Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
“You Oughta Know” represented a handful of firsts for Alanis Morissette. It was the first single off her 1995 Jagged Little Pill album and the first release based on her collaboration with Glen Ballard, who shares writing credit and produced the song. While it’s also technically her first public break from the pop-leaning sound she’d previously engaged, that Alanis – like Robin Scherbatsky’s “Robin Sparkles” days, for How I Met Your Mother fans – was really known only to her native Canada.
For most American listeners, “You Oughta Know” was the first time they’d heard Alanis Morissette, period – and a demure introduction it was not. The song also marked, for more than a few JNCO-clad girls in their teens and twenties, the first time that 1990s alternative rock seemed not just open to frustrated female energy but perfectly suited to it. Its combination of smartly conceived jabs and soaring emotion ensured the song would stay lodged in musical memory for a long time to come – and that many other artists would want to give it a try.
Renditions of “You Oughta Know” have shown up on American Idol and The Voice, with contestants tending to stick by a presentation similar to Morissette’s. Beyonce tacked a jouncing but still angry version of it onto “If I Were a Boy” in concert. Some of modern pop’s sweethearts have let their own aggression shine by singing duets of it with Alanis Morissette on stage. And covers have abounded.
Following are five artists who – through creativity in tone and instrumentation, and often through genre switching – brought something new to one of the ’90s most memorable breakout songs.
Lauren Aquilina – You Oughta Know (Alanis Morrissette cover)
In this version, recorded live at Abbey Road Studios, Lauren Aquilina captures a different mood than Alanis Morissette did, but without sacrificing impact. The antsy drum and guitar work that introduced the original are gone; in their place we have the spare (and lonelier) sound of Aquilina’s piano. While the original grabbed listeners’ attention from the start with Morissette’s over-calm voice against music that seemed to say “wait for it . . . wait for it . . .”, Lauren Aquilina’s take does the same through the resonance of her soft but earnest vocals. A standout factor of this version is the way Aquilina’s shifting tone underscores the song’s emotional arc. Delivering verse one with a resigned vulnerability that seems almost antithetical to the song’s rage-catharsis vibe, she has room to build, in the second verse, to a halting, rawer tone that indicates some of the lyrics’ inherent anger is breaking through a dominant sadness.
1000 Mona Lisas – You Oughta Know (Alanis Morrissette cover)
Hollywood punk band 1000 Mona Lisas hit the peak of their commercial success in covering “You Oughta Know” – quite soon after the original was released, for that matter. If Morissette’s version is a jilted lover suddenly outside your bedroom window, this version is that same ex showing up at your office and shouting at you while jumping on your desk. This “You Oughta Know” gets full-scale punk treatment. Its racing pre-chorus and blaring chorus make for a surprisingly funny take on the anger anthem of ’95.
The Killing Moon – You Oughta Know (Alanis Morrissette cover)
The Killing Moon’s version finds itself in competition with 1000 Mona Lisas’ even more than with the original. Here again, the lyrics are coming at you from a male singer; here again, the genre is punk. But a different, more straightforward punk. In contrast to the manic humor/anger of 1000 Mona Lisas, the Killing Moon gives you serious guitars, earnestly strained vocals, and pure dripping angst.
Danni Carlos – You Oughta Know (Alanis Morrissette cover)
There’s plenty that could go wrong in attempting to sex up “You Oughta Know.” As Alanis Morissette sang it, there was zero sense of foreplay, and when a covering singer does so much as add a batting eyelid or provocative hip swivel, the result seems tone-deaf. Brazilian singer Danni Carlos, however, successfully reinterprets the song as a seduction. This becomes clearest in the first prechorus, when she lets the sexiness fly; the fact that the narrative singer of this version is still pissed off becomes clear, if subtly so, in the second verse. In fact, her quietly charming tone lends lyrics like “I hate to bug you in the middle of dinner” a sense of danger more secretive – and unpredictable – than Morissette’s.
Our Last Night – You Oughta Know (Alanis Morissette cover)
Given the fury of its message and multiple opportunities for belting the words, “You Oughta Know” seems a prime candidate to be reworked in a metal style. While a few other bands have given that a whirl, Our Last Night succeeds by not slamming and shouting through the song in its entirety. In their varied arrangement, a full metal aesthetic is reserved for those spots where it will have greatest impact. The band’s know-how in post-hardcore punk comes through here as they capture the aggression of “You Oughta Know” without losing the sharpness and composure of its barbs to a hard-and-fast beginning-to-end presentation.
Check out what Alanis Morissette is up to these days on her website.