Tuesday, February 27, 1996

Alanis Morissette released “Ironic”


Alanis Morissette

Writer(s): Alanis Morissette, Glen Ballard (see lyrics here)

Released: February 27, 1996

First Charted: January 6, 1996

Peak: 4 US, 3 CB, 14 RR, 28 AC, 5 A40, 7 AA, 18 AR, 13 MR, 11 UK, 16 CN, 3 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 0.6 US, 0.66 UK, 1.3 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 1.0 radio, 195.5 video, 330.83 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Alanis Morissette was a minor pop star in her native Canada in the early ‘90s, but exploded worldwide with her third album, Jagged Little Pill. “Ironic” was the third single from the album – and the third song for Alanis to top the alternative rock chart. It was one of five songs from the album to top the Canadian charts and her highest charting on the Billboard Hot 100.

The won the Juno Award for Single of the Year and was nominated for Grammys for Record of the Year and Best Short Form Music Video. It was also nominated for six MTV Video Music Awards, winning three of them. The iconic video features Alanis driving through a winter landscape with three passengers – all played by Alanis.

The song garnered attention for what some considered a misuse of the word “ironic.” The Oxford English Dictionary describes it as “a figure of speech in which the intended meaning is the oppositie of that expressed by the words used,” WK which meant situations described in the song such as “rain on your wedding day” and “a traffic jam when you’re already late” weren’t irony, but bad luck. In a 2008 interview with The London Times, Alanis said “the dictionary now says [irony is also] a coincidence and bad luck – not that I don’t deserve a little slap on the writst for malapropism. I always tell people that I’m the smartest stupid person you’ll ever meet.” SF

The song’s co-writer, Glen Ballard, explained that he has a degree in English and knew their examples of irony weren’t “technically right, but I think it’s wonderful that everybody sort of jumped in on it and wanted to really define it as a literary term.” SF Salon.com’s Michael Reid Roberts defended the song as using situational irony, in which “the state of affairs…that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects.” WK

Ultimately, the song – whether or not it is technically accurate in its portrayals of irony – is an observation that “life has a funny…way of helping us out – in spite of all the bad stuff that we have to go through.” SF


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First posted 2/3/2021; last updated 11/1/2022.

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