Canadian Alanis Morissette’s ninth studio album is carried by Smiling, a song written for the Broadway adaptation of her third album Jagged Little Pill, released in 1995. The track appears in the first act when Mary Jane Healy (the mother of a modest family in Connecticut) highlights the contradiction between the pressures of maternity and the “obligation” to appear strong in the face of adversity. The paradoxical thoughts which trouble Morrisette are communicated through a mix of comforting, soft music and energetic rock in songs co-written by Michael Farrell. The album could pass as a piano and voice ode to the socially engaged Diagnosis that discusses post-breakup depression. We find the lyrical Reckoning which calls for the end of the patriarchy all while evoking the betrayal of her old manager.
Alongside these grave subjects, in chiaroscuro, is Ablaze, a simple yet radiant song dedicated to her three children.
Yet Reasons I Drink marks a hard return to reality as she sings with disconcerting sincerity about her alcoholism. The striking of piano chords alongside the vigorous rhythmic section evokes the determination of a soldier fighting one’s demons. The album as a whole is in the image of this last song.
Alanis Morissette offers us a profound and complex introspection delivered with infallible sincerity. A glimmer of hope despite its dark appearance.