Album: Jagged Little Pill (1995)
Charted: 11 4
Play Video


  • The events described in the song (rain on your wedding day, a traffic jam when you're already late, etc.), are not examples of irony. Irony is the use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning. The one actual, ironic statement in this song is, "As the plane crashed down he thought 'well, isn't this nice'..." Sarcasm is an example of irony, and this thought, clearly, was a sarcastic one.

    The London Times June 14, 2008 asked Morissette if she has worked out the meaning of irony yet. She replied: "Yes, I've now learnt the definition of irony - but the dictionary now says that it's a coincidence and bad luck, too - not that I don't deserve a little slap on the wrist for my malapropism. I always tell people that I'm the smartest stupid person you'll ever meet." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Margaret - Buellton, CA [Margaret is an English teacher]
  • At the end of the song, Alanis says life has a funny funny way of helping us out - in spite of all of the bad stuff that we have to go through. The bad stuff helps us get to where we are going, and that is ironic. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Nicole - Houston, TX
  • In America, this was Morissette's third single, but her first to be sold in stores. US listeners first heard her in the summer of 1995 when "You Oughta Know" garnered substantial airplay. A few months later, radio stations and MTV started playing "Hand In My Pocket," which showed a more mellow side of Morissette. Neither song was available for sale, which (per Billboard rules) kept them off the Hot 100 chart but drove sales of the album. "Hand In My Pocket" peaked in airplay in October, but Jagged Little Pill kept selling: In January 1996 is was certified with 5 million US sales.

    In February, Morissette sang a captivating version of "You Oughta Know" at the Grammys and took home four awards. After the ceremony, "Ironic" was released as a single with the Grammy performance as the B-side, giving the millions who bought the album a reason to buy it. And Jagged Little Pill still had gas in the tank: "You Learn" was issued as a single in the summer of 1996, again with the Grammy performance of "You Oughta Know" as the B-side. It rose to #6 in July while the album kept selling about a million copies a month. "Head Over Feet" was then released to radio, peaking in airplay in October. In July 1998, Jagged Little Pill was certified for sales of 16 million in America. Her next album, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, was issued that November.
  • Morissette wrote this song with Glen Ballard, who produced the Jagged Little Pill album. They met in March 1994 when she moved to Los Angeles from Canada to boldly become an incisive singer-songwriter and break from the lightweight dance-pop she made in Canada, where she released two albums as a teenager.

    With Ballard, she wrote 20 songs in 20 session, 12 of which ended up on the album. "Ironic" was written on May 26, 1994, which was early in their partnership. In a Spotify Landmark session, he told the story: "Our process began with lunch at Emilio's trattoria over chopped salads and iced T. I recall her saying something like, 'Wouldn't it be ironic for an old man to win the lottery and die the next day?' We were fresh with this thought when we walked into the studio 10 minutes later. This was the beginning of the true magic between us."

    Morissette added: "I've had my ass kicked for 20 years about it being a malapropism. I think people had a lot of issues with perhaps my stupidity or Glen's and my lack of caring about being perfect. I see words as paint, so I play with them. I use words all the time that don't exist in the dictionary, so for us it was just making each other laugh and making each other think and feel. After 'Ironic' I started writing songs very autobiographically and lyrically on my own."
  • In a Songfacts interview with Glen Ballard, he talked about the use of irony in this song. "I have a degree in English," he said. "I did my dissertation on T. S. Eliot, so I understand that the way we used irony was a much more conventional use of it and it wasn't technically right, but I think it's wonderful that everybody sort of jumped in on it and wanted to really define it as a literary term. So, I'm fine with that. I think it's really funny and I just enjoyed the hell out of it, for sure."
  • This was nominated for Grammys in the categories Record of the Year and Best Short Form Music Video.
  • In 1996, this won MTV Video Music Awards for Best Female Video, Best Editing, and Best New Artist In A Video.
  • This stands apart from the other tracks on Jagged Little Pill in that it's fictionalized, not autobiographical or based on real people Morissette knew.
  • Morissette wasn't crazy about the song and almost didn't include it on the record. "But Glen insisted it was the greatest song," she explained to Entertainment Weekly. "And I just thought, 'Okay, I've been wrong before.'"
  • In a 1999 Q magazine feature, Morissette recalled the songwriting session: "It was quite funny, because when Glen and I were in the studio writing it, we were just trying to make each other laugh. We weren't even thinking about ironies at all, which is probably the most ironic thing about the song."
  • There was a touch of irony when Alanis Morissette closed out her Woodstock '99 performance with this song. Along with Jewel and Sheryl Crow, she was one of just three women on the bill, and the only one to perform on day 3, going on just before Limp Bizkit. She gamely soldiered through her set, which was received as well as Kid Rock would have been at the Lilith Fair. "Thank you very much everyone, I love you... so much," she said with a chuckle as she left the sage.
  • Saoirse Ronan sang this in the 2007 dramedy I Could Never Be Your Woman. It also opened the 2013 comedy The Internship, with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson singing along with it.
  • In 2004, Morissette re-wrote the lyrics to convey her support of same-sex marriages and performed the tune at the GLAAD Media Awards. The following year, she performed it at the House of Blues, joined by fellow Canadian artist Avril Lavigne. Morissette included the new version on her iTunes Originals album (2004) and Jagged Little Pill Acoustic (2005).
  • In 2015, Morissette sang a version with updated lyrics with James Corden when she appeared on his show. Some modern-day perils:

