«Ironic» is a song recorded by Canadian-American singer Alanis Morissette for her third studio album, Jagged Little Pill (1995). It was written by Morissette and Glen Ballard, and was produced by him. Maverick and Warner Bros. Records released it as the album’s fourth single on February 27, 1996 in CD, maxi and cassette formats. «Ironic» is a pop rock song written in the key of B major, and includes a moderate tempo of eighty-two beats per minute. The lyrics present several situations which are said to be «ironic», which has led to debates about whether any of them fit the accepted meaning of irony.
The track topped the Canadian RPM Top Singles chart for six weeks, and reached the top five in Australia, New Zealand and Norway. In the United States, the song reached number four on April 13, 1996, and currently is her highest-charting single on the Billboard Hot 100. «Ironic» was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The song won the Juno Award for Single of the Year, and received twoGrammy Award nominations in 1997, for Record of the Year and Best Short Form Music Video. French director Stéphane Sednaoui filmed the music video. In it, Morissette drives through a winter landscape, and she plays multiple roles as her passengers. MTV nominated the music video for six MTV Video Music Awards in 1996, winning three of them. The music video was listed on VH1’s «Greatest Music Videos» list and was parodied by Allison Rheaume and «Weird Al» Yankovic.
In 2004, Morissette changed the lyrics of «Ironic» to denote her support for same-sex marriage at the fifteenth GLAAD Media Awards. This version was included on her albums iTunes Originals (2004) and Jagged Little Pill Acoustic (2005), and was performed at the House of Blues in 2005, along with Canadian singer Avril Lavigne. «Ironic» was included on the set list of her tour Jagged Little Pill World Tour (1995), and her compilation albums MTV Unplugged (1999), The Collection (2005), among others. The song was covered by Mexican duet Jesse & Joy for their album Esta Es Mi Vida Sesiones (2007), and by American band Four Year Strong for their cover album Explains It All (2009).
«Ironic» was written by Alanis Morissette and Glen Ballard, and produced by the latter for her third studio album, Jagged Little Pill (1995).In an interview with Christopher Walsh of Billboard, Ballard explained how he and Morissette met, and how «Ironic» was written. He commented: «I’m telling you, within 15 minutes we were at it—just writing. ‘Ironic’ was the third song we wrote. Oh God, we were just having fun. I thought ‘I don’t know what this is—what genre it is—who knows? It’s just good'». According to the sheet music published at Musicnotes.com, it is a pop rock song, set in the time signature of common time, composed in a moderate tempo of eighty-two beats per minute. It is set in the key of B major with Morissette’s vocal range from the tone of E5 to B♭5, and «Ironic» chord progression starts with the sequence of Emaj7–F♯6–Emaj7–F♯6, before changing to F♯–Badd2–F♯–G♯m7 in the chorus.
Linguistic usage disputes
The song’s usage of the word «ironic» attracted media attention for an improper application of the term, because according to Jon Pareles of The New York Times, the song gives a distinct «unironic» sense in its implications. According to the Oxford English Dictionary «irony» is «a figure of speech in which the intended meaning is the opposite of that expressed by the words used». Thus, lyrics such as «It’s like rain on your wedding day» and «A traffic jam when you’re already late» are not ironic. Morissette commented about the writing of the song: «For me the great debate on whether what I was saying in ‘Ironic’ was ironic wasn’t a traumatic debate. I’d always embraced the fact that every once in a while I’d be the malapropism queen. And when Glen and I were writing it, we definitely were not doggedly making sure that everything was technically ironic».
Comedian Ed Byrne performed a skit in which he jokingly attacked the song for its lack of ironies: «The only ironic thing about that song is it’s called ‘Ironic’ and it’s written by a woman who doesn’t know what irony is. That’s quite ironic.» Also satirists Berger and Wyse parodied the song in one segment of their cartoon strip The Pitchers. In that episode, a superhero named «Irony Man» compared his superpowers to lyrics from Morissette’s song, causing his cohorts to rename him «The Man from Alanis».
