By Matt Gagliano
We all know the 1996 hit song “Ironic” by Alanis Morissette. Well, all of us that matter anyway. While I will die on the hill that that song is an absolute bop, that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. There has been something about this song that has bothered me ever since I was a kid, and that’s the fact that none of the things mentioned in the song are actually ironic. Even as a stupid child who simply thought he was a genius, I was able to realize that there’s nothing ironic about “rain on your wedding day,” “a free ride when you’ve already paid,” or “good advice that you just didn’t take.” It wasn’t until recently that it dawned on me, Alanis Morissette wasn’t implying that all of these situations were ironic, she was actually unsure, which is why she was asking us “isn’t it ironic?” Well, today is your lucky day Alanis, as Binghamton University’s most informative publication, Binghamton Review, is here to educate you. At the end of this article, we will have the definitive answer to the question that Alanis Morissette has been asking us for 25 years: isn’t it ironic?
To determine whether or not the situations presented in Ironic are or are not truly ironic, we must start by establishing a formal definition of irony. Merriam-Webster defines irony as “the use of words to express something other than, and especially the opposite of, the literal meaning.” An example of this would be how Pipe Dream has a “fun” section on the mobile version of their website. Now, this is ironic not only because Pipe Dream has no idea what fun is, and is therefore incapable of producing anything that qualifies as such, but also because the link leads to an empty Tumblr page. Seriously, you can’t make this shit up! Get it together Pipe Dream, my god!
Anyway, now that we’ve established what irony is, we can take a look at the situations presented in Ironic to see if they qualify. Let’s start with the chorus, because that’s the only thing that most people remember anyway. The chorus opens with the line “It’s like rain on your wedding day.” While I certainly feel bad for all the people who are getting soaked in their fancy wedding outfits, I feel even worse for Alanis Morissette, because this is the line that you’re supposed to belt out as loud as possible when you’re drunk as hell and singing along, and yet there is not an ounce of irony in this sentence. Next up is “it’s a free ride when you’ve already paid.” Again, this sentence isn’t ironic. Honestly, it’s more confusing than anything. A free ride when you’ve already paid? So, you paid for a ride somewhere, and afterwards the taxi driver was just like, “I know you already gave me money for this trip, but I have just decided now, given that we’ve already arrived at your destination, that I would like to give you a ride for free.” I think he was just fucking with you, Alanis. The third “irony” presented in the chorus is “the good advice that you just didn’t take.” Once again, that isn’t ironic, that’s just poor decision-making. Maybe the advice was to change the lyrics of the chorus to this song, given that it’s 0-for-3 on providing examples of irony.
Unfortunately for Alanis Morissette, the chorus of Ironic doesn’t contain any actual irony, which is kind of ironic when you think about it. The chorus isn’t the only part of the song trying to provide ironic scenarios though, so maybe the rest of the song will fare better. The opening lyrics of the song are as follows: “An old man turned ninety-eight. He won the lottery, and died the next day.” Alanis, that’s not ironic, that’s just depressing. Rest in peace old man, you deserved better than to be immortalized in a song that has undoubtedly confused many people as to what irony actually is. This is followed by “It’s a black fly in your Chardonnay.” First, as you probably guessed, there is nothing ironic about a fly in your drink. Second, why did you have to specify that the fly was black? Just saying, adding information about the skin color of the fly doesn’t increase the likelihood of your statement being ironic, but it does increase the likelihood of people overanalyzing your lyrics and calling you out, much like I’m doing right now. This trilogy of non-ironic lyrics is concluded with “it’s a death row pardon two minutes too late.” While that is certainly an unfortunate situation, it’s still not an ironic one. Also, why would you pardon someone on death row? If they were sentenced to death, they must’ve done something pretty bad, so what kind of corrupt politician would… never mind, stupid question. I retract my doubts about the validity of this situation.The rest of the song follows the same non-ironic pattern. There’s a verse about someone that was afraid of flying, and once he finally got on a plane for the first time, it crashed. Man, this song is way more depressing than I remembered. This is the third person that’s been killed off and we’re only halfway through the song! You doing okay Alanis? Or, I guess I should say, were you doing okay? This song was released 25 years ago. Hopefully, she got the help she needed. Anyway, the last hope for irony is this song lies with the lines “It’s a traffic jam when you’re already late,” “A ‘no smoking’ sign on your cigarette break,” “It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife,” and “It’s meeting the man of my dreams and then meeting his beautiful wife.” My irony detector is still silent, sorry Alanis. However, at least you can blame your lateness on the traffic. Also, smoking is kinda gross, so maybe you should take that as a sign to quit. Also also, I’m very impressed that you counted all ten thousand spoons, that must’ve taken forever. Also also also, kill his wife to assert your dominance. On one final note, I hope I was able to finally answer your question Alanis; no, it isn’t ironic.