Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, By Alanis Morissette

Reviewed by Stephanie Carlisi, Fall 1998

Alanis Morissette’s newly released Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie is stylistically similar in music and lyrical content to its title: wordy, not catchy, and obviously determined to make a profound statement about life, yet remaining intriguing.

This album can be described as contrived, packaged, or prescriptive.

However, while listening to the artist’s confession-like stream of consciousness, one cannot help but notice a newfound wisdom that simply could not have come from anything other than sheer experience. Undoubtedly, Alanis has grown up significantly since the record-smashing release of Jagged Little Pill in 1995, and she really wants to convey a message.

Jagged Little Pill became the best-selling record of all time by a female performer as it topped 13 million sales worldwide shortly after its release. The record, and its Canadian creator, bombarded the American music-scene, seemingly coming from nowhere.

One-by-one Alanis’s hit songs were released to radio stations and then overplayed, yet still worshipped, until eventually at least one of them was on the air at all times. Alanis Morrisette was literally unavoidable, but from where did she come?

The artist had actually released two albums previous to Jagged Little Pill. At the age of thirteen, she recorded her first album, Alanis, in 1990. Released by MCA in 1991, the music on the album is mostly pop. The album went platinum in Canada, as did her next and similar album Now is the Time, released by MCA in late 1992.

Despite being relatively well known in Canada, Alanis was a virtual stranger in the United States. Except for a role she had played on Nickelodeon’s You can’t do that on Television at the age of ten, the artist had not yet broken into the American market.

Everything changed for Alanis Morissette upon release of Jagged Little Pill, the artist’s debut album with Madonna’s Maverick Label, with which she captured multiple Grammy Awards, Juno Awards and prestigious MTV music video awards. Suddenly the whole world knew her name.

Jagged Little Pill has succeeded in helping to classify a newly developing genre in the music industry, in which angry females find a venue from which to scream out their frustrations to the world. Subsequently, the album set an extraordinary precedent in the artist’s career, to which she has automatically been expected to live up, if not surpass.

For the past three years, Alanis has been living in the shadow of Jagged Little Pill, as whispers of doubt echo throughout the entertainment industry, questioning whether or not the artist can live up to her legend, in the creation of a new album.

Uninvited, Alanis’s slow and eerie song that was released as part of the City of Angels soundtrack this past summer, foreshadows the release of Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie beautifully. Acting as a small tease to Alanis fans, the song displays a tone that is much different from Jagged Little Pill’s tendency to lash out, but similar to the new release, which is much about reconciliation.

Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie was released on November 3, 1998. The artist was inspired to write the seventeen songs on the album when she traveled to India in 1997. The album’s first standout Thank U expresses the artist’s gratitude for her experience, and explains the state of renewed composure with which it has provided her.

Each song on her new album is threaded with the motif of a search for enlightenment and self-knowledge. The artist has taken the emphasis off of other people who have caused her pain, and focused it on herself. Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie does not set out to recreate Jagged Little Pill in sound or in attitude, but it does pick up where it left off, providing a natural continuation of the maturing of a young genius.

Alanis takes on confidence and sophistication, as she utilizes the power with which Jagged Little Pill has provided her. The artist now holds a key that enables her to say anything she wants, and know that the whole world is not only willing to listen, but has been waiting for the past three years.

The lyrics on her new album suggest that Alanis has refrained from allowing the pressure from her past success to intimidate her. Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie does not seek to conform to the likes of any specific genre or audience. It is obvious that this album was meant to satisfy the artist, and not a target market. Thus, most of its songs are not catchy tunes like those on Jagged Little Pill. This entire album, with the exception of Thank You, which has already bombarded the stations and the psyches of listeners, takes some getting used to. Do not expect to learn the lyrics on this album after the first go-round, as that is not what the artist intended.

Some of Alanis’s new songs have clear-cut choruses, while many of them lack a chorus all together. Although a few of them (Would Not Come, Are You Still Mad, and Your House) do offer the glimpse of revenge and sexual innuendo that has come to define the artist, this time she dishes up a much subtler payback than in You Oughta Know, undoubtedly a sign of maturation. In One, she reflects upon the lyrics of her past album admitting, "I have abused my so-called power forgive me…"

The background music is much harsher than in her last album, seeming at first a bit obtrusive in contrast. Alanis’s rapid-fire wordplay is at times engulfed by ponderous instrumentation. The rhythms and elaborate guitar play add a fresh twist to the album, but they also sometimes bury her message.

Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie will probably not storm the market like Jagged Little Pill. However, once the initial, uneasy, feeling that this album provokes has subsided, the lyrics of Alanis Morissette once more become intriguing and thought provoking, while giving further insight into the mind of a young star.

The most profound difference between Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie and Jagged Little Pill is that this new album has been created by the confidence of an artist who has already made a name for herself, and not by the anger of a threatened woman desperately trying to stand her ground.

The newfound wisdom that Alanis Morissette brings to the music industry via Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie proves that even the best of performers has room to evolve. This album is contrived in that Alanis spares not a single word. Listen closely to the lyrics, as each and every one of them is purposeful. The songs on this album are sure to have a gradual appeal that will naturally take the artist to the next stage of her career.