Behind the Words: Thank You Alanis Morissette for Thank U

by Melody Jean

Contemporary Seeker Thank U Alanis MorrissetteThose who know me well, or follow my blog, understand my innate interest in lyrics, prose, sonnets, excerpts, stories and almost any written art form. It’s the beauty of the artist behind the words that I find most compelling.

A writer and creator myself, when I’m first struck, I pause and ask myself why am I being pulled to this?

It’s in the Words

Most often it’s in the words. Other times it’s the tempo, beat of the music, or melody behind the lyrics. I say behind the lyrics because, to me, the lyrics tend to be my focal point of any musical work.

Yet others maintain that the lyrics are in fact behind the music. They deem music the most important element. To each his own. That is, whatever it is that draws someone to something, it’s fantastic because it’s personal.

Differing Interpretations

All art forms can be left up to interpretation. Much like a painting where a buyer is taken by the colors on the canvas, the care of the brush strokes, or the way the paint glimmers in the light, it’s the same with written words.

The artist usually creates the lyrics and, or music, and melds it together for a reason (or many reasons) that he or she understands. In turn, the recipient, or listener, is free to choose what it means personally to him or her.

Interpretation is one of the many beauties of art.

My Art Form

For me, my artistic form of expression is writing. I put the pen to the paper and create all different lyrical forms. If I don’t, I get jumbled up inside.

It’s one thing that I know for certain that I’m meant to do in this world. I’ve been told by musicians along the way that my writings can be put to music. In a sense I’ve been writing “lyrics” since I was 10 years old.

Only Some Are Chosen

Yet it’s the chosen few, who make it past the gatekeepers that can share their work on a mass scale. So for now, I’ll keep working my full-time job in marketing and fundraising and write for me, as the artist <wink, wink>. Of course too I’ll continue to share it because those who wish to read it, I know will do so.

A Powerful Example: Alanis Morissette’s Thank U

In college I’d torture my roommates because when I’m drawn to a song I play it over and over. I mean over, and over, and over, and over. To the point where perhaps even I get sick of it.

I can name various songs where this was the case at some time or another. Yet, Alanis Morissette’s Thank U is one that I need to write about because it’s of a different caliber. I guess even more so because I sit with this song right now in my head.

–> Dealing With My Head

Like I’ve said before, writing about something is how I deal with my head. It’s how I understand and put something in the right place. Learn from it, and move on to the next. It’s the ‘seeker’ in me.

Alanis hit her peak in the 90’s when I was in college. We played her CD (yes CD, not MP3) Jagged Little Pill endlessly as did many across the world. She was an international success because she was just so well, harsh. So wrong, yet so good. I remember thinking how does one get lyrics like these to go mainstream?

–> The F Word – A Stand-Out

Times must be changing and well it’s about time. I believe that she was one of the first, if not the first, female artist to use the F word in a song. So she had me, like she had so many others. I wasn’t alone in my thinking.

–> Thank U

She released Thank U in the late 90’s but it wasn’t until the last two years, because of circumstances in my life, that portions of this song have been taking up space in my head.

Thank you terror.  Thank you disillusionment. Thank you frailty. Thank you consequence. Thank you, thank you silence

… I can say that these last few years have been the most difficult, yet best years of my life.

Oxymoronish I know.

It’s because all that I thought was “real” is really, no more.

Terror (or fear), being disillusioned, frail and consequence have brought me to this point.

Everything I thought I knew, believed has changed.

With that, I’m thankful for all of them, every single one.

And I’m thankful for silence … for filling me up and for allowing me to finally forgive. Forgive me, you, and especially God.

–> We’re Seeking

I have been listening to it regularly. Too I shared the song a month ago with my parents, who I know “get me” when I’m seeking. I believe Alanis was “seeking” too when she wrote this. When I say “seeking” I mean in searching our souls for something higher.

–> What Was She Thinking?

Since Thank U is haunting my mind, I need to ponder what her song means to me. As well, I need to understand, or glean at the very least, what she was thinking when she wrote it.

When she refers to “forgiving” and “blaming” I know that this could be many people or entities. She could be inferring the biggest of all beings, God. Or perhaps society, or individuals in her life that hurt her deeply.

We all do this and at one time or another; blame something or someone else for our own unhappiness. Perhaps it was one, or all of these. I know that depending on my mood, and circumstance(s) the meaning(s) in her song change for me. That’s the beauty in lyrics and music, and is why I write. It can mean all or nothing at the same time. Once again, as I mentioned before, it can be left up to the interpreter.

Alanis’s Story

In my research I found an interview on VH1’s Storytellers where Alanis reviewed Thank U. She stated, perfectly, I think, what was going on with her when she wrote it. I will paraphrase what she said, so please know this is not an exact quote.

