Okay, Alanis Morissette’s ‘Ironic’ Isn’t Actually Ironic, But It’s Awesome

Monday is Alanis Morissette’s 41st birthday. Twenty years ago, when she was but a 21-year-old, she released Jagged Little Pill, one of the most successful albums of all-time. It won Album of the Year at the Grammys, it’s the highest-selling album of 1996, and it went platinum 16 times over. It’s also a stone-cold classic, and the best album to fire shots at Dave Coulier.

One of the album’s most talked-about songs was “Ironic,” but for reasons you could argue are unfortunate. For the last 20 years, all anybody’s wanted to talk about when it comes to that song is the fact that its lyrics don’t actually capture what irony is.

Yes, the things Alanis sings about in “Ironic” are not, by traditional definitions, ironic. There’s nothing ironic about 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife, or meeting the man of your dreams and then meeting his beautiful wife. But enough already. It’s a supremely dead horse that’s been beaten vociferously. There are those who may argue as a counterpoint that the definition of irony — “Contradiction between circumstances and expectations; condition contrary to what might be expected” — has been in usage since around 1640, and that language is ever evolving. They would say that, perhaps, in these modern times some of Morissette’s lyrics are, in fact, ironic.

All of this overshadows some very important stuff. The argument here is not about whether or not Alanis is singing about ironic things. The argument is that “Ironic” is a really good song and maybe you should just relax for a moment and enjoy it. Morissette has a great voice. The song is very pretty. That chorus? That chorus has so much energy to it. It doesn’t matter whether or not there’s anything ironic about rain on your wedding day. Alanis sings the hell out of it anyway.

Also, the music video is great! It’s a delight through and through. We get four separate Alanises, in different jaunty outfits, and they are all in one car and they sing and dance and act ridiculous. The Alanis in a red sweater climbs out the car window and the driving Alanis in a hat tries to get her to behave and it’s fantastic. Then, she takes her hat off and lets her hair down and it gets even better. This may be the best music video ever made. It’s powered by the sheer charm and charisma of Alanis Morissette, and it works.

Maybe, for just one day out of your life, sit down and watch the music video for “Ironic.” Don’t worry about parsing the lyrics. Don’t worry about the dude who was afraid to fly. Just listen to the energy of that chorus, and watch four Alanis Morissettes have a great time. Make this your birthday present to her. It also serves as a present to yourself.