Rolling Stone is launching its annual Musicians on Musicians issue this week. Yesterday they revealed the first of four cover stories with Madonna and Maluma (it is not a piece that I was eager to read because they have known each other for years and we have already heard them talk about each other), but today we have a much more exciting couple: Olivia Rodrigo and Alanis Morissette.
Let’s start with the cover. It has what I consider to be the iconic old-school Rolling Stone aesthetic, which consists of musicians standing in a blank portrait studio, starring directly at the lens. It’s intimate and cool and it feels so damn rockstar. Avril lavigne got a similar style cover in 2003. Tina Turner gave us one of my favorite versions of Rolling Stone in 1984 with one more Tub version. Alanis herself got the same aesthetic when he covered the magazine’s solo a few months after releasing Serrated pill in 1995. Back then, the words “Angry White Female” were written on the cover, which feels so embarrassing all these years later. Now he joins the young woman who carries the torch of anguished pop-rock vocalists.
Olivia and Alanis never met me before this conversation, which they had while the cameras rolled. What you get from the video that you don’t get from the print article is Olivia’s laugh, legit and otherwise. I think some of that is nervous laughter and fake giggles. But we cannot blame him for that. She is an 18-year-old, fresh off the Disney lot, sitting in front of a music icon. Plus, she’s a fan! Olivia talks about being inspired by hearing Alanis in the car when she was young and mentions seeing Serrated pill on Broadway before closing. Honestly, the nervous laughter adds to the endearing dynamic.
But there is an immediate warmth between them and I wonder how much of themselves they see in each other. Olivia points out how they both started out as child actors and how they both had blockbuster debut albums. Will Olivia see herself in 30 years? Or at least see where her trajectory might take her? They bond over the art of songwriting and how they come close to putting their personal experiences into their lyrics. You can feel that Alanis has a respect for Olivia. There is a grace in being allowed to choose the brain of a young composer. If this was a conversation between Olivia and we said … Madonna … we would not see this exchange of energy. We probably wouldn’t even see Madonna agree to the conversation.
Alanis was a pioneer in the music industry and, unfortunately, the music industry has not let the path she created go too far. I think moments like this and artists like Olivia allow you to reflect on your own legacy, unlike Madonna who seems to want to hold onto the torch or the porter who receives the torch below. Alanis is happy to see the torch from the sidelines and this conversation with Olivia gives me the impression that she finds joy in seeing talented young women take it up and (hopefully) carry it further.