|Released October 13, 1998|
|Format CD single|
|B-side "Pollyanna Flower" "Uninvited"|
Genre Electronica, experimental rock, trip hop
"Thank U" is a song by Canadian recording artist and songwriter Alanis Morissette, for her fourth studio album Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (1998). The song was written by Alanis Morissette and Glen Ballard, who produced her previous album. Morissette wrote the song after she came back from India.
- Background and release
- Composition and writing
- Critical reception
- Chart performance
- Music video
- Cover versions and parodies
- Track listing
The song received generally positive reviews from music critics and also performed well in the record charts, peaking in the top ten in several countries. An accompanying music video was released for the single, featuring Morissette nude in different streets in Los Angeles. It received generally positive reviews from music critics, but received mild controversy, due to nudity in the video. It was nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the 2000 Grammy Awards.
Background and release
After the massive success of her breakthrough album Jagged Little Pill (1995) (which spawned the worldwide hits, "You Oughta Know", "Ironic", "Head over Feet" and "You Learn"), Morissette was considered one of the biggest music stars in the world, and many fans anxiously awaited a follow-up album. During a trip to India, in 1997, Alanis wrote some songs, including "Thank U". In 1998, Morissette contributed with the song "Uninvited" for the soundtrack of the 1998 film City of Angels.
In September of the same year, "Thank U" was released on radio and Alanis talked with MTV about the break between LPs and the first single: "Basically, I had never stopped in my whole life, hadn't taken a long breath, and I took a year and a half off and basically learned how to do that. When I did stop and I was silent and I breathed... I was just left with an immense amount of gratitude, and inspiration, and love, and bliss, and that's where the song came from, you know."
Composition and writing
"Thank U" was written and produced by Alanis Morissette and Glen Ballard. "Thank U" is a rock song composed in the key of C major. It is written in common time and moves at a moderate tempo of 91 beats per minute. The song uses a simple chord progression alternating between a tonic C major chord, dominant G major chord, and the subdominant F major chord. The music of "Thank U" is simple, mid-tempo rock fare, with a prominent drum-machine pattern that pulses throughout. A delicate electric piano intro underscores Morissette's vocals, which begin by asking, "How bout getting off these antibiotics?" The rest of the song continues with Morissette posing similar provocative questions -- "How bout remembering your divinity?"—and her thanking the circumstances—terror, disillusionment, and consequence, among others—that helped her achieve personal growth.
Lyrically, the song documents the singer's spiritual awakenings, resultant from her trip to India, as well as other physical and internal journeys. In "Thank U", Alanis expresses the heartfelt gratitude, inspiration and compassion, which she felt at the time she wrote it. According to Jon Pareles of The New York Times, the song has "verses of self-help," such as, "How 'bout no longer being masochistic?, how 'bout remembering your divinity?, how 'bout unabashedly bawling your eyes out?." Liana Jones of Allmusic noticed that "There aren't many artists, let alone everyday people, who acknowledge and pay tribute to life's lessons."
The song garnered critical acclaim from most music critics. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic picked the song as a highlight from the album, writing that "the textured production functions as a backdrop for Morissette's cryptically introspective lyrics." Liana Jones also of Allmusic wrote that the song's lyrics is "a real boon for contemporary rock music, which tends to be simplistic and hackneyed in its themes." Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly wrote that the song's structure "creates an immediate catchiness, underpinned and emphasized by Gary Novak's hypnotic drum pattern." Tucker also called 'Thank U,' "a terrific single, with its positive sentiments tucked inside a crystalline melody like a message in a bottle."
Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone wrote that the song "could've been a pretentious disaster, but instead it's a pretentious stroke of brilliance – she finds something shockingly smart to say about her spiritual crises, riding an indelible Eighties AOR synth hook and wailing like Robert Plant stealing 'Kashmir' back from Jimmy Page and 'Puffy'. Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine called the "soft-rock synth hook" and "the bundle of Morissette's signature list-y lyrics," "anything but ordinary." NME praised the "pleasant, lilting Liz Cocteau-on-a-broomstick style frame." Larry Flick of Billboard praised Alanis's performance, acknowledging her "zen-like confidence", calling it "an instantly memorable single that will saturate radio airwaves at all possible formats within a split-second."
"Thank U" is Morissette's most commercially successful single post-Jagged Little Pill. It debuted first on the Billboard's Hot 100 Airplay chart at number 42. A week later, it debuted on the Modern Rock Tracks at number 19. The same week, the song climbed to number 11 on the Hot 100 Airplay chart, On the issue of November 28, 1998, "Thank U" topped the Adult Top 40 Tracks chart. On the Billboard Hot 100 chart, "Thank U" peaked at number 17, on the issue date December 5, 1998. In Canada, "Thank U" topped the Canadian Hot 100 chart for three consecutive weeks, becoming her fifth number-one single there.
"Thank U" was also successful in the Oceania region. In Australia, it debuted at number 20 and peaked at number 15 on the ARIA Chart, becoming the only album's single that charted there. In New Zealand, the song proved to be more successful, debuting at number 6 and peaking at number 2, becoming Morissette's highest charting-single in New Zealand, until "Hands Clean" peaked at number-one in 2001. In Austria, it peaked at number 10; her last top-ten single, while in Norway, "Thank U" was her highest charting-single, peaking at number 3. In the UK, the song was her highest charting-single of her career, peaking at number 5.
"Thank U" was nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the 2000 Grammy Awards, but lost to Sarah McLachlan's "I Will Remember You". Morissette was nominated for a Juno Award for Songwriter of the Year (for writing the songs "So Pure", "Thank U" and "Unsent") at the 2000 edition. Additionally, the song entered About.com's "Top 10 Alanis Morissette Lyrics" list at number 3, with Bill Lamb picking the lyrics, "How about me not blaming you for everything/How about me enjoying the moment for once/How about how good it feels to finally forgive you/How about grieving it all one at a time" as the best.
ReDigi website also listed the "Top 10 Alanis Morissette Songs", picking "Thank U" as her third best song, writing that, "Most of the attention might have been focused on its revealing video, but the angst-ridden melancholy of 'Thank You' works just as well without images of Alanis wandering the streets in her birthday suit."
The music video was directed by Stéphane Sednaoui and premiered on October 12, 1998 on MTV's Total Request Live. It features Morissette walking around and being embraced by strangers in a variety of public locations, such as in the street, at a supermarket, and on a subway car in Los Angeles. Throughout the video, Morissette is completely nude with her long hair shrouding her breasts and her pubic region blurred out. Slight modifications to the video were made before broadcasting by MTV in India and certain other Asian countries. Subsequent replays, however, aired the video in its original format. In May 2001, the video was voted #66 on VH1's 100 Greatest Videos.
While being asked why she chose to be nude in the video, Morissette said, "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."
Cover versions and parodies
- "Thank U" (album version) – 4:19
- "Pollyanna Flower" (unreleased bonus track) – 4:07
- "Uninvited" (demo) – 3:04