Alanis Morissette spent well over a year touring and promoting her 1995 album Jagged Little Pill, which burned her out physically and emotionally. For the next year and a half, she took a lot of time off to decompress and re-evaluate. "Thank U" is her reaction to the conflicted feelings she had after achieving success.
In her VH1 Storytellers appearance, she explained: "I felt that I lived in a culture that told me that I had to consistently and constantly look outside myself to feel this elusive bliss. And I achieved a lot of what society had told me to achieve and I still didn't feel peaceful. I started questioning everything, and I realized that actually everything was an illusion and it was scary for me because everything I had believed in was dissolving in front of me and there was a death of sorts, a really beautiful one ultimately, but at first a very scary one, and so I stopped. I stopped for the first time and I was overcome with a huge sense of compassion for myself first, and then naturally that translated into my feeling and compassion for everyone around me and a huge amount of gratitude that I had never felt before to this extent. And that's why I had to write this song, 'Thank U,' because I had to express how exciting this was and how scary it was and all of these opportunities for us to define who we are."
Disillusionment, frailty and silence are among the things and feelings Morissette thanks in this song, but at the top of her list is India, where she spent time in 1997. The trip was enlightening and gave her some of the ideas for this song.
The video shows Alanis singing naked in the middle of an empty city street. Her hair covers her breasts and her crotch was digitally obscured to keep it family friendly. A city block had to be shut down to shoot the video. She recalled to Q magazine in 1999: "We were on the streets of downtown LA two nights in a row. It was pretty cold. We had to use a little bit of latex so I wouldn't get arrested because apparently if you're fully naked on the street anywhere in America... jail. Some people would go by and stop, but it was three or four in the morning, so it was quiet. I wanted to express where the song came from which was to be really empowered by being vulnerable and not being apologetic."
This was the first single from Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, which was released three years after Morissette's wildly popular Jagged Little Pill. The wait created a lot of demand for new Alanis material and earned the song instant airplay when it was released. In America, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie set the record for most copies sold by a female artist its first week with 460,000, and went on to sell over 3 million.
This was nominated for a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal, but lost to "I Will Remember You" by Sarah McLachlan.
Morissette wrote and produced this song with her Jagged Little Pill
collaborator Glen Ballard
, who also played guitar, piano and synthesizer on the track. On the Jagged
album, they had a paltry budget but got Benmont Tench
of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers to play organ on some songs in exchange for dinner. Benmont returned for Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie
(presumably with a more substantial payment), and played on "Thank U."
Natalie Merchant also had a very thankful song in 1998: her track "Kind & Generous
" repeats "thank you" about 40 times. The following year, Dido showed her gratitude with "Thank You
When asked about the video's concept, Morissette told PopMatters: "Actually, the idea for that video hit me in my shower - I was thinking about the song and its simplicity and its baring itself, and I just thought, 'Wouldn't it be great if I could just walk around New York City or grocery stores in just a symbolism of being naked everywhere I went?.' Less about overt sexuality and more about the symbolism of being really raw and naked and intimate in all these environments where you'd seemingly need protection, like in a subway and those kinds of places. So that hit me in the shower and then we executed it."
Weird Al Yankovic sang a spoof called "Fast Food" on his Running With Scissors tour in 1999.
This was one of a few songs Jimmy Fallon parodied on a Halloween-themed segment
of "Weekend Update" on Saturday Night Live
in 1998, in which he's grateful for all the different types of candy he receives while trick-or-treating.
This was used in the 2010 comedy The Way, starring Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez.