Contains strong language.
Alanis Morissette has, at long last, been nominated to the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. The 2022 gala will induct five new artists as Bryan Adams, Jim Vallance, David Foster and Daniel Lavoie join the storied collection of notable Canadian songwriters alongside Morissette.
It is wondrous to see Morissette finally recognized for her contributions to music and songwriting, cementing her landmark status as an influential artist whose roots have run through every generation since the release of Jagged Little Pill in 1995. Morissette will be inducted by Olivia Rodrigo, whose 2021 album Sour was lauded as a pop masterpiece influenced not just by pop artistry of the present but also steeped in the tradition of women who have wrung oceans of emotive fury from their craft. In Rodrigo, we can hear shouts and murmurs of the influence of artists like Liz Phair, Elastica, Veruca Salt and our very own Alanis Morissette. Sour is a stunning and exciting debut, one that leaves you wanting more and wondering what’s next in equal measure.
But one minor sticking point with this choice of who should induct Morissette into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame: Rodrigo is American.
This is not unheard of; Morissette is certainly not the first Canadian artist to be inducted by an American contemporary. (The legendary Joni Mitchell was inducted by Herbie Hancock in 2007.) But it does signal an unfortunate desire for Canada to not value the platform of Canadian artistry as much as it does the visibility of an American with established market appeal.
Rodrigo is far from the first woman to be so influenced by the liberating catharsis in Morissette’s songs, and she will not be the last so moved to give voice to her frustrations that she is willing to shout them from a stage. So why not give the platform to a Canadian woman in whom we can see the lines Morissette has drawn through pop culture?
A thought exercise on five Canadian artists who would work in Rodrigo’s stead:
Canada’s pop-punk princess needs no introduction. A hall of fame inductee-in-the-waiting herself, she has reigned supreme since Let Go dropped in 2002 and changed the face of Canadian pop music in the blink of an eye. She writes extensively on love at the edge of a cliff, often in danger of falling and being lost forever. Strength, heart and passion in a single vision, Lavigne has herself loved and lost time and again, and channeled her emotive fury through her music. In 2007, she called Jagged Little Pill her favourite record of all time, saying, “Alanis was the first girl rocker I got into.” The two even shared the stage together for a performance of Morissette’s “Ironic” and Lavigne’s “Losing Grip” at the House of Blues in LA.
Carly Rae Jepsen
Carly Rae Jepsen is a true Canadian icon, following down a path paved by Morissette, iconic since 1995. The Mission, British Columbia-born singer first captured hearts, minds, and feet from sea to shining sea with “Call Me Maybe” in 2011 and proved she was more than just a one-hit-wonder with subsequent smashes like “I Really Like You,” becoming the rare pop star to be beloved by critics across all genres. Jepsen is able to deftly create pop masterpieces from the many corners of an emotional domain that she controls like no other. Love, loss, lust and desire thread throughout the work of Jepsen’s critically lauded career, continuing from a point that Morissette first placed on a map.
The Metric frontwoman, Broken Social Scene member and erstwhile solo performer is an artist risen from the turbulent seas that Morissette first set into motion. Haines is found at the crossroads of danceable indie rock and biting pop, stepping in footsteps that line the tradition of women like Morissette. Haines writes with a sharp wit and biting teeth, able to move our dancing feet to furious rhythms in one beat and stop us dead in our tracks with a moving ballad the next. Songs like Metric’s “Combat Baby” are in the direct lineage of hits like “You Oughta Know,” taking Morissette’s influence and upping the tempo and adding synthesizers to find new ways to express the same desires Morissette did.
The Alvvays frontwoman is of the Rankin family, the storied musical family of Canada’s east coast. The east coast is usually thought of as being home to more traditional music, rooted in Celtic and folk traditions, so no one expected there to be an amazing jangle pop band in our midst — but Alvvays proved the east coast was capable of so much more with their inescapable hit “Archie, Marry Me.” Without Morissette, there might never have been the sea change that created a landscape for an artist like Rankin to find success — a door so thoroughly broken down that any and everyone can walk through it and make a name for themselves as a woman in a country that far too often only highlights the men in its midst.
In a 2015 piece in The Guardian, Rankin speaks glowingly of her love for Morissette. “Learning Celtic music and only hearing a narrow selection of male singer-songwriters, Alanis was an alien,” she says. “Every word, yodel and yarble was memorized and mimicked.” Rankin fondly recalls staying up late to watch Morissette on the Junos and styling herself after the Canadian icon: “Soon after, I began parting my hair in the middle and unbuttoning the wrists of whatever Oxford shirts I owned. By the time the Spice Girls became a sensation in Canada, I wanted nothing to do with them.”
The Scarborough-born Dobson has had to fight to be heard in an industry that loves to find easy categories into which to box artists. As she sought to make a name for herself, she had to combat a racist industry that only saw her — a mixed-race artist — as an R&B singer or a pop star. For very different reasons, Morissette found similar troubles in trying to break away from her pop-star origins to make a name for herself as a rock musician. But Dobson has long listed rock musicians as influential throughout her career and hails from the same “to hell with men and this industry” place that Morissette has also called home. “Bye Bye Boyfriend,” Dobson’s breakout single that bellows a loud fuck you to a bad ex, is very much of the lineage that Morissette laid out with Jagged Little Pill and “You Oughta Know.”
If we want to support and hold Canadian artistry as high as it deserves to be held, we need to first prioritize Canadian artists themselves — building the platform from which they can stand and be seen, celebrated amongst their peers and lauded by fans worldwide. Alanis Morissette is proof that Canada is home to landmark artists, women with the talent and strength to become timeless icons. We just need to give them the stage.