In December 2009, the comedy website CollegeHumor released a spoof video of the song called «Actually Ironic», featuring actress Sarah Natochenny, in which Patrick Cassels amended the lyrics in a form that would be appropriately ironic. The CollegeHumor spoof was replicated in July 2013 by sisters Rachael and Eliza Hurwitz, from New York City, who published their version on YouTube. The sisters sing the line «We fixed it for you, Alanis. You’re welcome.» throughout their «It’s Finally Ironic» video.
Jaime Gill from Dot Music commented on the original version of «Ironic», on his review of Jagged Little Pill Acoustic (2005), that «[Jagged Little Pill] gave us pop’s greatest parlour game, with spot the genuine irony in ‘Ironic'» and calling the song «pretty» and «catchy». But he later criticized the lyrics, calling the song «idiotic», and giving a positive review to the acoustic version saying: «it actually sounds more relaxed and engaging without the hoary loud guitars of the original». Even though Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic marked the track as one of the «All Media Guide track pick» of the album, in a separate review, from the same website, the CD single release was rated with two-and-a-half out of five stars. Pareles noted that in verses of «Ironic», and another song from the album («Mary Jane»), «it’s easy to envision Morissette on the stage of a club, singing wry couplets backed by acoustic guitar«. He also commented in another article he wrote, that the song was actually «unironic». Dave Brecheisen of PopMatters felt that the acoustic version of «Ironic», was much worse than the original version. The single won the Juno Award for Single of the Year at the 1997 ceremony, and in the same year it was nominated for a Grammy Award, in the category of Record of the Year.
«Ironic» debuted on the Canadian RPM Singles Chart at number ninety-five on the issue dated January 8, 1996. Twelve weeks later the track topped the chart, on April 1, 1996, staying there for six weeks, being replaced by «Closer to Free» by American band BoDeans. Spending twenty-nine weeks within the top 100, it was last seen on July 22, 1996, at number eighty-one. On other RPM charts, the single topped the Alternative 30 Chart and reached number six on the Adult Contemporary Chart. The track debuted at number eleven on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the highest debut on the issue ending March 16, 1996. The single eventually reached its peak position, at number four, on April 13, 1996. «Ironic» is currently Morissette highest-charting hit on the Hot 100 chart. In other US charts, the single became her third number-one hit on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks, where it stayed for three weeks. The song topped the Mainstream Top 40, reached number five on Adult Top 40 chart and twenty-eight of the Adult Contemporary chart.
In Australia, the song debuted at number forty on their singles chart. In its eighth week, it peaked at number three on May 12, 1996, where it stayed for two weeks. It was last appeared on the chart on July 21, 1996, at number thirty-seven. To date, «Ironic» is her best charting song on the country. The song was generally well-received throughout Europe. In the United Kingdom «Ironic» debuted and peaked at number eleven, on April 20, 1996. It left the chart eight weeks later, at number sixty-seven. In the Norwegian Singles Charts, it debuted at number eighteen, rising to number seventeen the next week. It rose to number five on its third week, and later peaked at number four, staying there for five weeks. It later dropped one place, and remained there for another two weeks. «Ironic» kept within the chart for seventeen weeks. In Belgium, it reached sixth place on the Ultratop 50 (Flanders region), and ninth place on theUltratop 50 (Wallonia zone).
The music video for «Ironic» was directed by Stéphane Sednaoui. In the beginning of the video, Morissette is at a gas station, walking to her automobile with a cup of coffee in her hand. Then, she drives her car through a winter landscape, and she begins to sing the song’s first verse. When it comes to the chorus, a second Morissette comes in. She is in a green sweater and sits in the backseat. When the first chorus ends, a third Morissette comes in, and she is in a yellow sweater with braided hair, also in the backseat. Along the way, the yellow Morissette is singing and eating at the same time, and when it comes to the second verse, a fourth and last Morissette comes in, she is in a red sweater sitting in the front passenger seat. During the second chorus, she climbs out of the window when they are still driving and almost gets knocked out by a bridge, but still manages a smile after doing so. The camera comes back to the driving Morissette, after the breakdown, and she takes off her hat, tosses it into the back seat, and becomes as loud as the other three while singing the song. When Morissette sings the outro, she is still driving through the winter landscape, and suddenly the car breaks down (possibly having run out of gas, which may be «ironic» in itself since the video started with her at a gas station.) Morissette (as the driver) gets out of the car, and all her «passengers» have disappeared.
