MANSFIELD, MASS. — She has been characterized "as an angry young singer" because of the confrontational nature of her songs. Yet she doesn't come across as someone filled with resentment, bitterness, or rage.
On tour in Mansfield, Mass., recently, Alanis Morissette was all smiles on stage dancing around enthusiastically and playing the harmonica, forcing the sold-out crowd of about 19,000 to its feet.
Morissette is the music world's superstar-of-the-moment. Her debut album, "Jagged Little Pill," has been out for a year, and it's still on top of the charts. She also earned a Grammy for album of the year.
The ironic part is that Morissette doesn't look like a rock star, much less an angry singer. Her casual attire of black jeans and a long white T-shirt, and her disheveled brown hair, made the singer look more like a regular young gal just hanging out, rather than a singer with the world in her pocket.
Morissette is able to relate to her young audience because of her youthfulness, and she sings about experiences that are personally reflective and painstakingly honest. The song "You Oughta Know," is one example. When she sings "I hate to bug you in the middle of dinner/ It was a slap in the face how quickly I was replaced," it paints a picture to which many people can relate.
In one way or another, Morissette's album is autobiographical. The songs - rooted in insecurities, anger, and low self-esteem - cover a wide range of subjects: heartbreak, cheating boyfriends, perfectionist parents, life's ups and downs. She illustrates this last point in the song "Ironic": "Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you/ Life has a funny, funny way of helping you out."
The audience's demographics included an overwhelming number of teenage girls and young women, but there was a surprising number of men with girlfriends, wives, or daughters.
Though Morissette was full of energy on stage, her performance lacked the element of surprise. A couple of her videos were shown in the background for "Ironic" and "Hand in My Pocket" (which can be seen endlessly on MTV), and she spoke barely two words to the crowd.
Morissette actually started her musical career 12 years ago, writing songs and poems in elementary school because she thought "that's what every 10-year-old did." She produced two albums during her teenage years in Ottawa. Her hair was slightly poofier back then and her music leaned more toward pop dance than alternative rock.
Her look and sound changed when she moved to Los Angeles and teamed up with producer Glen Ballard. She stopped using synthesizers and started using a real band.
Several "chat" sites on the Internet show just how much Morissette fans connect with her lyrics. Matthew Coppock, who has an unofficial Alanis Morissette home page on the World Wide Web (one of dozens), offers a "fan posting" site. One person writes, "I think my friends, while being good guys, are threatened by a woman who speaks powerfully and independently. I love Alanis. She tells it like it is."
Morissette has said that the title of "Jagged Little Pill" comes from her past and the lessons she has learned. "It's only in retrospect that I'll realize why I went though it," she says. "There may be some sort of a payoff, but it just might not be be right away."
For Morissette, the payoff has finally come.
*Alanis Morissette performs tonight at the Spectrum in Philadelphia; Aug. 24 at the Nissan Pavilion in Washington; Aug. 26 at Hershey Park Stadium in Hershey, Pa.; and Aug. 27 at the Star Lake Amphitheatre in Pittsburgh.