Faced with the prospect of American radio stations refusing to play her new single, “Everything,” Alanis Morissette changed its opening lyrics. The new version begins “I can be a nightmare of the of the grandest kind,” as opposed to the original “asshole of the grandest kind.”
“It got to the point, post-nipplegate Janet Jackson, where they were basically saying that they wouldn’t play the song,” Morissette says. “People not hearing the song, based on my shooting myself in the foot by taking a stance of ‘my artistic integrity will not be fucked with’ wasn’t worth it. And I understand some parents not wanting their seven-year-old son or daughter hearing the word ‘asshole,’ even though they probably use it already [laughs].”
Morissette originally resisted the change, and her forthcoming album, So-Called Chaos (due May 18th), will contain the original version of the song. “It really isn’t a huge compromise for me to have one version that’s played on radio and then have the original version on the record,” she says. Morissette just shot a video for the single in Los Angeles with director Meirt Avis (U2, Bruce Springsteen).
The omitted word is tame compared to some of the lyrics contained in Morissette’s 1995 breakthrough single, “You Oughta Know,” namely “Are you thinking of me when you fuck her.” Radio stations chose to play “You Oughta Know” with strategic bleeps.
As for how she decided on the new lyric for the “Everything” single, Morissette says, “One of my worst fears would be for an old boyfriend of mine to consider me a ‘nightmare.’ I just feel like men use that word so much more than women do. Men say, ‘Oh God, she’s a nightmare!’ I just want to shake them and say, ‘What specifically are you talking about — that she required that you tap into your emotional self?’ [laughs]. So it was good to use that word in the spirit of busting my own resistance to it.”
Morissette admits that the search for a replacement lyric was often comic. “One of them was ‘crack ho,'” she says, laughing. “I won’t be using that one.”