Someone Like You vs. You Oughta Know: Which Is The Bigger Psycho Song?
09 September 2011
Sometimes you listen to an album sixteen years on and you think, Holy shit, I used to have that on the cd player every day, but it's fucking awful. What was I thinking?
Then there's Jagged Little Pill. Sure, if you didn't buy into Alanis Morissette's edgy, bitter, screaming, hate-filled, bile-spewing, revenge-fest first time round, you're probably still not going to like it. But for many of us dull, middle-class, seeking a bit of an edge without actually listening to grunge metal, wanting to be cool before it's too late desperation junkies, Alanis defined 1995. Or 1996, if it took you a while to catch on to what everyone else was listening to.
Perhaps it's indicative of the fact that rock music doesn't really have anywhere else to go, but sixteen years on the album still sounds raw and fresh. All right, some of the lyrics are so atrocious it sounds like Alanis wrote them when she was five, the execrable Head Over Feet coming bottom of the bill. And then of course there's the well-documented curious case of Ironic, the kindest thing that one can say about it being that perhaps the intended irony of the song is that none of the long list of ironic events is actually ironic…. But that's probably too kind. She drools over one gentleman lover for treating her like a princess, while stabbing a possibly different gentleman in the heart for putting her on a pedestal. Still, they're only words, just songs, not all connected. The overall sound is great, the voice a viscous, erratic, screaming, errant, swelling, shouting, uncaged and beautiful instrument.
The centrepiece of the album - the song that defined her career - is of course, You Oughta Know. A lament to a lost love, it contrasts nicely with Adele's hit of 2011 - the song that hopefully will define her career, because it's too frightening to think that she'll have something even bigger than this - Someone Like You.
Both songs speak of a broken relationship, sung directly to the continuing object of their desire, the man who obviously dumped them for someone else. In both songs, the artist wishes "nothing but the best for you", although Alanis sings "nothing but the best for you both" while Adele sings "nothing but the best for your two" Or maybe it's "too", which would mean that she was saying "I wish nothing but the best for me, and also, can I say, you too". Hard to tell.
Alanis hates to bug you in the middle of dinner, while Adele hates to turn up uninvited. It's quite possible that Adele has also turned up in the middle of dinner, but that's not quite clear. In the middle of dinner, or a movie, or sex, or a game of cards, it's going to be awkward.
The similarities pretty much end there.
Someone Like You is a drippy, pusillanimous pean to abject poverty of spirit, a desperate, lonely whine of new millennium entitlement. Adele stands on the other side of the street watching through the window as her former lover lives a new and happy life. The rain is falling, Adele is all sad and lonely, and can't stop herself ringing the doorbell. Poor, poor Adele, crying in public as she sings her terribly sad song, which should make us all feel sad, as sad as she is, because life isn't fair.
You Oughta Know is a hand grenade placed in someone's stomach, snarling, bitter, rancid, screeching and bile-filled. It's the musical equivalent of hacking someone apart with a chainsaw. Does she know how you told me you'd hold me until you died, 'til you died, well you're still alive is one of the all-time great parting shots in rock history. It makes Idiot Wind sound like Wonderful Tonight.
So how indicative are the two songs of mental illness?
You Oughta Know: Psycho Rating 2/10. It's not really that psychotic at all. It's open, it's sincere; we know that Alanis doesn't really wish the best for them both, other than perhaps the best death by torture or the best death in a live volcano. She fucking hates them. She wants to bug them in the middle of dinner by unloading a clusterfuck of napalm on the dining room. It's not psychotic, it's just human nature. She'll get over it.
Someone Like You: Psycho Rating 10/10. Bunny boiler. Adele might actually genuinely mean that she wishes the best for her former lover, but then she turns up at his house just as he's sitting down to pie and chips and the X-Factor with his new missus, hoping that he'll take her back. Really? What the actual fuck? That's not wishing the best for him, that's fucking with his head, that's one step from cooking his family pet for supper. Adele sounds unlikely to get over it; and more likely to be popping up out of the bath just when everyone thought she was dead.
With songs like this, two years later you know the vitriolic, nasty screamer will have got it out of her system and moved on, while the pathetic, sobbing, misery chops will still be crying into her glass of chardonnay, lamenting how life is against her specifically in a way that it's against no one else on planet earth.
Still, in both cases you just want to grab them by the shoulders, give them a shake, and tell them to suck it up.
No one sucks anything up anymore.