Day 100: A song by a female singer you think does not have a very good voice.
“Hand In My Pocket” – Alanis Morissette
100 days and still going strong(ish). Woo hoo!
The summer of 1995 saw the emergence of a new, then-unknown artist (at least in the US). Her new single “You Oughta Know” was getting play on alternative and college radio. It was an aggressive, nasty song aimed at a former lover; this artist was pissed off, and she wasn’t afraid to let you know it.
That artist, of course, was Alanis Morissette, and while it might seem odd to think, when I first heard “You Oughta Know,” no one knew who she was. That lasted about four days, because then she exploded. (Her popularity, that is, she didn’t actually explode.) When the dust settled, she had sold 16 million copies of Jagged Little Pill in the US alone. It was obvious that her angst-laden songs struck a chord with people (mostly people of my generation, Generation X, who were entering “the real world” and were feeling their own angst and aggression).
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The problem? While she was making very relatable music, her voice wasn’t really the greatest. In fact, it could be downright screechy. But I guess 16 million of us overlooked that and bought the album anyway. It seemed the thing to do at the time.
That summer, shortly after this explosion, I went on a week-long vacation to the beach with some college friends. It turned out to be sort of a “last hurrah” of college life before we all went our separate ways and became adults. (Well, I’m assuming the rest of them did, I’m still waiting for it to happen to me.) We spent that week doing what you’d expect: we went to the beach, read, drank, watched TV, partied, joked around, drank, wrote down quotes, drank, and generally had a good time. We also made fried spaghetti at my friend Ray’s insistence, but that’s another story. Did I mention we did a little drinking?
Music was important in one way or another to all of us who shared the house that week, so there was always something playing, even if some of us didn’t remember what it was the next morning. As a result, we ended up with a soundtrack of sorts for the week. (I’m not kidding, we made a “mix tape”—which later became a “mix CD”—toward the end of the week, where each song had been either playing at a “seminal” moment, or had just been played enough times during the week to approach ubiquity.)
Despite Alanis’s vocal limitations, “Hand In My Pocket” made it on the soundtrack. (Other contemporary songs that made it were “Run-Around” by Blues Traveler, “Ants Marching” by Dave Matthews Band, and “Lump” by Presidents Of The United States of America.)
We decided on “Hand In My Pocket” rather than the more pervasive (at least at that time) “You Oughta Know” simply because we could relate to the former. I don’t think any of us at the beach house were carrying around the type of vitriol that spawned the latter.
Fast forward to today. Even now (as I did then), I think “Hand In My Pocket” is the better song. Better vibe. I’ve always loved the bass sound they managed to get on it. (It just occurred to me that Alanis plays harmonica on it, too. No matter, it would never have truly been in the running for the harmonica challenge.) I also think “Hand In My Pocket” holds up better than almost anything else on the album. (Don’t believe me? Listen to the opening track “All I Really Want” and tell me it doesn’t sound dated.) I guess no one ever said that everything on a mega-selling album remains a classic.
I mentioned we wrote down quotes. We basically logged anything that made us laugh. On that note, I will leave you with a related quote from when that tape was being compiled:
Marc: Usually about five minutes.