    Swiping left on your future soulmate
    A funny Tweet that nobody faves
    A no-smoking sign when you brought your vape
    Netflix, but you own DVDs
  • This was discussed on the TV series Castle in the 2009 episode "When the Bough Breaks." Richard Castle thanks Kate Beckett for using irony correctly. "Ever since that Alanis Morissette song, people use it when they actually mean 'coincidence.' It drives me nuts," he says.
  • This was used on the British sci-fi anthology series Black Mirror in the 2016 episode "San Junipero."

Comments: 45

  • Sean Wright from New JerseyI have never been satisfied with definitions of irony I have seen. My own definition is that irony is a subversive relationship between intention and outcome or meaning and expression.
  • Eric Martin from Virginia, UsaA couple of other artists have taken shots at Morissette's apparent lack of grammar ability.
    In Weird Al's "Word Crimes" (a parody of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines"), Al pokes fun at Morissette with the line, "You better figure out the difference, irony is not coincidence." In the video version, irony is illustrated by showing a fire truck on fire; it is contrasted by an illustration of rain falling on a bride and groom, which is just coincidental weather ("It's like rain on your wedding day...")
    When Lonely Island performed their comedic song "Semicolon" on Jimmy Kimmel's show, their fellow guest star Morissette pointed out that they had confused the meanings of semicolons and colons. Adam Sandberg of Lonely Island retorted, "So, you're correcting our grammar? Well, I gotta say, Alanis: Coming from you, that's... a little ironic!"
  • Skolinkinlot from UsaThis article is not correct. The universal definition of “irony” as a literary device defines it as an instance of the unexpected that plays on ignorance. Normally, a character in the story is ignorant of something the audience knows, but sometimes the audience doesn’t know something will happen and is surprised. Either way, someone expects or assumes one thing and something happens that violates the expectation. This has been the standard definition of the term in literary studies at least since the 1960s. So all the examples she gives in the song are in fact ironies because they play against what would be hoped for or expected.
  • Piper from Portland Orthe beanie cap worn in the video is so awesome, I got one from the store and wore it every day for years, made me feel the music, oh the irony of this song, when the man crashes after winning a lottery all I can think is I once won a 50$ scratch off ticket, her song could have been about me, imagine that if it was,
  • George from Vancouver, CanadaYes, the dictionary NOW says those are definitions of ironic, likely due to people thinkig this song defined irony rightly, so popular use made the error legitimate. :( Oh well, USA has never got the hang of the meaning of "irony" nor of "condescending" vs "patronizing"
  • Tony from CanadaThe irony is that a song about irony contains no irony. Thats ironic.
  • George from Vancouver, CanadaThe irony isn't present in each line, but in the overall song -- these bad things are shown as necessary to haer a good life -- isn't THAT ironic, she's saying -- or we could credit that, except she's admitted she didn't really understand the concept when writing the song. Serendipity, I guess, gets the full credit for cleverness. . .
  • Racefangurl from Ny StateThere's up to 3-4 ironies here. The sarcasm in the plane crash, the old lottery winner dying, the no smoking sign and perhaps bad stuff in life helping (situational irony with the last 2-3).
  • Tim from Gastonia, Nc98 year old man won the lottery and it was suppose to make his life better, but instead it killed him... The excitement of it all, heart attack.
    Perhaps the 98 year old man already had a wonderful life and didn't need the lottery but played any ways maybe checked his ticket with the great grand kids... And now he's dead. Pretty ironic, don't you think?
  • Keonna from Puckett, MsThis song does actually contain irony.
  • Frida from Lexington, KyThere are different forms of irony and the song IS ironic. It's called situational irony. Where the outcome of the situation is not what you would expect it to be. Not all ironic things have to be sarcasm. For example: "An old man turned 98, he won the lottery and died the next day." Most people would not expect a 98 year old man to win the lottery or die soon after.
  • Karen from Manchester, NhIf I may nit-pick further...she never actually SAYS that these things are ironic...she ASKS, "Isn't it ironic?"! Not normally my style of music, but even I'm not immune to that wonderful belting of "rain"!
  • Kirsty from Oxfordshire, United KingdomThe fact that none of the lyrics consist of irony in a song called ironic is ironic!! Therefore, Alanis didn't cock up at all!! Love her music and voice... very talented woman.
  • Shilo from Noneofyourbuisness, ItalyThis song is funny, but true in every way. And her voice is so unique... Amazing.
  • Matthew from Dumfries, United KingdomFace it, she cocked it up. that is what happens when you try to be all clever and wordy with little or no natural aptitude. she got caught out here.
  • Spencer from A Village, NjNone of this is Ironic, but its pretty funny.
  • Jailene from K-town, WaI just love this song. I don't really give a crap if it is actually ironic or not, the vocals are great and the lyrics are just funny, especially if you frolic through other people's pain.
  • Madalyn from Greensburg, PaI used a couple quotes from this song in a speech class I took once, and I got an A on that speech. Thanks... what a beautiful song.
  • Don from B G, KyPoster Jason said: "If yesterday you needed a spoon and there were 10,000 knives and today you needed a knife and there were 10,000 spoons". Jason how big is your utensil drawer? Remind me never to eat at your house. On topic, I prefer the def of IRONIC as being "it figures". Now go figure.
  • Julian from Placentia, CaShe better make the rock and roll hall of fame!
  • Michael from Melbourne, AustraliaEveryone should stop bagging Alanis. She is a fantastic artist, and this song absolutely rocks.

