will go to achieve it: “Never wondered who’s pulling strings above me/Cuz I’m aware of wheels, heels and vintage Gucci/I’m on my twentieth round of Vitamin V/And I’ll cut my weight in two if you’ll have me/Give me celebrity/My kingdom to be famous/Tell me who I have to be/Starving to be famous.” ‘Empathy’ is a happy, keyboard-filled celebration of finding one’s soulmate: “Thank you for seeing me/I feel so less lonely/Thank you for getting me/I’m healed by your empathy/Oh this intimacy.” ‘Lens’ should be put in rotation on Christian radio for its great message. It speaks of how our beliefs often separate and divide us rather than being a unifying force: “So now it’s your, your religion against my, my religion/My humble opinion ‘gainst yours-this does not feel like love/And it’s your, your conviction against my, my conviction/And I’d like to know what we’d see through the lens of love.”

‘Spiral’ would make for a good, peppy TV show theme song. The lyrics admit to a desperate need for bosom friendship: “Don’t leave me here with all these critical voices/Cuz they do their best to bring me down, bring me down/When I’m alone with all these negative voices/I will need your help to turn them down, turn them round.” ‘Numb’ is heavily guitar driven and features violin by Lili Haydn. The song speaks of a tendency in today’s society to bury one’s emotions under medications: “I am lonely, I feel hungry and unloved/I feel angry, I am livid, need a hug/Here comes a feeling/I run from the feeling/And reach for the drug/Can’t sit with this feeling/I’d rather be flying/And comfortably numb.” ‘Havoc’ is a somewhat dreary ballad. On it, Alanis shares how quickly one’s lot in life can change for the worse: “Just when I thought I had handles on this/I could soften my guard behind false confidence…/I’m slipping again/I’m up to old tricks off my wagon/I have no defense/I’m wreaking havoc/Wreaking havoc and consequences.”

‘Win and Win’ is a weak song, but it reminds us of the absurdity of thinking we are better or worse than another: “In my old days someone won/Those were days of win-lose/In those bleak times I was better/I sat high: looking down my nose/Change direction: looking up/I’m not worthy to be with you/We are separate, I’m inferior/I had yearnings to sit across from you.” ‘Receive’ is a memorable song that would be good for those such as pastors and mothers with awesome demands on their time to hear: “I give hard, impart hard and now I need to retreat/I give out, dedicate and now I need to acknowledge me/Today’s all about me/All about cup filling/Today’s all about me/Learning how, how to receive, how to receive.” ‘Edge of Evolution’ ends the album on a strongly spiritual note: “In this sacred duality/The highs and lows and the heres and theres/These aversions and these cravings/Push me beyond identity into pure awareness (we’re already here).”

Much like arena rock band Petra experimented with modern rock on their albums NO DOUBT and GOD FIXATION, and rock group DeGarmo and Key experimented with pop music on GO TO THE TOP, Alanis Morissette pretty successfully ventures into new pop and adult contemporary territory on HAVOC AND BRIGHT LIGHTS, while bringing just enough of her rock tendencies along with her to please her fans. As always, Alanis’ lyrics are thoughtful and full of meaning. Introspection is one of her gifts. This album could have been made stronger by eliminating tracks nine and ten, still leaving it a ten song album. I’m rating it 86%. For more info visit