Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
As 2020 gets off to a rocky start, if you “haven’t got it all figured out just yet,” that is okay. Alanis Morissette is back to remind us that “everything’s gonna be fine, fine, fine” with a (super relatable) new single, the promise of a new album in May, a new tour featuring guests Garbage and Liz Phair (“all I really want” is a ticket to that show), and the debut of the Broadway musical based on her iconic album, Jagged Little Pill. That album, her international debut, won five Grammys and made Morissette the first Canadian to have an album go double diamond (selling 20 million copies). Here are just a few albums that Jagged Little Pill has sold more copies than: The Beatles’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road, Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A., and Nirvana’s Nevermind. Not bad!
A New York Times Magazine feature by Rachel Syme sets the scene for the release of the album:
The riot grrrl ethos was “girls to the front” — a communal taking up space — while Morissette’s was more like “girls to your car,” where you could process your baggage in private. One was like being at a protest, and the other is like being in therapy — different impulses, but both about making conscious changes.
The album hasn’t yet been featured on Pitchfork’s Sunday Reviews, but it is destined to be. Hit me up, Pitchfork Editorial Staff, I’m happy to do it.
“Hand In My Pocket,” the second single off of the album, followed another classic, “You Oughta Know.” It was Morissette’s first number one single in Canada, but it did not make the Hot 100 in the USA (it was never released as a CD single there, though it posted high on other US charts). These five artists appreciate the song’s depth, paying their homage via a cover. And to all of you musicians out there, keep the Alanis covers coming! I dream of a Full Albums post for Jagged Little Pill.
Imagine Dragons – Hand In My Pocket (Alanis Morissette cover)
When Imagine Dragons stripped down three of their big hits for an acoustic session, they added this cover to close out the studio session. Great choice! The essential beat of this song is played as if it was being tapped out on a box, and I love that rustic feel. The acoustic guitar adds to this homely sound, and the bandmates’ background harmonies support and augment lead singer Dan Reynolds’s voice.
Belô Velloso – Hand In My Pocket (Alanis Morissette cover)
We get another acoustic cover from Belô Velloso, a Brazilian artist. The guitar opening is personalized, a riff inspired by the original but unique to Velloso’s version. Velloso’s vocals start strong, but come off less biting than Morissette at first. The deeper tune of the verses interweave with the lighter choruses. Despite less overall edge than the original, there are times where the requisite angst peeks out in lines like “I’m here, but I’m really gone” and “I’m green, but I’m wise.”
Just Her & Kieran Fowkes – Hand In My Pocket (Alanis Morissette cover)
Straying from the original, this cover nevertheless adds its own story on top of Morissette’s. It starts off with a guitar and a sonar sound, evoking the the theme of searching: “I’m lost but I’m hopeful, baby.” The cover progresses with a slightly different tune than the original, taking a risk that pays off. As the second voice comes in, more electronic signal sounds assert themselves, adding an ominous air. There is a prolonged “ooh” session that continues to build this sense of something bad about to happen. Towards the end of the song yet another layer of sound, heavier percussion, is added. The song ends like a cliffhanger, without the dramatic sounds being resolved. We can almost picture the fade to black on the last line “and the other one is hailing a taxi cab” with an unsatisfying “to be continued” label.
Pearl Fish – Hand In My Pocket (Alanis Morissette cover)
A light voice meshes with the heavier and almost dissonant background sounds in this cover. A lurking string bass provides the instrumental backbone while Pearl Fish layers different layers of her voice, providing her own backup harmonies. My favorite parts are the “what it all comes down to” lines. Here, the oscillation between resignation and pleading that permeate the rest of the song lifts a bit and we get a matter-of-fact delivery that reveals a rebellious spark reminiscent of the original.
Seaway – Hand In My Pocket (Alanis Morissette cover)
We’ll close out with a more upbeat cover by fellow Canadians. With a musical style a bit more hardcore than the original, Seaway provides a punk-rock style of vocals just shy of full-on screaming. The singers especially really go for it on the “baby”s. Guitar solos are tasteful and don’t distract from the vocals delivering Morissette’s powerful words. We’ll even cut certain members of the band some slack for reading the lyrics off of their phones.