    I agree with Sarah from England. I love it when she belts out "Rain".

    Please enjoy music, everyone.
  • Dweebstick from Melbourne, AustraliaIsn't it ironic to be discussing semantics in rock music? It are a good song, but.
  • Nelson from MelbourneWhy be so technical? This is a good song in many ways. It's got a story, good feeling and great music. We all know what she means.
  • Dirk from Nashville, TnOK, so she was a bit wrong with her choice of words. How many grammatically challenged songs have we endured in the rock era? But you have to admit this--"Ironic" really kicks. The explosion of the word "rain" in every refrain. The way she flips off the phrase "It figures." The multi-layered emotion of the line "Yeah, I really do think." Alanis is an incredible craftsman on this recording (sorry--craftswoman). She is far more advanced than the rest of the 1990s pop pack. I say step back and let her use the word "ironic" however she durn well pleases.
  • AnonymousThe American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition: 2. a. Incongruity between what is expected and what actually occurs

    Wikipedia: Situational Irony: Players and events coming together in improbable situations creating a tension between expected and real results. Irony of Fate:The expression "irony of fate" stems from the notion that the gods (or the Fates) are amusing themselves by toying with the minds of mortals, with deliberate ironic intent. Situations resembling poetic justice, but lacking the aspect of justice, may also be ascribed to the irony of fate.

    Though, yes, in general this song does not adhere to the etymological definition of "feigned ignorance", and the idea of a double audience and double meaning.

    Are there double meanings here? No. Are there incongruities? Yes. That would be why the populace is split on whether the song contains any irony other than the actual lack of irony.

    In spite of this word misusage debate, (and I do tend to agree with those who say ironic is used incorrectly in this song, at least from the etymological standpoint, unless you believe in fate, in which case I do think the term ironic is very correctly applied in all senses of the word) I love this song for its way of throwing life in our faces. It forces reconsideration of the old adage 'Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.' The first and last verse offer the best examples of this. I'd find it difficult to believe the old man did not wish for winning the lottery, the customer did not wish for chardenne, the prisoner did not wish for a pardon, or that any woman does not wish to meet the man of their dreams. They all receive what they think they want, but aren't able to enjoy it. So here's the thought 'Do any of us really want what we think we want?' This song certainly makes me think (as I'm certain this rather lengthy post is revealing), and that might be the real reason I like it so much. I love the rare songs that provoke thought. Feel free to comment on any of this. (I also love hearing what other people think about things. They usually challenge me to question what I think and why I think the way I do, which is how I grow.)
  • Richard from Newport, Isle Of Wight, EnglandLook, Alanis fans, face facts. She cocked up when she wrote it, then tried to cover up this fact after someone pointed it out to her, by claiming that the whole song was being ironic, or some old cock-and-bull story. Which dug her hole even deeper. Basically, as a North American, she didn't know what irony is, and will probably never understand, if the comments of Victor, of Vienna, Virginia, are anything to go by.
  • Sarah from Midlands, EnglandMaybe Alanis was being ironic in calling it ironic. SUCH a good song to belt out when driving in my car!
  • Zach from Norman, OkShe's not using the term wrong. Irony is the occurrence of something that is the opposite of expected. Ex. you listen to a song called "ironic", and you probably expected there to be even a little irony in it.
  • Casie from Denver, CoI think she is trying to say that life sometimes doesn't make sense even though its really happening. A man turned 98 and won the lottery? it doesn't make sense but although its so ironic that it truly happened.
  • Merrie from Clive, IaIrony is an implied discrepancy between what is meant and what is said. Good song!
  • Josh from Pontypridd, WalesLovin the philosophy here. hc
  • Nicole from Houston, TxI think that this song is about all of the really crappy things that happen in life. At the end of the song she says life has a funny funny way of helping you out. See... in spite of all of the bad stuff that we have to go through... the bad stuff helps us get to where it is we are going. And that my friends, truly is ironic.
  • Nickc from Ft. Wayne, InThe song, and its intended lack of actual irony, demonstrates the way we try to rationalize or shrug off varying degrees of drama or even trauma in our lives. All this horrible stuff happens, and we make ourselves chuckle and say, "Isn't it ironic?" or something equally banal, rather than fessing up to the misery of the deal. This song, like the whole album, was all about emotional honesty.
  • Victor from Vienna, Vaok, some of the events she listed in my opinion are examples of irony, and some are examples of bad luck.

