Vish Khanna on We Oughta Know by Andrea Warner
Between 1993 and 1997, four women were ruling the music charts and leaving an everlasting mark on pop music. Alanis Morissette, Shania Twain, Celine Dion and Sarah McLachlan became teenage idols as their careers ascended, and continue to be among Canada's most successful musicians. In the book, We Oughta Know: How Four Women Ruled the '90s and Changed Canadian Music, journalist and music critic Andrea Warner chronicles their simultaneous rise to fame. Vish Khanna reviewed the book for The Next Chapter.
ON HOW THE MEDIA STRUGGLES TO PORTRAY SUCCESSFUL WOMEN
"One the things that Andrea realizes in viewing the criticism at the time, was that people in the media didn't really know how to handle this phenomenon of successful female artists. One way to manage it was reducing each of these figures. Sarah McLachlan was viewed as this emotional woman; Alanis Morissette became this angry woman; Shania Twain was kind of a tart, she liked presenting herself as this sexy woman in a conventional way. Celine is a romantic balladeer. These were kind of the broad strokes that each of these women were painted with. I think Andrea is really struggling to figure out why she might have bought into it as a teen, and now as an adult she kind of looks back at that time and views all the sexism, all the sex-shaming, all the victim-blaming that went into people's assessment of each of these artist's work."
ON WHEN THE ANALYSIS TOOK A TURN FOR THE PERSONAL
"The first four chapters are essentially a biographical overview of each individual artist. As the book unfolds, the author Andrea Warner's voice becomes more prominent. It's a very personal journey that she's had with these artists, so she's kind of processing each artist and their work as they relate to her growth as a person, as a woman, as a feminist. Her father passed away rather suddenly and as she was grieving she became really immersed in Sarah McLachlan's release Rarities, B-Sides and Other Stuff. The book just takes this heartwrenching turn. I was caught off-guard that this was coming because I was expecting to read this cultural analysis. But the way Andrea inserts herself into this story is really compelling and touching. There was a point where I was like, 'Are we going to get back to the music talk, and the women?' Not because I was put off, but because I was so immersed in Andrea's life. There's a nice segue between that kind of personal discussion and back to the analysis."