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Isn’t It Ironic?

TIMES STAFF WRITER

You’re not alone if you think you’ve been hearing a new Alanis Morissette song on the radio.

Meredith Brooks’ hit single, “Bitch,” sounds as if it could have been lifted right off Morissette’s Grammy-winning 1995 album, “Jagged Little Pill.”

Displaying the same raw energy that infused Morissette’s breakthrough single, “You Oughta Know,” Brooks defiantly celebrates her multifaceted personality in the catchy chorus:

I’m a bitch

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I’m a lover

I’m a child

I’m a mother

I’m a sinner

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I’m a saint

Just don’t call her a clone.

“It has really started to bother me how much these [Morissette comparisons] have been such a focus of everything written about me,” Brooks says evenly over breakfast during an interview at a coffee shop near her home in the mid-Wilshire district. “I didn’t think it would be like this.”

If “Bitch” brings Morissette to mind, Brooks says, it’s certainly not by design.

She says she’d never heard Morissette when she wrote the song two years ago, and she says she still doesn’t hear the similarities.

“The first time I heard her, I thought she was amazing,” Brooks says of Morissette. “I related to her and thought she would open some doors for me, but I didn’t think we sounded anything alike vocally. She’s a lot more intense than I am. . . .

“I was so afraid that people were going to bust me for the Chrissie Hynde influence, and then this. It’s almost like somebody played a joke on me. All this time, I was worried about the wrong thing.”

But if Brooks, who turns 31 Thursday, wasn’t worried, those around her were concerned.

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Perry Watts-Russell, vice president of artists and repertoire at Capitol Records, says his initial reaction to “Bitch” was mixed.

“When I first heard it, I thought, ‘Oh my God, that is a great, really catchy song,’ ” says the executive, who signed Brooks to the label. “I thought, ‘This is a smash hit.’

“But then I felt a degree of anxiety because I thought she would get compared to Alanis--or rather this song would--because there are some aspects that are similar. First, she’s a woman, and second, it has a lyric that compels you to pay attention.”

Producer Geza X, who built the track around Brooks’ acoustic reading of the song, says he also was aware that others might “point fingers.”

“But it was such a good song, I said, ‘Why change it? It works,’ ” the producer says. “In other words, why ruin a good thing? Everybody who hears it loves it, which has been evidenced by the fact that [record buyers] are really flipping over it.”

The single, which entered the Top 10 this week, is fueling sales of Brooks’ debut album, “Blurring the Edges,” which is No. 24 on the Billboard Top 200 this week and has sold about 135,000 copies since its release May 6.

So far, anyway, comparisons to Morissette have done little to hurt Brooks, a sheriff’s daughter who picked up the guitar at a young age while growing up in Corvallis, Ore.

Inspired by guitarists such as Eric Clapton, Lindsey Buckingham and the Pretenders’ James Honeyman-Scott, Brooks has played in a series of bands in Seattle and Los Angeles, including a late-'80s stint with the Graces, a female trio featuring former Go-Go Charlotte Caffey that released a 1989 album on A&M; Records.

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All of her influences can be heard on “Blurring the Edges,” which is sure to invite comparisons to Hynde and Sheryl Crow among listeners who get past “Bitch.”

“People are always in a hurry to paint somebody into a pretty tight corner, and I think that’s unfortunate for Meredith,” says Jeff Pollack, a rock radio programming consultant with more than 100 client stations nationally, including L.A.'s KLOS-FM (95.5). “But I don’t think a comparison to Alanis will hurt her. Simply being compared to Alanis puts her in the ballgame, doesn’t it?

“If you’re in position to be compared to somebody who’s sold 15 million albums, that’s not a bad place to be, especially if you’re a new artist. . . . The market is so crowded that any leg up you can get, in terms of people paying attention to you, is critically important.”

Reluctantly, Brooks seems to be coming around to that way of thinking too.

“It was really starting to bother me a lot more,” she says, “but I’ve taken a few breaths and thought about it and now I’m kind of like, ‘Oh, well, whatever.’

“I’ve been flattered in a lot of ways because Alanis really did well and people love her. I don’t think it’s been a bad thing. And what I’ve found is that once people get into the album, [the comparisons] seem to end.”


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