#397: An Emotion Away by Alanis Morissette

Peak Month: December 1992
14 weeks on Vancouver’s CKLG’s chart
Peak Position #9
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
YouTube.com link: “An Emotion Away

Alanis Nadine Morissette was born in Ottawa in 1974. At the age of six she began to take piano, and the following year took up dance. In Junior High School she appeared on five episodes of a local CTV comedy show called You Can’t Do That on Television. In 1987 she recorded a demo with the help of Rich Dodson of The Stampeders. Four years later she released her debut album, Alanis. Her debut single was titled “Too Hot“.

Three more singles from the Alanis album, “Walk Away”, “Feel Your Love” and “Plastic”, kept Alanis Morissette on AM Top 40 radio in Canada into 1992. Her second album, Now Is The Time, also featured four single releases, including “No Apologies” and “An Emotion Away”.

An Emotion Away by Alanis Morissette
“An Emotion Away” was co-written by Alanis Morissette, Leslie David Howe and Serge Côté. As a songwriter and arranger, Serge Côté began working with recording artists in the mid-80s, including One to One, Jewel, Dan Hill, Harland Williams and Tom Green. This lead to the birth of Atomic Audio, his recording studio where he began composing for television series, animated series, films and radio/television commercials. For the past two decades, Côté he has created music for more than 1500 episodes of TV series, in many styles from drama to comedy. He was nominated in 2017 for a Canadian Screen Award (CSA) for his score in the animated series “Jason $ Song’s Maple Mystery”, In 2014 he had also been nominated for the award for “Rob the Robot”. Serge won a Gemini Award in 2010 for his score for the children travel series “A World of Wonders”. Serge Côté is also a six-time Gemini Award nominee for best score for “Rob the Robot” (2011), “A World of Wonders” (2008, 2009, 2010), “Rollbots” (2009) and “Kevin Spencer” (2005). Serge was also nominated for five Prix Gémeaux for best score and best opening theme for the TV series “Les Bleus de Ramville” (2013), “Météo+” (2009, 2010), and in 2017 for the opening theme for the TV show “St-Nickel”.

In the 1970s, Leslie David Howe was part of an Ottawa group called Mainstream. After he moved to Toronto, he became one half of the synth-pop duo One To One, who had a number of hits in the mid-80s including “Hold Me Now”, “Angel In My Pocket” and “There Was A Time”. Howe went on to write songs with his band the Artificial Joy Club, including the Billboard Alternative chart appearance of “Sick And Beautiful”.

“An Emotion Away” is a song about someone who had put their “heart on a shelf.” In the music video Alanis Morissette is watching a film about two gangsters (a male and a female). Someone called Adriana was supposed to meet them, but didn’t show up. Alanis switches the channel to find herself singing about finding someone to love who makes her feel all kinds of wonderful emotions. The music video is interspersed with a commercial for “Cologna Amore” depicting a romantic couple twirling around an Italian piazza. A voiceover states “Cologna Amore. One spray and your life is wonderful. One spray, and love is in the air. Cologna Amore, spray some today.” Meanwhile, the couple fall down on a patch of grass outside the Colosseum, and start to kiss. Alanis changes the channel and sees herself singing about feeling “something that I never had planned.” She sings about someone she’s fallen in love with, admitting, “I never thought I would find you.” Now she believes in chance, and being open to what is happening in the present moment. Alanis changes the TV channel back to the gangster show, where the female gangster shoots the male gangster. Alanis quickly decides to change the channel again, sees herself dancing and singing. “An Emotion Away” echoes the invitation her album offers to a new generation: now is the time. The single climbed to #9 in Vancouver (BC).

After two album releases, Alanis Morissette was being described as Canada’s answer to American recording artists Tiffany and Debbie Gibson. This changed in 1995 with the release of her third album Jagged Little Pill.

