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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Alanis Morrissette "Ironic" Song Analysis

Reader Emiliano Caballero Fraccaroli requested a song analysis of an Alanis Morissette song called "Ironic," the 4th hit single from her huge Jagged Little Pill album in 1995. The album went on to sell 16 million in the US and 33 million world-wide. As with all song analysis, we'll look at the song form, the arrangement, the sound and the production.

The Song
"Ironic" is a pretty standard song form with a minor twist; a form of the bridge repeats as the outro. The form looks like this:

Intro, Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Verse, Chorus, Bridge

Take notice that none of the choruses ever repeat, as is the case in normal pop songs.

The Arrangement
What really makes "Ironic" special is its arrangement and its dynamics. The intensity of the song breathes from section to section and that's what helps to keep it interesting. The fact that much of it is acoustic in nature until you get to these huge choruses makes it a lot more powerful than if it were either entirely big or entirely small. That's called tension and release, and is the basis of the emotion in any kind of art.

The arrangement elements look like this:

  * The Foundation: Bass and drums

  * The Pad: Organ, Synth and electric piano

  * The Rhythm: Rhythm guitar, shaker, bongos

  * The Lead: Vocal

  * The Fills: Electric guitar, organ, acoustic guitar

The Sound
"Ironic" is almost like two different songs sonically. The acoustic sections are very open, with a room reverb that's with a rolled off high-end and almost no decay tail. The choruses sound completely different though, with so much going on that most of the instruments are relatively small so they can fit into the sonic picture (even the drums). It's also a lot more compressed sounding. Even the vocal sounds different. That difference is what makes up the tension and release between sections though and what really makes the song exciting.

The Production
Glen Ballard did a great production job on this record (obviously so since it sold so much world-wide), and even though the sonic differences between sections are cool, sometimes it's the little things that really make it (at least for me). Take for instance the intro with just vocal and acoustic guitar. They're panned a little left and right. This makes everything seem wider and more interesting.

Feel free to send me your requests for song analysis.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Deep, great post! Nice work on Pensado's Place too!



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