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Posts Tagged ‘Pearl Jam’

A week or so ago, Alanis Morissette showed up at a Taylor Swift concert to sing her breakout hit, “You Oughta Know.” This prompted Taylor Swift fans to ask, “who the hell was that?”, which prompted Amanda Marcotte at Slate to answer, “Alanis sucked, you’re better off for not knowing.” Marcotte explains:

Alanis Morissette was a singer who, in the mid-1990s, capitalized on a small but growing trend of “angry woman” rock acts, such as L7 and Hole, and made an absolute killing, selling 33 million copies of her album Jagged Little Pill worldwide. But while her predecessors wrote songs protesting sexual harassment and rape, Morissette’s big hit protested guys who break up with you.

Although Marcotte compares Morissette to other “angry women” in the mid-1990s, I think that a better comparison is mid-’90s rock music in general. (I’ll also set aside the direct line from “You Oughta Know” to Taylor Swift’s catalog of songs aimed at people who have wronged her, which suggests that Swift’s fans are familiar with this form of protest with or without knowledge of Morissette.) The ’90s were, for better or worse, a particularly whiny time. From Pearl Jam’s “Black” to less-remembered songs like Stabbing Westward’s “What Do I Have to Do?” lots of men were singing about unrequited love. Hell, Weezer’s Pinkerton, with songs like “Pink Triangle” and “Across the Sea” helped launch an entire genre of music made by whiny men.

In this context, it seems unfair to deny Morissette the ability to whine about a failed relationship just because some of her less popular female peers sang about more serious topics. “Jagged Little Pill” is no “Little Earthquakes” or “Not a Pretty Girl,” but it wasn’t intended to be. That it sold many more copies than all of these other other albums by “angry women” put together speaks to its broader relatability, regardless of its misuse of the word “Ironic.” Marcotte seems to think that the world would have been better off if Morissette had simply said, “boys will be boys” and moved on with her life, though I bet that Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood disagree.

Whatever you think of “Jagged Little Pill” or Alanis Morissette’s music in general, Marcotte’s criticism seems to be rooted in the relative dearth of female-fronted rock bands, whether in the ’90s or today. As Shonda Rhimes has noted, when there is a lack of diversity in a particular medium, the depictions of those in underrepresented groups are expected to meet a higher standard. A lot of white men in the ’90s could whine because white men made nearly all rock music and, between them, covered the entire range of emotions and topics. If anything, the presence of L7, Hole, Tori Amos, and Ani DiFranco in the ’90s, with their music about serious issues, made more room for Alanis Morissette to talk about things that were less serious, or serious in different ways. To expect every female musician to be all things to all people indicates that there aren’t nearly enough female musicians.

“Like” Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook for more discussions of the music of my youth via your news feed.

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Here is a song that Eddie Vedder says “benefits from scenery passing by at 40-60 mph (on the way to a demonstration or voting booth!)” in the liner notes for Pearl Jam’s Riot Act. That sounds like a good plan for the morning.

Happy election day!

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Following Sunday’s post about Jason Alexander’s take on gun control laws, here are three songs by Pearl Jam related to gun violence, from their first, second, and sixth albums, respectively. All of these songs are connected to the broader theme of our society’s belief that guns solve problems, which Katherine Newman identified as one of six necessary, but not sufficient, causes of what she called “rampage” shootings.

First, and most well-known, is “Jeremy”, from Ten, which details a teenager’s suicide. It was also (coincidentally, I believe) discussed on Brad Koch’s blog Friday morning with suggested classroom connections to suicide and gun control:

Next up is “Glorified G”, from Vs., which describes the kinds of conservative attitudes that Jason Alexander takes on in his post:

Finally, the song that you’re least likely to be familiar with. “Rival” is from Binaural and was written in the wake of the Columbine shootings:

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As discussed by Jenn Lena and others, Beloit College has released its “Mindset List*” for the incoming class of 2013, born largely in 1991.   I’m sure that this list is intended to shock the greying professors who can’t imagine a world in which Planet Hollywood didn’t exist, but it does basically nothing for me (maybe it will have some effect in 2028 when Beloit tells me that the entering class of 2032 has never lived in a world in which Michael Jackson was alive).  To me, thinking about the way things have changed for those born in 1991 is best accomplished by thinking about my own 1991 self.  For example, in 1991:

  • Nirvana’s Nevermind and Pearl Jam’s Ten were released but I was too busy listening to Vanilla Ice to notice.
  • My family did not have a computer.
  • I knew only one person whose family had a cell phone, but it was called a “car phone” because that’s where it was kept and, once in a great while, used.
  • I spent my free time playing Super Nintendo games that included Sim City, ancestor of The Sims.
  • Summer was equated with freedom, not the chance to catch up on work.

The fact that these experiences seem to have happened so long ago (indeed, nearly 2/3 of my life have passed since then) is more striking to me than most of the junk that Beloit came up with (how many incoming freshmen are really aware that members of Congress cannot give themselves midterm raises, or that they once could?).  Maybe Beloit should just release a statement every year saying “Think about your life in 19XX.  Now turn on a pop radio station, sign in to Facebook, and watch the number one movie in the country, because none of that means anything to your students.”

*Incidentally, the font used for the “Mindset List” heading looks like something I might have thought was cool in 1991.

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