The first single release from her third album, “You Oughta Know”, got added to the playlist of KROQ-FM in Los Angeles. The single opened her up to the alternate rock audience where the single topped the Billboard Alternate Rock singles chart for five weeks in the summer of 1995. The song got noticed for its sexual frankness and use of swear words. “You Oughta Know” also made the Top Ten on the pop charts in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA. It also made the Top 40 in Belgium, Sweden and Scotland, and the Top 20 in the Netherlands. Her next single release from Jagged Little Pill was “Hand In Pocket”. The single topped the Billboard Alternate Rock singles chart for a week in October 1995. It also topped the Canadian RPM singles chart for five consecutive weeks starting in December 1995. As well, the single was her second consecutive Top Ten hit in New Zealand.

Jagged Little Pill continued to take Alanis to new heights with the release of her third single, “Ironic”. It became her third consecutive single to top the Billboard Alternate Rock singles chart. In April 1996, “Ironic” climbed to #1 on the Canadian RPM singles chart for six weeks, and to #1 in Spain. “Ironic” also made the Top Ten in Australia, Belgium, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Scotland, Switzerland and the Billboard Hot 100 in the USA. In 1996, her fourth single, “You Learn” again topped the Canadian RPM singles chart, this time for three non-consecutive weeks. It also climbed to #1 on the Billboard Mainstream Top 40/Contemporary Hit Radio singles chart and the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay chart. It also made the Top Ten on the Billboard Hot 100 and in Iceland. A fifth single release from Jagged Little Pill, “Head Over Feet”, topped the Canadian RPM singles chart for six weeks at the end of 1996, and became her first Top Ten hit in the UK. While in 1997 “All I Really Want” became her sixth consecutive Top Ten hit on the Canadian RPM singles chart.

In 1998 Morissette released “Uninvited”, a track from the film and soundtrack for City of Angels. The song climbed to #7 on the Canadian RPM singles chart. The single won two Grammy Awards in 1999 for Best Rock Song and Best Female Vocal Rock Performance. A third Grammy nomination for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television was given not to Alanis Morissette, but to James Horner and Will Jennings for “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic. Since then Alanis also has written songs for a number of other films, including The Devil Wears Prada.

In the fall of 1998 Alanis released her fourth studio album Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. The debut single was “Thank U”. The song was her fifth number one hit on the Canadian RPM singles chart. It also made the Top Ten in Austria, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Scotland and the UK.

In 2002 Morissette released her fifth studio album titled Under Rug Swept. The debut single, “Hands Clean”, became her sixth number one hit on the Canadian RPM singles chart. It also climbed to number one in New Zealand, and the Top Ten in Australia and Switzerland. Her last Top Ten hit anywhere was “Everything” from her sixth studio album So-Called Chaos. It became her twelfth Top Ten hit on the Canadian RPM singles chart. To date she has released eight studio albums, several compilations and one live album.

Between 1995 and 2018 Alanis Morissette has launched 19 separate tours. Three of these have been as co-headliner with Tori Amos (1999), the Barenaked Ladies (2004) and Matchbox Twenty (2008). Among her tours Morissette’s Junkie Tour, from August 1998 to December 1999, was her most ambitious. It took her across six continents and performing on 126 stages.

In 2018 the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, performed a musical titled Jagged Little Pill. It featured the songs from Alanis’ 1995 breakthrough album. In addition to her recording and performing career, in the Alanis Morissette has appeared in several seasons (2009 and 2010) of the American Comedy-drama TV show Weeds. She has appeared in live theatre in The Vagina Monologues and in the off-Broadway play The Exonerated as death row inmate Sunny Jacobs. As of 2016, Alanis Morissette has also been writing a column for the Guardian.

July 6, 2020
Ray McGinnis

References:
Christopher John Farley, “Music: Alanis Morissette: You Oughta Know Her: Once A Teen-dream Pop Singer, Alanis Morissette is Now a Rock ‘n’ Roller with a No. 1 Album and Six Grammy Nominations,” TIME, February 26, 1996.
Cara Carriveau, “Alanis Morissette Interview,” Chicago Music Guide.com, May 9, 2008.
Mark Sutherland, “Alanis Morissette Interview,” Telegraph, UK, August 25, 2012.
Profiles of Alanis Morissette, Margaret Cho,” CNN, January 4, 2003.
Lance Chalmers, Leslie Howe, Bob Moffatt, Michelle Plasse, One To One bio, Canadian Bands.com.
Serge Côté bio,” IMDb.com,

For more song reviews visit the Countdown.


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