My Dear Alanis,
You don’t know me, but we should talk. Actually, for starters, I need to talk, and you can listen. I had my world upended in a moment’s notice yesterday, and all I can think about is how sorry I am…sorry for all I have done to you. What sorts of transgressions could I possibly have committed to harbor such feelings of guilt, feelings so overwhelming I felt it necessary to take this public and lay my entire self out in front of the world, vulnerable and at the mercy of you and your truest fans? I underestimated your working knowledge of the literary device “irony.” And for that mistake I am truly sorry.
We didn’t get off to the best of starts, you and I. One day, back in grade school, I discovered that my best friend had purchased your album, Jagged Little Pill. I made fun of him incessantly, both for owning a CD recorded by a chick (we were just prepubescent boys, after all), and also for that name, Jagged Little Pill. What the hell did that mean, anyway? A real album should be titled something like Load, or, even better, Reload…ask Metallica. And what was with that new sound and look you had discovered? Weren’t you supposed to be the Debbie Gibson of Canada?
As much as it irked me, you made quite a success of yourself that way. That Stupid Little Pill album, as I had begun to call it, sold 33 million copies, and you became a huge hit. But you had one hole in your work. Your song “Ironic” wasn’t really ironic at all. You were a sorry excuse for an artist and song writer, and I was unapologetically thrilled when others began to realize this and call you out on it, others like this girl in her YouTube hit “It’s Finally Ironic” where she fixes your lyrics so that the song, once and for all, makes sense.
The world was going to bring you down, and while I wasn’t necessarily leading the pack, I certainly was carrying a defamatory sign and yelling stuff like “That’s not ironic, really. You should have paid attention in Lit class. You suck.” This went on for a number of years, until last night when I discovered the error of my ways watching a video of some guy who calls himself Vsauce (you can see the video here at minute 10:03).
It seems I made two huge mistakes in judgement. One was jumping to the conclusion that you just didn’t get it, that you were a hack passing off as an artist, selling out for the money and pumping anti-art garbage into society. The second was not being aware of the other, less frequently used variety of irony, “dramatic” irony. It seems I was the one who should have paid more attention in Lit class.
The version of irony we most widely use is “situational irony,” stuff like being killed by a bodyguard you hired to protect you. Your song “Ironic” has none of this:
“It’s like rain on your wedding day”
“It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid”
Those aren’t ironic, just unfortunate coincidences. But you were more clever than us all along. You were using the lesser appreciated “dramatic irony,” and it flew right over all of our heads for so many years. The only thing you ever called ironic was life, and your unfortunate coincidences simply supported the dramatic irony of life, even though they appeared to us to be failed attempts at situational irony. Who would’ve thought? I guess…it figures.
Life is dramatically ironic because it knows the full significance of what’s going on in the moment even though we don’t. Life gives us what we need when we need it, even if we can’t see the bigger picture and feel like we’re getting dumped on all the time. You knew this all along, and it is now time for the rest of us to eat crow.
I respect you, Alanis. I didn’t before but I do now. I respect you for going deeper than we did, using tools in the literary chest that we forgot about, and – most importantly – for not publicly defending yourself to all of us halfwits out here who thought we knew better. Lord knows you had every opportunity.
That kind of self-restraint is as impressive as it is rare, and you deserve more credit than I could possibly ever give. I can, however, offer you this: I always did like your song “You Oughta Know.” It took me many years to admit it to anyone, but I did. I never had your CD in my car, but I had that song in my head…in my heart, really. And I just figured that you…well…oughta know that.
I’m listening to more of your songs now. I mean, sure, I can’t pass for a fan club member just yet, but I’m trying. There’s some pretty good stuff in there, and I’m working day by day to understand and appreciate it more. I’m trying not to take it for granted. I never knew how hollow my life had really felt without you and your music. I just want you to know that you’re appreciated, okay?
Still, that does nothing to change the fact that, for so many years, it was you who was right all along. And it was me, the cocky student with a 3.9 GPA and a work-study job as a writing tutor, who was horribly, and now shamefully, wrong.
If there is, in fact, a silver lining, though, it may be this: I called you out for not being ironic when you were, in fact, ironic all along, just in a different way. And isn’t THAT ironic…don’t you think? Oh wait…no, it isn’t either. I should have learned my lesson. Perhaps going forward I’ll just leave the irony to you.