This is a series of commentaries about the songs that form the soundtrack of my life. Each song presented here hit #1 on my personal top 10 weekly music charts, which I have documented every Sunday since January 7, 1990.
Humanity’s selfish side showed itself through a wave of toilet paper and disinfectant hoarding, too. I made the mistake of doing grocery shopping, appropriately on Friday the 13th, and people were running into me with grocery carts, and reach-grabbing food in the aisles as if it were the end of days.
To quote Pink: “Where, oh where, have the smart people gone?”
I definitely needed Alanis Morissette’s intellectual energy on my playlists!
The Ottawa-born singer-songwriter has been a favourite of mine since her 1991 video for “Too Hot” was first shown on CBC TV’s Video Hits. (I’m old. And yes, the song charted in my personal top 10 in 1991, too.)
Morissette has been on my mind in recent years. As I began to research gifted education, I coincidentally ended up in her old high school, and when there, I considered her prodigious talent and rise to super-stardom. She definitely fits the profile of a gifted learner, with all of our kind’s intense intellectual and emotional intelligence.
Her songs often reflect a mind running deep with feeling, wrestling with meaning, and sometimes tortured by her own contronymical thinking. Later in Morissette’s career, her tracks grew dense with the language of psychoanalysis and the need to express her conceptualizations of spirituality.
“Smiling” definitely fits this later-era conception of Morissette, as it’s full of psychoanalytic wordplay. For instance, interpretations of the word “surrendering” are played with multiple times in the pre-chorus: “…if that’s what you call it… if that’s what I call it… if I can bear it.” Because of this, even though the song was written for the Broadway rock musical based on her seminal 1995 album Jagged Little Pill, the song more nostalgically recalls her follow-up, 1998’s Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (and especially the melodies of “Joining You” from that album — and a remix of that song charted within my top 10 in 1999).
This is my first wave of my white flag
This is the sound of me hitting bottom
This my surrender, if that’s what you call it
In the anatomy of my crash
Such pretty forks in the road
On this continuum I’ve been bouncing
Life flashing promise before my eyes
Alanis Morissette, Michael Farrell
Harris, K. (2020, March 12). Sophie Grégoire Trudeau tests positive for coronavirus. CBC.ca. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/covid19-trudeau-premiers-coronavirus-1.5495001
Morissette, A. (2020). Smiling [Song]. On Such pretty forks on the road [Album]. Epiphany/Thirty Tigers.
Morissette, A. (1998). Joining You [Song]. On Supposed former infatuation junkie [Album]. Maverick.
Pink. (2006). Stupid Girls [Song]. On I’m Not Dead [Album]. LaFace.
Tiffany, K. (2020, March 12). The dos and don’ts of ‘social distancing’. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/03/coronavirus-what-does-social-distancing-mean/607927/
Wray, M. (2020, March 13). People hoard essentials as coronavirus fears rise, but panic buying isn’t necessary: experts. Globalnews.ca. Retrieved from https://globalnews.ca/news/6671996/coronavirus-hoarding
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Smiling (song). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smiling_(song)
Wikipedia. (n.d.). Video Hits (Canadian TV series). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_Hits_(Canadian_TV_series)