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This week's "other" concert

What's a girl to do? At the tender age of twenty-two, Alanis Morissette had fame, fortune and critical acclaim. Her multiplatinum breakthrough, Jagged Little Pill, had earned her a legion of followers and a boxful of Grammies. Rock smashes like "You Oughtta Know" and "Ironic" had sailed up the charts, becoming modern anthems of lost love, angst and introspection. But after the dust had settled, Morissette didn't go to Disney World or back to the recording studio-she went to India. After a six-month stay during a nearly two-year sabbatical, Morissette returned to record her transcendental follow-up, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, which debuted amid a storm of publicity last fall. Now Morissette is back where she started-on stage. Her Junkie Tour, which teams her with fellow femme-rocker Liz Phair, stops in Chapel Hill's Carmichael Auditorium this Saturday, and thousands of Morissette's devotees will be there to say "Thank U."

When Morissette emerged in the summer of 1995 with the irreverent album cut "You Oughtta Know," she single-handedly initiated a new era in women's rock. Or at least that's what critics said. The infuriated, visceral tracks on Jagged Little Pill traveled higher and farther than those of her growing league of contemporaries, including current tour-mate Phair.

Faced with the challenge of beating the sophomore slump, Morissette continued to tour but was initially reluctant to cut a second album. She left for India during her break but returned slightly less liberated than Maverick label-mate Madonna. Morissette's experiences did transform her sound, however. Her self-proclaimed Asian maturation inspired the spiritual, mellowed feel of SFIJ.

The album's first track, "Thank U," was an immediate success, though most agreed that Morissette's new set lacked the sing-along charms of its predecessor. Nevertheless, SFIJ has moved north of three million units in the months since its release, and Morissette once again finds herself a Grammy nominee.

Liz Phair, Morissette's high-profile 'opening act,' is a star in her own right. Though she's yet to enjoy the meteoric rise or broad-based popularity of her counterpart, Phair has attracted a cult following in the years since her 1992 debut, Exile in Guyville. As a performer in last summer's Lilith Fair, and with her first album in four years, the tongue-tying whitechocolatespaceegg, Phair continues to break ground in alternative music. She joins Alanis as a youthful but inveterate artist with a distinctive sound that has endeared her to critics and fans alike.

Together, Morissette and Phair give a glimpse of a phenomenon. From Jewel to Sheryl Crow to Brandy, Monica, and Mariah, women have dominated music in the 1990s, and the trend shows no sign of ebbing.

Morisette and Phair will perform Saturday at Carmichael Auditorium. For more information, see calendar, p.11.


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