25 Years On. How Much Has Changed?

The 25th anniversary edition of Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill was released today. I’m glad this timeless album and artist are getting the recognition they deserve, and I’m looking forward to her new album, Such Pretty Forks in the Road. In fact, I’ve been thinking about Morissette a lot lately, ever since the video for Reasons I Drink, the first single from her upcoming album, was released.

In the video, Morissette appears as herself in various forms, from both the present and the past, attending a support group meeting. One of these incarnations is, I think, meant to represent the “successful artist” persona. There are two things related to this version of Morissette that stand out to me. First, she sings, “I have been working since I can remember, since I was single digits.” And second, she is approached by fans looking for autographs at what is clearly an inappropriate time.

These scenes put me in mind of the time I randomly saw Morissette in a mall. It’s a ‘brush-with-greatness’ story that’s stuck with me for years, and not for the usual fangirly reasons.

Morissette and I are both from Ottawa and are roughly the same age. Back in the early ’90s, I was working in a card shop while attending university. She, meanwhile, was still a teenager and had released two albums.

One day, the granddaughter of one of my co-workers approached a young woman who was shopping in my store. I didn’t hear what was said, but after a moment, the granddaughter motioned to a group of friends who were hovering at the store entrance, and the pack of them descended on the young woman, half-surrounding her in a semi-circle. Again, I don’t know what was said, but they seemed to be peppering her with questions, and there was much laughter and smiling involved in the interaction.

After some time, one of my co-workers walked past the group and asked the young woman, “So are you?” to which she laughed and smiled and replied, “Yes.”

Eventually everybody dispersed, and I asked my co-worker who the woman was. “Alanis,” she said, and I thought that yes, of course it was, I should have been able to figure that out for myself.

I also thought, “Poor thing.” Because she couldn’t even go out shopping for cards in peace. And she was only a teenager. Having just barely left the teen years myself, I couldn’t imagine being that much on display that young.

I remembered this incident when Morissette’s fame (justifiably) exploded with the release of Jagged Little Pill. All I could think was that this album was destined to be one of the most iconic of all time, and that she was now locked into a lifetime of not being able to card shop, or do anything else, in peace ever again. As I recalled the poise with which she handled herself at such a young age, I wondered how she’d feel about the whole thing 25 years in the future.

Now here we are, 25 years later, and the video for Reasons I Drink answers that question. From scenes with autograph hounds and interviews, to people taking selfies with her on her deathbed, to her reference to the music industry as ‘sick,’ there’s no doubt a lifetime in the public eye has taken its toll on Morissette.

It makes me indescribably sad that we as a society demand so much more from artists than just their art.

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