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Alanis Morissette's Acoustic 'Little Pill'


Ten years ago, Canadian pop singer Alanis Morissette released her album "Jagged Little Pill." It sold millions and millions of copies; it won the Grammy Award for album of the year. Now she has reinterpreted the song that made her famous. "Jagged Little Pill Acoustic" is currently on sale exclusively at Starbucks. Washington Post writer Hank Stuever gives it a listen.

(Soundbite of "You Oughta Know")

Ms. ALANIS MORISSETTE: (Singing) I want you to know that I'm happy for you.

HANK STUEVER reporting:

One of the byproducts of an album like "Jagged Little Pill" is that it makes you want to talk about yourself. So here goes.

In the summer of 1995, I was filled with garden variety, post-college ennui. I was working at a small newspaper in the Southwest and one of my tasks was to open the mail intended for record reviewers. One CD I tossed out immediately was "Jagged Little Pill" by Alanis Morissette because I had never heard such over-the-top chick angst.

(Soundbite of "You Oughta Know")

Ms. MORISSETTE: (Singing) 'Cause the love that you gave that we made wasn't able to make it enough for you to be open wide. No!

STUEVER: And that, my friends, is the story of how I never became a famous music critic. My ear was deaf to the coming era. Within a year, you heard Alanis every place you went.

(Soundbite of "Hand In My Pocket")

Ms. MORISSETTE: (Singing) I'm broke, but I'm happy. I'm poor, but I'm kind. I'm short, but I'm healthy, yeah.

STUEVER: People like myself retreated to `Rock Snob Island,' where we could safely dismiss Alanis even as the evidence surrounded us. "Jagged Little Pill"--laced with lyrics about jealousy, moods, independence, anger, love, oral sex--resonated with women and men. When nobody was looking, I would, like the rest of the world, sit in my car and sing at the top of my lungs...

(Soundbite of "Ironic")

Ms. MORISSETTE: (Singing) It's like rain on your wedding day. It's a free ride when you've already paid. It's the good advice that you just didn't take.

STUEVER: Now "Jagged Little Pill" is back. It's been slightly decaffeinated for your listening pleasure, and for the first six weeks you can buy it only at Starbucks. Oh, irony of ironies. Alanis, who just turned 31, released her new acoustic version of the record at a concert for 120 people at a Starbucks on Monday night in Manhattan. Everything is stripped down, slowed down, toned down. It's like revisiting a friend who used to complain a lot and now realizes how overdramatic she must have sounded.

(Soundbite of acoustic version of "Ironic")

Ms. MORISSETTE: (Singing) It's meeting the man of my dreams and meeting his beautiful husband. And isn't it ironic?

STUEVER: Now a new set of critics are questioning her authenticity, preferring not to see this as the perfect synergy of venue, woman, consumers, grande mochas and the times we live in. Starbucks will doubtless play it several times whilst you sit there with your laptop and your feelings and your Wi-Fi.

(Soundbite of acoustic version of "Hand In My Pocket")

Ms. MORISSETTE: (Singing) I'm gone and I'm sorry, baby. And what it all comes down to...

STUEVER: Minus an F-word or two, you could play this while you car pool the kids. You can sing it now instead of screech it. This is the healed Alanis, one hand holding a Starbucks cup, the other hand flashing a peace sign--no, wait, holding an iPod--no, wait, wait, with the other hand, answering a hands-free phone...well, Alanis, you got us this far. We'll figure out what to do with the other hand.

(Soundbite of acoustic version of "Hand In My Pocket")

CHADWICK: Hank Stuever writes about pop culture for The Washington Post and sometimes for DAY TO DAY.

(Soundbite of acoustic version of "Hand In My Pocket")

CHADWICK: DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News and slate.com. I'm Alex Chadwick. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.