    Examples of irony:
    1) free ride when you've already paid
    2) mr. play-it-safe who was afraid to fly, and then took the flight and then it crashed
    3) good advice that you just can't take
    4) no-smoking sign on your cigarette break

    Examples of bad luck:
    1) old man who won the lottery and died the next day
    2) death-row pardon 2 minutes too late
    3) black fly in your chardonnay
    4) rain on your wedding day
    5) traffic jam when you're already late
    6) meeting the man of her dreams, and then meeting his beautiful wife
    7) 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife
  • Spriteboy from Nyc, NyAlanis has stated that the deliberate irony of her song "Ironic" is that it contains no actual irony.
  • Jason from Louisville, KyAlanis might want to look into the meaning of ironic. There is more history to irony than there is with bad luck. If yesterday you needed a spoon and there were 10,000 knives and today you needed a knife and there were 10,000 spoons, then you would have a case for irony "don't ya think."
  • Kurt from Downers Grove, IlWho cares if she's using the word ironic correctly or not! It's a good song.
  • Dino from Bandung, IndonesiaIronic (Ballard/Morissette) - 3:49, is actually the forth single after "You Oughta Know," "Hand in My Pocket" and "All I Really Want."
  • Meryl from Somewhere, EnglandThere's a tiny chance she was being ironic when she said it was ironic... but that would be reading into it QUITE A BIT.
  • Dave from Cardiff, WalesThis song is not really about irony, as Jordan said, it is about misfortune. Whether she was knowingly using the word in the incorrect sense or not, let's face it - the song just wouldn't have struck the same chord if it had been called "Unlucky", would it?
  • Amy from Cherry Hill, NjIronic means "it figures" and according to The American Heritage? Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
    Copyright ? 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
    Published by Houghton Mifflin Company, "The words ironic, irony, and ironically are sometimes used of events and circumstances that might better be described as simply 'coincidental' or 'improbable,'"therefore i think she conveys the correct meaning of the word.
  • Kenneth from New York, NyAlanis was using the common (and incorrect) use of the word. She knows that none of those situations is ironic. Gods bless you Alanis.
  • Daisy from Ikast, DenmarkDoes all that stuff really matter? Its a great song no matter if she's right or wrong...
  • Brian from Edmonton, CanadaI seem to recall that when this song was at it's peak back in 1996, a university professor studied this song, and released a report discussing the complete inaccuracy in the events it details as being ironic.
  • Jordan from North Bend, WaI think perhaps Alanis had one of the other meanings of irony in mind:
    incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result.

    However, the events in the song are still not ironic. She seems to have gotten ironic mixed up with unfortunate. Irony would be something like a man buying a smoke detector, which shorts out and burns his house down.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Mike Love of The Beach Boys

Mike Love of The Beach BoysSongwriter Interviews

The lead singer/lyricist of The Beach Boys talks about coming up with the words for "Good Vibrations," "Fun, Fun, Fun," "Kokomo" and other classic songs.

Lace the Music: How LSD Changed Popular Music

Lace the Music: How LSD Changed Popular MusicSong Writing

Starting in Virginia City, Nevada and rippling out to the Haight-Ashbury, LSD reshaped popular music.

Don Felder

Don FelderSongwriter Interviews

Don breaks down "Hotel California" and other songs he wrote as a member of the Eagles. Now we know where the "warm smell of colitas" came from.

Eric Burdon

Eric BurdonSongwriter Interviews

The renown rock singer talks about "The House of the Rising Sun" and "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood."

Jethro Tull

Jethro TullFact or Fiction

Stage urinals, flute devices, and the real Aqualung in this Fact or Fiction.

George Clinton

George ClintonSongwriter Interviews

When you free your mind, your ass may follow, but you have to make sure someone else doesn't program it while it's wide open.