A Song You Listen To When You’re Angry: You Oughta Know, Alanis Morissette
Picture it: 1995. I just graduated from high school and scored the title role in the local community theater’s summer production of the musical Gypsy, where I would share the stage and fall in love with my future husband… yup. What did I have to be angry about? Oh, that’s right, I was still stuck living at home, with my mother. One day, after a typical daily argument with my mother, I found an excuse to leave the house, and once I got into my car, I turned on the radio, and this chic named Alanis was singing a rock song with so much raw emotion. How could I not fall in love at first listen with this powerful anthem of angst & female empowerment? I loved her unique, Canadian voice, but what I obsessed over was how rock-n-roll it was! A chic-led rock song telling off her former lover? Yes please! Flea on bass & Dave Navarro on guitar? Are you kidding me?! What more could a 17 year old need?!
I learned every word of this song within a day, and 16 years later, I can still hold my own singing along, getting so wrapped up in the emotion. When I perform this song, it’s almost like I’m transported to a different dimension, whether I’m singing along in my car, with a backing band and my bass strapped to my chest, or at the bar, with a beer in hand, in front of a karaoke machine. It’s one of those songs.
The whole album, Jagged Little Pill, is still one of my all-time favs. Alanis wrote so many gems at such a young age, from the hits like this one to the lesser-known songs like Forgiven, Right Through You & Wake Up. Although, it’s hard to say that any of the songs are lesser known off of Billboard’s #1 album of the 90s. And even though a few tracks are starting to show their age a bit, You Oughta Know remains one of the album’s strongest tracks that has stood the test of time.
I’ve seen Alanis sing this song live several times, in many different variations — she really does put on a great show. The 3rd time, 3rd row, with Tori Amos… so awesome. But the live experience I hold close to my heart was in ’96, which was the first concert I attended with my future husband and without my parents… wearing a tie-dye peace frog shirt under a pair of overalls, with a yellow-hooded sweatshirt wrapped around my waist. I was so cool. But the sweetest bonus of my first official, adult concert was the opener: a little band named Radiohead.
I realize choosing this song may seem as cliche as saying The Beatles are my favorite band. However, generationally speaking, as a female who came of age in the 90s, how could I possibly deny this song it’s rightful position on my list of 30 songs?