Greatest Love Songs Revisited: Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know"!

I initially had a much longer intro for this diatribe, but realized that we all pretty much remember how and when Alanis Morissette arrived on the scene in the late 90's.  Like me, you probably took her arrival and the quickness with which young women felt a connection to her as a huge seismic shift in mass sensibilities.

Of course, it took Nirvana to lob the first few grenades, breaking down the lyrical wall and freeing us all from the tired cliches Firehouse and Whitesnake had been serving us.  It was only a matter of time before a sassy female version with abandonment issues and a chip on her shoulder appeared on the scene.

And so it was that a little song called "You Oughta Know" got added by KROQ radio in L.A. and several other alt. rock powerhouses soon followed suit.  Once MTV got in on the action, it seemed there was one day when nobody had heard of her and the next day everybody knew who she was.

The thing was, by about the third time we'd heard "You Oughta Know", we began to collectively wonder who the fuck she could possibly be singing about.  I mean, this must be one arrogant rock & roll bad-ass, a real "ride-'em-hard-and-put-'em-away-wet" type of guy, right?

Nope, turns out she'd been singing about comedian Dave Coulier.  If the name doesn't ring a bell, he was dopey Uncle Joey on the painfully long-running sitcom "Full House".  That he would be the antagonist in one of the most scathing break-up songs of all-time just tends to make me lose all respect for Alanis Morissette.
Yep, going down on ol' Uncle Joey in a theater. Shiver.

Ah, but the women didn't care who the song was about because they all inserted their own "Dave Coulier" into the role as "dirt bag".  Finally, the psycho chick who constantly went from head over heels to smashing in your windshield with a nine-iron that she just happened to have on her now had a rock singer she could relate to.

In listening to Alanis's ground-breaking American debut, Jagged Little Pill, you can almost see the song progression.  Dollars to donuts she wrote "Head Over Feet" about Coulier at the beginning of their "relationship", when he woos his way into her heart by showering her with affection and pumping up her ego.

She over-analyzes:

"You are the bearer of unconditional things
You held your breath and the door for me
Thanks for your patience

You're the best listener that I've ever met
You're my best friend
Best friend with benefits
What took me so long

I've never felt this healthy before
I've never wanted something rational
I am aware now
I am aware now

You've already won me over in spite of me
Don't be alarmed if I fall head over feet
Don't be surprised if I love you for all that you are
I couldn't help it
It's all your fault"

Building someone up that much in your mind (much less theirs) is a recipe for disaster that leaves only one thing to be determined: When and how hard will the inevitable crash-and-burn be this time?

We're not exactly talking days here.  The rosy, doe-eyed idolatry she displayed in this song probably gave way to a raging, spittle-filled hatred over so much as a door he forgot to hold for her, or for not being able to read her fucking mind.  As she has so many times before, she turned on a dime and all the Hallmark sentiments go up in a burst of vitroilic flames.

What happened to "I've never felt this healthy before"?  And, by the way, anybody who says something like that in a song, much less in a conversation, is a seriously unhealthy person.

Seriously, have you ever confided in someone that you feel so "healthy" when you're around them?  Didn't think so.

This very same woman who was so quietly content and sexually deviant a day or so ago has now turned into a cornered cobra, lashing out at you with venomous fangs:

"You seem very well, things look peaceful
I'm not quite as well, I thought you should know
Did you forget about me, Mr. Duplicity?
I hate to bug you in the middle of dinner
It was a slap in the face
How quickly I was replaced
And are you thinking of me when you fuck her?

Cause the love that you gave that we made
Wasn't able to make it enough for you
To be open wide, no
And every time you speak her name
Does she know how you told me
You'd hold me until you died
'Til you died, but you're still alive!"

Wow, a difference a day can make, huh?

Thing is, Alanis' seething Jekyll & Hyde act may have been entertaining from a spectacle standpoint, but "You Oughta Know" is a song that is the result of the Jerry Springer daytime drama that women of Alanis's age were raised on.  With parents away at work, who else was there to show this child how to live her life but Jerry Springfer, Oprah Winfrey and their ilk, trotting out all brands of fucked up trailer park drama.

Listening to "You Oughta Know" these days, though, it sounds so tame because the stakes have been upped considerably in recent years, with that whole "Jersey Shore" mentally pushing the limits of social stupidity to all new heights.

Of course, not long after the mega-success of "You Oughta Know", Alanis took a trip to India and came back a changed woman who immediately felt the need to be taken more seriously as a "mature" songwriter with newfound Buddhist tendencies.

It was roughly about this point that the rest of the world began to move on.  If Alanis wasn't going to give them their recommended daily dose of defiant drama, then they'd just go elsewhere.

Sure, she still commands the brand recognition so that each new album debuts in the Billboard Top 10, but who of us remembers the title of her last album?  Hint, it came out in 2008.  Give up?  It was called "Flavors Of Entanglement".  Just figured "you oughta know"! :)

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