Alanis felt she lived in a culture that told her that she had to consistently and constantly look outside herself to feel this elusive bliss. In so doing, she achieved a lot of what society had told her to achieve and she still didn’t feel peaceful. She started questioning everything, and realized that actually everything was an illusion. It was scary for her because everything she had believed in was dissolving in front of her and there was a death of sorts, a really beautiful one ultimately, but at first a very scary one, and so she stopped. She stopped for the first time and was overcome with a huge sense of compassion for herself first, and then naturally that translated into her feeling and compassion for everyone around her and a huge amount of gratitude that she had never felt before to this extent. And that’s why she had to write the song, ‘Thank U,’ because she had to express how exciting this was and how scary it was and all of these opportunities for us to define who we are.

It was uncanny because I knew, just knew, this was in fact the essence of the song, from her perspective, before I came across this interview.

–> Success Isn’t Contentment

While I’ve not achieved the level of fame that she has, or the “success” to which she references; the success I’ve garnered is on a different level. It’s the level which society has deemed important for the average person to feel fulfilled.

I’ve touched on this numerous times in my own personal writing. It was humorous to me because while Alanis achieved the ultimate that our culture underscores as important – international stardom, fame and fortune, she was still discontent.

While on a much lesser scale I’ve achieved what I was supposed to for a “normal” person. I have a full-time job, two College degrees, I’ve owned a house, and achieved many other “things” that to which society says is necessary to feel good or for one to be content.

I often think if I have these things then why do I still feel unsettled? Surely I don’t long for Alanis’s level of success, especially since she “got there” and still felt disillusioned. So that is not what I need or want to feel good. I know that. What I need to feel satiated, complete, is deeper.

Her story is such a powerful example of this because even though she did it all, there is no “bigger” she knew she wasn’t done. She wasn’t there yet. As a result she was awakened to the notion that what we seek and need is much deeper.

So my fellow seekers, I’m relieved in a sense because I have my answers. Well answers in that I know why I am so drawn to her song and especially now at this point in my life.

I could go into a deep analysis of what each line of that song represents to me, yet instead, I’d like to share something I wrote some time back. I express the same thoughts that Alanis did all those years ago.

It makes sense why her lyrics and why this song are a favorite of mine. She’s a kindred spirit, a seeker like you and me. So thank you Alanis, for Thank U.

The One

Old bed

musty sheets

lingering with hope

 

These pristine floors

majestic chandeliers

mock me

in the glimmer of the moon

 

Taking from me

from the stolen night

I wait for sunrise

I wait for light

 

Toss and turn

up and down

around it goes

ever seemingly

like a child’s yo-yo

 

I struggle to

push aside

the various levels of debris

and begin the arduous task

of peeling back

one by one

the elusive

yet engrained layers

of the world’s onion

 

That have dirtied my heart

soiled my mind

tainted my soul

 

So that I lost you

and I lost me

and I lost us

lost you in me

 

Who is me

if i don’t know you?

How can I be me

if i can’t find you?

 

With the darkest hour

the unholiest moment

no matter where I lay

an old bed

a pristine floor

it’s all the same

when I mumble your name

 

In my heart

in my mind

in my soul

 

I see you

and I see me

and I see us

I see you in me

 

and I sigh

or sometimes cry

because with your name

I surrender

for that moment

I am with you

with me

with us

The One

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy

I don’t know when this article was written but it is spot on to my circumstances right now. Thank u has always been a favorite of mine but since I heard it last week, it has stuck in my head and I googled to see if she had a meaning behind it and I stumbled on your site. Your own writing of The One appears to be spot on to my shattered illusions, picking up the pieces and finally seeing the beauty that is coming out of these ashes. So THANK YOU for writing about Thank U.

Reply

Melody Jean

Hi Kathy,
I am so glad you came across the blog post. Powerful message in Thank U … the meaning behind the meaning ;)) I wrote this some time ago, maybe two years? But I will never tire of it, nor will it’s message lessen in my eys. I am glad that you relate and more importantly, took a moment to stop by here and leave me a message that you do. Love Alanis for this song and so many more of her creations. I am sure Thank U will be in my head all day now, but that’s a good thing. So Thank U for commenting here. Peace.

Reply

Rick

Hi Melody,
I found your blog very interesting. I was on my way to Unity Church yesterday and by chance or providence started to play Thank U. It was a revelation. I listened to it 5 or 6 times and understood what was being said as I am, like you, at that place in my life, at 56, where the “normality” of life no longer does it for me. There IS more and it really [only]manifests itself in the Silence.

When I got to Unity, the speaker was the author John E Welshons, who spoke about the power of silence. When the singing stated at the end of the service, and it was about thankfulness, I was overcome with a profound gratitude.

Thank you for you excellent writing and for sharing.

Rick in NJ

Reply

Melody Jean

Rick
Thank you for your thoughtful note. It is always heartening to hear when something I have written resonates, and on such a deep level. Thank you for sharing your story with me. Peace to you in NJ and beyond.
-Melody Jean

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