Thank U, Alanis

Have you ever listened to a song and, even though you’ve heard it many times before, found yourself hearing it for the first time?

Sometimes, we listen but don’t necessarily ‘hear’ or take in whats actually being said. I’ve found this a number of times just recently. Most of the time I listened to music in the past was in loud clubs and pubs. You hear the songs, you dance to the beat, you sing along to the chorus. You don’t always catch the details of the verse though. A big example; Sit Down by James. Whenever this song played in my regular haunts there was a simple routine of singing along to the chorus whilst sitting on the dance floor, only to be inevitably shouted at by security staff to stand back up. Thanks to Spotify I now have that song in a playlist and happily sing along to it when I’m driving. I didn’t know most of the words however and quickly found that the song is not just an invitation to sit down but had much deeper themes involving depression and loneliness. It’s a song I could have used in my personal playlist of 15 years ago even though it was right there all along.

Today it happened again. There was a news report this morning urging people to not ask their Doctors for antibiotics as many bacteria are becoming resistant to them. Later in the day, Thank U by Alanis Morissette came over the radio. The first line, ‘How about getting off of these antibiotics’ grabbed my attention and suddenly had me thinking that Alanis was preaching the very idea being pitched on the news this morning, almost 20 years ago. ‘What other pearls of wisdom are contained in this song?’ is one way of putting what I thought to myself and listened hard to what followed. I heard most of the lyrics quite clearly and recalled that I had wondered why she specifically thanked India before. I got the sense that the song was about having been disillusioned and also about forgiveness. Having Googled it, I wasn’t too far away as the song is apparently her reflections on stopping and taking stock of her life after her initial rise to fame didn’t make her deliriously happy.

Such is the beauty of music, poetry and writing. It’s all interpretive. You can enjoy whats there on the surface or find your own deeper meanings. In Thank U, I found that the line about transparent dangling carrots took me back to A levels and being told what to study so as not to sell myself short. I never found a light at the end of that tunnel.

‘How about how good it feels to finally forgive you’ also resonated. I remember forgiving an old friend after months of making him feel bad. It took me forgiving him to realise I hadn’t even been mad at him but rather the girl who came between us. I forgave her too in the end which ultimately made me realise that none of it had mattered at all and I’d held onto some anger and resentment for nothing.

So remember, pay attention to what your favourite artists are singing to you. They’re people too. Fame doesn’t stop you having feelings and troubles. Take some consolation that other people feel the same way as you and that it’s okay to talk about it. You probably aren’t going to help them, but maybe they are already trying to help you.

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