With two hit albums released in the ‘90s, it might be habit to visualize Alanis Morissette in that time frame. But while quite a bit has changed in seventeen years, Havoc and Bright Lights is likely to please fans keen on a softer approach.
Alanis Morissette’s career began in her teen years, releasing her first two pop albums—Alanis in 1991 and Now Is The Time in 1992—in her native Canada. Things quickly progressed when, after signing with American record label Maverick in 1995, her album Jagged Little Pill was released worldwide, garnering international success. In an era known for its grunge rock scene, JLP’s alternative rock sound and edgy lyrics led to several hit singles and Billboard labeling it the number one best-selling album of the 1990’s.
Although JLP saw Alanis at her peak, other successes came in the form of Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (1998), Under Rug Swept (2002), So-Called Chaos (2004), and Flavors of Entanglement (2008). Throughout her career Alanis also explored the acting world, appearing in film, television, and stage roles.
Havoc and Bright Lights—Alanis’s 8th studio album—was released on August 28th 2012 under Collective Sounds, with Guy Sigsworth—who also produced her previous album—and Joe Chicarrelli as its producers. Its twelve tracks are a conglomerate of pop rock sounds, with catchy acoustic tunes and piano-backed ballads. Although some themes are familiar—such as identity, anger, loneliness, and love—the lyrical content consistently underlines its spiritual nature.
“Guardian,” the album’s first single, is a catchy alternative tune with spiritual undertones while the slow, piano-based ballad that is “Havoc” sets a beautiful background to its theme of insecurity. “Celebrity” is an intense rock-influenced critique on the lifestyle while the most surprising is “Woman Down,” whose hint of EDM sharply contrasts Alanis’s typical style, but which she balances out with her tough attitude.
If there is occasional ambivalence, the source is likely to be Alanis’s songwriting. Repetitive lyrics (“Numb”) and ambiguous, perhaps too abstract meanings (“Edge of Evolution”) are disappointing—if not unexpected—of such a skilled artist.
Overall, if spiritual allusions are right up your alley, then Havoc and Bright Lights definitely delivers. Alanis having given birth but two years ago, the outcome can’t be said to be a huge surprise, as motherhood tends to have that effect (Madonna’s Ray of Light, anyone?).
It might not figure as your favorite, but there is enjoyment to be had.