Iconized early with Jagged Little Pill by her sarcastic songwriting and spitefully shouting about anything that pissed her off, Alanis Morissette’s young wit really made an impact on the attitude of the ‘90s. And all we first knew about Havoc and Bright Lights was the original preface that each song had a “monster chorus” from Rolling Stone’s early summer issue. In true Morissette style, this was something to look forward to.
Falling slowly into the patterns of today’s pop radio trends, Morissette went for a heavier dance beat in a few of her songs this time around, perhaps feeling the pressure of her inevitable outdatedness. This doesn’t totally fit her, though, in early songs like “Woman Down” and “Celebrity,” which both aim to portray mean energy toward apathy and superficiality. They possess a certain uneasiness, and prove that her cooler, more natural tracks are her current forte.
Havoc and Bright Lights may not be as strong as Flavors of Entanglement, the 2009 album that proved this woman’s status as an Adult Contemporary goddess, but it takes a step back and still sings through its notes. We can confidently say that this woman, the most successful female rock musician of all time, will never put out anything worse than a four-star record in the rest of her career. But it’s definitely interesting to watch her age and face life’s circumstances through her music, never lagging in quality one bit.
It’s bittersweet to ultimately come to terms with the fact that Alanis has mastered her groove, releasing album after album prolifically (this particular one having recorded 30 songs before narrowing down the final cut). Jagged Little Pill happened in her reckless and youthful days, and now she’s settled into her married life, bountiful and quiet. Though the spark is still in her, we may never hear crashing cymbals ever again. And as always, the soprano shine is just as bright.
It seems that Alanis either tried to play with the listener or neglected to consider them in placing her songs in a certain order. “Havoc,” near the album’s end, is an incredibly telling story of maturity accompanied gently by its piano and light drum patter, giving us a really unexpectedly handsome ballad. But it’s placed next to the deeply challenged “Numb.” This happens earlier in the album, too. The flow is rough and jarring. A good order to an album’s songs is important, and it’s what missing from Havoc and Bright Lights’s composition. Was this intentional or just lazy? It’s really so hard to tell.
And yet, there are still moments where the classic Canadian woman’s bravery penetrates all of our doubts. “Lens” has the well-written and beautifully sung chorus we were waiting for, and it is reminiscent of her glory days as a singer. She sings: “it’s your (your) conviction ‘gainst my (my) conviction/and I’d like to know what we’ve seen/through the lens of love…love…love…love.”
Morissette’s strong hold on her family life is admirable, and the way she holds it so closely to herself is so beautifully expressed in this song, not only in the humble verses but in the breathtaking refrains. This is one of those “monster choruses” they were talking about, strong and affirming that it’s “all about me. learning how to receive.” She’s taking some for herself and leaving the rest for us. This is much, much more than we could’ve asked for, since her contributions to the music world are always so dignified.