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Monday, October 12, 2015

"Thank U", Alanis Morissette!

I'd like to take the time out to wish all of my American friends a happy Columbus Day today.  I'm not sure exactly how one celebrates Columbus Day, but since many of you have the day off, I hope whatever it is you do on Columbus Day that you do it with pride.

And if you happen to be living in Canada, I want to wish all of you a very happy Thanksgiving today!  Don't stuff yourselves too full of turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie!  You really don't want to have a Thanksgiving induced stomach ache.  Believe me, I've had those before.  They aren't fun.

But anyway, in the spirit of thanks and being thankful, I thought that I would take the time to use today's special Canadian Thanksgiving entry to discuss a song that is all about...well...thanking people.  After all, it kind of ties in to the Thanksgiving theme that is going on.

Of course, there are plenty of songs that I could choose from.  I could choose "Thank You" by McMaster & James.  However, that song is a little obscure for people who aren't Canadian...and even some Canadians probably don't even know who these people are.  So, let's skip that one.

I could have chosen "Thank You" by Dido...and yes, that is a fantastic song on its own.  But lyrically speaking, it's not as deep a song as I would like to talk about for Thanksgiving.  I'll put it on the maybe list for another time.

And, well...there's "Thank You For The Music" by ABBA...but yeah.  No.  Just no.

So what song did I decide to make the subject for today's post?  Well, I guess you could say that I went back to my high school soundtrack for this one.  Needless to say, it's a song that really made an impact on my own life, and it's a song that is absolutely perfect for Thanksgiving.

ARTIST:  Alanis Morissette
SONG:  Thank U
ALBUM:  Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie
DATE RELEASED:  October 12, 1998

Ah, yes.  Alanis Morissette's classic hit about thanking everyone around her.  Buck naked.  I mean, mind you, all the naughty bits were covered by her hair or a filter on the screen, but still, the music video did show her in the buff.  And yes, there was a reason for it which I will discuss a little bit later in this post.

But first, here's a little bit of a recap for you leading up to the moment that she recorded this single.

Now, Alanis Morissette, as many of you may know, didn't start off as a singer.  She was a cast member on the sketch comedy show "You Can't Do That On Television" for two years.  But while she was a cast member, she used to sing at cast gatherings and holiday parties and this prompted her to try singing as a full time career.  She released her debut album in 1991 at the age of seventeen and back in those days she released dance music.

Then in 1995, she became the angry young woman scorned, and dropped the F-bomb in the song "You Oughta Know", which skyrocketed her into instant fame.  That song helped "Jagged Little Pill" become one of the top albums of 1995 and 1996, and with hits like "You Learn", "Ironic", and "Head Over Feet", she certainly dominated charts all over the world.

I know that I still have my copy of "Jagged Little Pill" somewhere, and I have quite a few of her earlier songs downloaded onto my iPod.  Twenty years after its release, the album is still considered a rock music treasure.

But because Alanis spent so much time promoting "Jagged Little Pill", by 1997 she was ready to take a well earned vacation.  That year, she decided to spend some time in India for a journey of self-reflection, and during this time, she was inspired to write a few songs for what would be her fourth studio album, "Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie". 

In the case of "Thank U", a song that she co-wrote with Glen Ballard, Alanis explained that in the year and a half between albums, she did a lot of soul-searching, and explained that she needed a break in between albums.  In an interview she gave with "Rock On The Net" back in March 2014, she explained it like this;

"Basically, I had never stopped my whole life, hadn't taken a long breath, and I took a year and a half off and basically learned how to do that.  When I did stop and was silent and I breathed...I was just left with an intense amount of gratitude, and inspiration, and love, and bliss, and that's where (Thank U) came from, you know?"
- Alanis Morissette

So the song is essentially Alanis thanking various things and feelings for becoming the person she was at the time she recorded "Thank U".  That's why the chorus goes "Thank you, India, thank you terror".  In order for her to truly be herself, she had to be grateful for all of the experiences that she had from getting green slime dumped on her to her spiritual reawakening in India. 

Believe me, there's not a single one of us on this planet that hasn't had periods of self-reflection.  I'm going on four and a half years of it right here in this space.  And while there are some periods of my life that I'd rather forget about, I am thankful that I had those experiences.

I think that's why this song is one of my favourite songs by Alanis Morissette.  The song was released right around the time I had just left an extremely dark period in my life, and I wasn't exactly sure what to do with myself.  This song came at a very key point in my life because I realized that while those experiences were tough, I needed to have them to become a stronger person, and I suppose in a way, I am grateful for it.

But yeah, let's talk about the elephant in the room.  Let's talk about the fact that she filmed the music video completely bare-assed naked!  I have to admit that for the longest time I thought she was wearing some sort of nylon flesh-coloured costume because at that time, television sets were nowhere near being LED or HDTV, and images were nowhere near as clear as they are now!  Now that everything is in sharp clarity, I can confirm that yes, she is nude.

Of course, MTV would have never aired the video if Alanis let it all hang out, so her private parts were covered up either by her hair or were blurred out by censors.  The video itself debuted on Total Request Live on October 12, 1998 and was directed by Stephane Sednaoui.

The idea for Alanis to be nude in the video ironically enough came to her while she was in the shower.  Knowing that the message of the song was about simplicity and baring your soul, Alanis thought that it would be a great display of visual symbolism if she rode around on the subway, went shopping in a grocery store, and strolled through the streets of a big city completely naked, baring it all to anyone and everyone.

The concept seemed to work.  The music video was a huge success, and it helped "Thank U" reach the #17 spot on the Billboard Charts.  In Alanis' native Canada, the song was a chart-topper.  In various nations all over the world, the song was at least a Top 10 hit.  And while it didn't win the award, it was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 2000.

So, that's the story of "Thank U".  And, I thank you for following along with me over the last four and a half years.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my Canadian friends!

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