I was fourteen years old, sitting in my English classroom one Wednesday morning, goofing around with friends. Our young, female teacher that year was very idealistic, as well as quite hyper. She liked to talk, and that morning was no different. She got going about how happy she was, all because a relative unknown had swept the charts at the Grammy Awards the night before. It was then that I heard the name Alanis Morissette for the first time. She’d received acclaim for her debut album Jagged Little Pill, which I was completely in the dark about.

Fourteen is a sensitive age, and while intrigued by the idea of a new female force on the music scene, I also felt intimidated. I mean, Jagged Little Pill? To me that sounded like a declaration of war. Upon hearing the single You Oughta Know, the avatar of a bitter, angry woman circled round my thoughts, only to get relegated to a shady corner of mind.

As the years rolled by and I thawed to life, Ms. Morissette continued releasing material that sort-of charmed the ears, as well as felt suitably softer than her debut offerings. In spite of this, I still couldn’t remove a block I had against her, there an ongoing vixen-ness about her that continued doing dark, ambiguous incantations in the vaults of my soul.

And only now, twenty years after Jagged Little Pill, have I caught up with what she already knew then. Take the single Hand in my Pocket as an example. It’s a four-minute treatise on what it means to be youthful in the world, an anthem for the unspoken loves and disappointments that accompany that time. I now realize that what I’d labeled to be angry and bitter when fourteen years old has returned to me as intelligent realism, and I’m inclined to think that its soulful orator is a genius beyond-her-time.

To illustrate my point, find a dark, quiet place and put on some headphones. Plug them in, load up Hand in my Pocket, and offer it your undivided attention. Train your ears on the omnipresence of its words, and don’t feel afraid to fall in love with its songstress. It’s a trip, man, to think that for twenty years I’d considered her to be something scary, something to avoid.

Truth be told, she now occupies a haloed light in my mind. By simply doing what she does, she’s taken me on a twenty-year journey akin to an intimate relationship, not in the sense that we’ve shared any face time, but rather that she’s so effortlessly brought such honest light to my life. Thank you, Ms. Morissette.

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