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Making music heals Morissette’s wounds

It's been more than 10 years since her first album, “Jagged Little Pill,” and Alanis Morissette is still letting fans know her innermost thoughts and feelings.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

When Alanis Morissette came screaming on to the pop music scene more than a decade ago, many people couldn’t help but be at least a tiny bit shocked by her frankness and anger.

The song “You Oughta Know” was graphic. She talked about X-rated activities in a theater and nail scratching during sex. Man, was she upset about being dumped. The culprit has long been rumored to be good-natured Uncle Joey from “Full House,” Dave Coulier, but Morissette has never shared the target of her musical diatribe. Rolling Stone said “ ‘You Oughta Know’ might be the best kiss-off song since [Bob Dylan’s] ‘Positively 4th Street.’ ” Her first album, “Jagged Little Pill,” solidified Morissette’s reputation as the emotional, brooding type of pop artist. The former child star spoke for everyone who had been dumped or mistreated. Now, more than 10 years later, she is wearing her heart on her sleeve again with “Flavors of Entanglement,” which is due out in the United States on June 10.

“I declare a moratorium on all things relationship,” Morissette, 33, sings in a new song called “Moratorium.” “I declare a respite from the toils of liaison/ I do need a breather from the flavors of entanglement/ I declare a full timeout from all things commitment.”

Never shy about sharing her innermost thoughts, Morissette has big plans to promote her latest album. At the end of the month she’ll begin a European tour, followed by a tour of North America. Morissette performed songs from her new album on TODAY on May 23.

The singer hasn’t directly revealed the inspiration for “Flavors of Entanglement,” but for those who follow celebrity news, it’s not hard to guess. The singer was engaged to actor Ryan Reynolds, 31, for two years before splitting in 2006. According to People.com, they were love-struck after meeting at Drew Barrymore's 2002 birthday party. "He's just such a supportive creature,” Morissette told People.com. “I feel so loved by him, in a trampoline kind of way. He's always very happy for me.”

Now Reynolds is engaged to actress Scarlett Johansson, 23. It can’t be easy for Morissette. But luckily for her, she has an outlet through her music.

Al Bumanis, a music therapist and spokesperson for the American Music Therapy Association, says pouring oneself into music is a healthy way to express emotions in an “appropriate way,” rather than “you know, in an inappropriate way — getting a shotgun.

“I think, more often than not, artists like Alanis Morissette would say ‘This is my therapy,’ ” he said. “They almost need to.”

In a video posted on her MySpace page, Morissette alludes to the pain and distress that prompted her latest album.

“I’m starting to share with people a lot about this record — starting to travel and actually come out from the rock I’ve been under,” she says while strolling through some snowy tundra in what looks like her native Canada.

“I feel very happy about it sonically — and the whole landscape of it and emotionally — the two kinds of separate tracks it has taken,” she said. “One being a kind of personal story — the unraveling and rising of the phoenix. The other track of it really being about what goes on internally in me shows up in the outer world.”

Just as much as making music might help Morissette to get over pain and heartache, she also helps those who listen to and identify with her songs. Peter Nurman, 29, says he was a bit of a loner in high school and suffered from a healthy dose of teen angst. Morissette’s music helped get him through the difficult times. He found solace in the songs “Perfect” and “You Learn.”

“It’s more of a validation that it doesn’t really matter, regardless of whatever situation that you’re in, you don’t have to live up to people's standards,” he said. “It’s all a learning experience.”

Since first hearing Morissette’s music in 1995, Nurman has turned into a devoted fan. His friends and family members think he might be a little too infatuated with the singer, but Nurman doesn’t care. He has brought poems with little angel statues to her concerts, leaving them with a security guard who assured him they would reach Morissette.

Nurman, who works in IT and lives in Phoenix, Ariz., designed a banner for the singer on his computer. It read, “You’ll always be sexy to me.” He attended a concert in 2002, and through a radio station promotion, obtained second-row tickets. He held up the banner for Morissette to see. Her tickled band members invited him up on stage.

“I got a high-five and a thumbs-up from the band members and got a hug from Alanis,” he said.

Bumanis said this kind of bond between fan and artist is not unusual.

“It is common for fans to develop really strong attachments to a musician if the music strikes a chord,” he said. “For most people, these are healthy and normal.”

Just like it’s healthy and normal for Alanis to sing about Dave Coulier, Ryan Reynolds or whoever she may be singing about, Bumanis said.

“It’s a catharsis for her,” he said. “She’s not stalking the guy.”