On June 13, 1995, a then globally-unknown Alanis Nadine Morissette released her first international album: Jagged Little Pill. Its raw reverberations reflected in the record 33 million copies it sold. One of 33 million made its way into our home – purchased by my sister in the very spirit of divine sisterhood-defiance that drove the album’s success.
I was in Standard 9 that year. Seventeen. Closeted and conservative as far as matters of the heart went, so that jaded lover that was jaundiced by the jilt of some joker who decided to do ‘better’ elsewhere, wasn’t something I knew about, personally. My experience of this came from watching my sister belt the crops of this woman’s burnt and broken.
Its airplay lived long (unlike the churning of music’s ornaments today). Even 13 months later and in the July of 1996 – when my German exchange student joined our choir – we sang Ironic a million times to Ballito and back in my sister’s green Citi Golf. Even though our knitting only happened a little later, my amplification by way of hers couldn’t be clearer (to me).
Post Jagged Little Pill’s deathless days – and amidst a planned hiatus – Alanis saw the rough-cut to City of Angels. Virtuoso vocalised, the unplanned Uninvited was born and arrested her audience/s once more – myself the most! – or so it always seems when you’re inside of intimations by artists who share that which fuels our “…ohmygawdthatisexactlyhowIfeel…” stories.
Quite simply, it stoked the starving for Jagged’s follow up – a famish which was finally fed in November 1998 when Alanis dropped Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie.
I remember lying on my bed and pouring over each page of its CD-booklet. Right out of the gates, Front Row floored me. Layered lyrics that sung two stories simultaneously. The wakening of those words woke something in me: I’ve always maintained that Alanis taught me to write. Other people tell me I always could and my connecting with hers simply helped.
Nudge or nucleus, how she wrote her voice fuelled me finding mine.
On the last four days of December 1999 – just before calculators, world computers and every/anything run by a date were supposed to implode – our extended family ‘roughed-it’ and rowed eight rafts down the Orange River in Namibia. One afternoon – I’m not sure which – and in the respite between rapids, I lay buoyant on my back as the water I floated in slowed to almost still. Out of the corners of my eyes, banks broke the river’s edge before climbing into the cliffs that considered us as we floated by. The voices of the other 15 subsided and the closing lines to No Pressure Over Cappuccino sirened through my head… over… and over… and over again.
God bless you in your travels… in your conquests and queries…
Be who you are – at
any every cost.
Something about the combination of that message, its meaning, my place on the planet in that moment and its imminence to some sort of (hyped) historical magnitude… It was the closest to peace I have ever been.
I cannot forget that.
Quite something then to learn that ‘Alanis’ means precious awakening.
She is mine.
My lightning in a bottle.
My spirit animal.
The rarity of the thread she’s sewn between few others and myself is as special as it is sparse.
Not to everyone’s palate… but one that pulled Catherine Jenkin and I together; one of four willful women I contemplate consistently in the Alanis context. Pam Doyle Pillay, Kerry Ellis-Williams and Gillian Read are the other three.
After the other #WritingStoriesDifferently mixes I’ve made, Cat requested I do an Alanis one…
Thank you for launching an absolute labour of love!
Ergo, it is as unfinished as one should be, right?
Not to everyone’s palate.
But, if it is to yours too, then here ~ feast on this:
© Dylan Balkind