Alanis Morissette, You Oughta Know: the lyrics meaning

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Fans defined it as “the ultimate break-up song” for a reason: Alanis Morissette released You Oughta Know in 1995, and it’s still one of the most beloved songs of the 90s. The reason is the way so many people can relate to her feelings in the lyrics: how do you react when your significant one leaves you and quickly replaces you with someone else? This song is Alanis’ scream of anger. This article will analyze the lyrics and their meaning.

You can find the original music video of the song below.

Watch this video on YouTube.

You Oughta Know: the lyrics and their meaning

In You Oughta Know, Alanis Morissette is trying to process the recent break-up with his ex-boyfriend. It wasn’t an easy one: reading the lyrics, it’s clear that he started dating another woman immediately, and that hurts so much. Alanis is in pain, and she reacts by venting all the anger inside her.

Curiously enough, the beginning of the song looks almost conciliatory. She wishes the best to her ex-boyfriend, and nobody ever knew if she was sarcastic or if it was her sincere attempt to move on peacefully.

I want you to know that I’m happy for you
I wish nothing but the best for you both

Most likely, this beginning shows how easy thoughts escalate one after the other when you start thinking of something that truly hurts. The singer immediately questions if the woman he chose, older than her, is fresh and exciting as Alanis is. And if she’s ready to commit as she was.

An older version of me
Is she perverted like me?
Would she go down on you in a theatre?
Does she speak eloquently?
And would she have your baby?
I’m sure she’d make a really excellent mother

Even here, the last line could be sarcastic, probably hinting that she’s old enough to be a mom. But the real point of this song is that Alanis Morissette is hurt. They broke up after all the love she gave, and he moved on immediately as if nothing had happened. So she feels he should be fully aware of the pain he inflicted on her with his behavior. That’s the scream she throws in the chorus:

And I’m here to remind you
Of the mess you left when you went away
It’s not fair to deny me
Of the cross I bear that you gave to me
You, you, you oughta know

The comparison with his new woman is natural; thus, she has no problem reminding him of everything he told her when he promised eternal love. You don’t promise love until death lightheartedly and then move on and live your life with someone else. Not without consequences, at least.

And every time you speak her name
Does she know how you told me
You’d hold me until you died?
Till you died, but you’re still alive

The wish for revenge is strong. Alanis has no intentions of fading away from his life quietly. She wants him to feel of the discomfort of what he did. And if there were a way to make him get a share of her pain, she would make it possible. The image of Alanis scratching the skin of her new lower, hoping that her ex will feel the pain, is unique.

‘Cause the joke that you made in the bed that was me
And I’m not gonna fade as soon as you close your eyes
And you know it
And every time I scratch my nails down someone else’s back
I hope you feel it
Well, can you feel it?

That’s what the lyrics of You Oughta Know are about: the anger and sadness of a bad break-up, a scream against the unfair way your ex moved on quickly while you are still stuck in your pain. The song explores all the feelings Alanis had in those days, and its meaning spins around the need to share your suffering, not to let all this pass without effect.

Who is You Oughta Know about?

Over the years, there have been many theories about who the subject of the song can be. We have recently found the probable solution: Alanis’ ex-boyfriend addressed in You Oughta Know should be the actor Dave Coulier, who dated Alanis since 1992. Alanis was 18 while he was 33, which would justify the choice of an older woman afterward. And one line in the song should represent an explicit confirmation:

I hate to bug you in the middle of dinner

In an interview Dave Coulier released sometime later, he admitted that one night, after the break-up, he received a call from Alanis Morissette and answered her, “Hey, I’m right in the middle of dinner, can I just call you right back?” That answer probably hurt Alanis so much that it became part of her song.

Read other popular song lyrics meaning on Auralcrave

The complete lyrics

I want you to know that I’m happy for you
I wish nothing but the best for you both
An older version of me
Is she perverted like me?
Would she go down on you in a theatre?
Does she speak eloquently?
And would she have your baby?
I’m sure she’d make a really excellent mother

‘Cause the love that you gave that we made
Wasn’t able to make it enough for you to be open wide, no
And every time you speak her name
Does she know how you told me
You’d hold me until you died?
Till you died, but you’re still alive

And I’m here to remind you
Of the mess you left when you went away
It’s not fair to deny me
Of the cross I bear that you gave to me
You, you, you oughta know

You seem very well, things look peaceful
I’m not quite as well, I thought you should know
Did you forget about me, Mr. Duplicity?
I hate to bug you in the middle of dinner
It was a slap in the face how quickly I was replaced
And are you thinkin’ of me when you f**k her?

‘Cause the love that you gave that we made
Wasn’t able to make it enough for you to be open wide, no
And every time you speak her name
Does she know how you told me
You’d hold me until you died?
Till you died, but you’re still alive

And I’m here to remind you
Of the mess you left when you went away
It’s not fair to deny me
Of the cross I bear that you gave to me
You, you, you oughta know

‘Cause the joke that you made in the bed that was me
And I’m not gonna fade as soon as you close your eyes
And you know it
And every time I scratch my nails down someone else’s back
I hope you feel it
Well, can you feel it?

Well, I’m here to remind you
Of the mess you left when you went away
It’s not fair to deny me
Of the cross I bear that you gave to me
You, you, you oughta know
Why I’m here to remind you
Of the mess you left when you went away
It’s not fair to deny me
Of the cross I bear that you gave to me
You, you, you oughta know