ALANIS MORISSETTE: ALANIS (1991)
Oh boy. It's one of THOSE albums — ones that you'd never give one thought about if they represented the artist at his/her most essential. But it so happened that Alanis Morrisette, the mainstream goddess of Nineties' commer-fessional singer-songwriting, started out as a Canadian wannabe Janet Jackson, and, for the sake of formality, I have to mention her first two albums — even though many of her fans remain happily unaware of their existence.
Technically, there could be a copout here: both of these records bill her as "Alanis" (apparently, the family name was judged way too complex for the target audience, which, as allegedly pointed out by the marketing survey team, tends to have big problems with first grade spelling bees), so, from a certain point of view, we are speaking of a different artist here. It is also important to understand that, having barely turned 16 (although they try to make her look 30 in the accompanying videos, taking all the clues from Tracy Lords, I guess), in no way was she in control of the proceedings, letting some run-of-the-mill synth-pop hacks write and arrange the music and mold her image. She is credited as co-writer on most of the tracks, to be frank, but let us not hold it against her; supposedly the hacks had a little bit of humanity left in them and decided it would be good to let her have some extra dough.
Of course, if she does assume songwriting responsibility for this tripe, that's not good. All of this is generic Eighties' dance music, with one or two corny Diane Warren-style ballads thrown in for the hankies' sake. The "hits" 'Feel Your Love' and 'Too Hot' have catchy choruses, like some of the other stuff, but in more or less the same manner that you'd expect from your aerobics workout videotape: to help you better train your butt reflexes. Vocals are decent — good dance moves and a strong throat were, after all, two sine qua non conditions that got you within the world of latex and frizzed hair at the time — but there's hardly any threat to Debbie Gibson or Paula Abdul.
I suppose a few of the tunes offer at least lyrical glimpses at the future Alanis — e. g., the "social critique" of 'Human Touch' ('I'm tired of people sellin' their sex appeal', she declares, and then instantly proceeds to do just that in her videos), or the self-defense in 'On My Own'. But these aren't very convincing lyrical glimpses, and besides, they only work if one is actually a worshipper of the future Alanis. On the other hand, I can imagine where someone who hates the A. M. of Jagged Little Pill could love this album as a guilty pleasure — very, very guilty pleasure, on par with watching an old man's sex with minors. I had a bit of fun listening to it as a curious historical memento, recollecting all the worst blows that the Eighties had dealt us. Then nausea started setting in, and I had no choice but to scuttle off. Thumbs down, quite predictably.