Blaine Allan noted in the book Television: Critical Methods and Applications (2002) how Morissette interacts with the watcher. He commented that unlike Britney Spears‘ «Lucky» music video, where Spears plays dual role of a girl named «Lucky» and her fan, and both appear together in some scenes helped by visual effects, «Ironic» does not utilize them, using solely editing, giving the sense that all the Morissettes interact with each other. Journalist Carol Vernallis also found that Morissette’s «chitchat» way of singing the song creates an intimate connection viewer. She mentioned the video in her book Experiencing Music Video: Aesthetics and Cultural Context(2004), where she studied how the audience may pay attention to the lyrics of the song in a music video. Vernallis added that «Ironic» music video functions as a limited example of how the meaning of a song’s lyrics become «inaccessible» when they are videotaped and televised.
Charles Aaron from Spin called «Ironic» music video «neat». The video was nominated for six MTV Video Music Awards in 1996: «Video of the Year«, «Best Direction in a Video«, «Viewer’s Choice«, «Best Female Video«, «Best New Artist in a Video» and «Best Editing«, winning the last three. It was nominated in 1997 for the Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video.Also, it was listed number eighteen at VH1‘s 100 Greatest Videos. In late 1996, a parody version of the video was released featuring a young girl, Allison Rheaume, who mimics Morissette’s actions and wardrobe while lip syncing to the original song. At the end, her father notices her in the car sitting in the driveway and tells her to stop fooling around. This version of the video, directed by David Rheaume, was included on Morissette’s CD/DVD The Collection (2005). «Weird Al» Yankovic produced a parody version of the video in 2003 for histelevision comedy series Al TV, in which he takes the place of the fourth version of Morissette in the front passenger seat.
The single was added in the set list for Morissette’s concert tour, Jagged Little Pill World Tour (1995). The song was added to the tour’s video album Jagged Little Pill Live (1997). Since then, «Ironic» has been included in her albums MTV Unplugged (1999), Feast on Scraps (2002), Live in the Navajo Nation (2002), and The Collection, as well as 1997 Grammys and the MTV Unplugged compilation albums.
With «Ironic», Morissette denoted her support for same-sex marriage. In March 2004, Morissette amended a lyric at the fifteenth annual GLAAD Media Awards: «It’s meeting the man of my dreams /And then meeting his beautiful husband». She commented to USA Today that her support about same-sex unions «goes a step further than clever lyrics.» She remarked that «[her] fantasy would now be to marry some of [her] gay couple friends.» Later in June 2004, she said to VH1: «I don’t have any gay-couple friends who are formally engaged, but I would be honored to support the gay community in that way … I did it as a sort of spontaneous thing at a radio station about a month ago with a couple, and my heart was so with them.» Morissette recorded an acoustic version of the song with the changed lyric for her iTunes Originals release, in 2004. Another acoustic version was recorded for the album Jagged Little Pill Acoustic, as well for the compilation album Cities 97 Sampler, Volume 16 (2004). The song was also performed in a duo with Avril Lavigne at the House of Blues in 2005.
Covers and use in media
«Ironic» was covered in 2007 by Mexican duet Jesse & Joy for their album Esta Es Mi Vida Sesiones, and the pop punk band Four Year Strong for their 90’s cover album Explains It All(2009). In the 1996 novel Naïve. Super by Norwegian author Erlend Loe, the protagonist watches the video for the song on television and dreams about «meeting an Alanis-girl and living in a house together with her». In the Jay and Silent Bob comic Chasing Dogma (1998), the character Tricia Jones is singing «Ironic» before Jay steps into the shower. In 2003, Ji-In Chocovered the song for the German version of the Fame Academy talent show, which became a success in the German charts. In September 2001, «Ironic» was listed as «one of the songs deemed inappropriate due to its lyrics» by American mass media company Clear Channel Communications, after the September 11 attacks occurred. The music of the song was featured in the romantic comedy film I Could Never Be Your Woman (2007), where Saoirse Ronan, as Izzie Mensforth, sings an altered version of the lyrics in a talent show. It also made a predominant appearance as the opener to 2013 comedy movie The Internship, starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, as they sing along to it.