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[whitespace] Alanis Morissette She Oughta Know: Alanis Morissette has broken records and butted heads with critics.

On the brink of a new album, Alanis Morissette kicks off her tour at the Catalyst

By Gina Arnold

NOW HERE'S AN ITEM bound to confuse research geeks 100 years from now. Back in 1995, Alanis Morissette's debut album, Jagged Little Pill, was voted both best and worst record of the year in a Rolling Stone readers' poll. In addition, the multiplatinum-selling record was nominated for six Grammies and broke a ton of sales records, including most records sold by a female solo artist and most records sold by a debut artist.

Those mammoth credentials ought to have insulated Morissette from at least some of the barbs of the mainstream press. Instead, Morissette--a Canadian who began her career hosting a children's TV show--drew an incredible amount of flak from ordinarily mild-mannered yes-men, who suddenly decried her as a manufactured alternarock diva. Particularly irksome to the critical world was her angry break-up anthem, "You Oughta Know," in which an enraged Morissette tells an ex-lover that she's "here to remind you of the mess you made when you went away."

According to her detractors, because her songs were co-written by Hollywood songmeister Glen Ballard (whose credits also include songs by Wilson Phillips, Toni Braxton and Madonna), such sentiments must have been adopted. And more often than not, the invective they used to describe her included some very standard antifeminist buzz words: "irrational," "hysterical," "spiteful" and "shrill."

But whatever they said was as water off a duck's back in the face of the song's astonishing popularity. In a year that was dominated by the sick lies and degradation of O.J. Simpson and Bob Packwood, millions of women seemed to find "You Oughta Know" a strangely comforting statement of truth.

It's taken three years for Morissette to pen a follow-up to Jagged Little Pill, but it's almost here. Titled Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, it's due out on Nov. 3 and will no doubt suffer more of the kind of slings and arrows that Morissette's position has invited from the start. Once again, she will be harrowed from head to foot, accused of faking strong emotions and borrowing other people's talents. Once again, she will have to prove herself in the marketplace, and once again, she will probably prevail.

After all, Morissette is unique in that she is neither petulant nor pious. There are no baby barrettes and no bad bass-playing on her record (although live, she does play bad harmonica). She doesn't make the fatal mistake that most women make of being magnanimous to those who scorn them, and she's not embarrassing to look at. (Indeed, she is one of the few female singers in ages to consistently appear in photos, videos and on stage in flat shoes, dumpy jeans and an oversized shirt.)

She really is free but focused, green but wise, to take the words of her second hit single, "Hand in My Pocket," and for that, I salute her. Here's hoping that the new album gets the critics to stop carping, but if it doesn't, to hell with 'em.

Alanis Morissette kicks off her new tour Oct. 10 at 9:30pm (doors are 8:30pm) and Oct. 11 at 9pm (doors at 8pm) at the Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets (if you're lucky enough to score some) are $29. (423-1336)

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From the October 8-14, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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