Why "Isn't It Ironic" is (ironically) the most ironic thing ever

by Steven Moseley in
Alanis Morisette Ironic

When "Isn't It Ironic" by Alanis Morissette comes on the radio, someone without fail complains "this song isn't ironic at all!" and follows that up with a condescending enumeration of all the things in the song that are very unironic:

  • Rain on your wedding day? Nope, not ironic.
  • A black fly in your chardonnay? Also not ironic.
  • 10,000 spoons when you need a knife? You guessed it, not ironic.

But despite the fact that I agree that the song ostensibly mistakes "unfortunate" things for "ironic" things, I would argue that it is nevertheless quite possibly the most ironic thing that has ever existed.

Here's why:

1. The question is ironic

The verse asks the rhetorical question "isn't it ironic?" followed by a list of things, none of which are, in fact, ironic. It's ironic that the rhetorical question format, usually intended to lead one to an obvious "yes" is actually a "no."

2. The song itself is existentially ironic

Yeah, a song about irony that contains no valid examples of irony is itself very ironic! What if "Isn't it ironic?" is a reflexive question, the song title hinting at its own existential irony? We might even assume this was the intended irony of the title, if its context were an era in which the audience generally understood irony.

Unfortunately, we can't assume Alanis intended it this way. But fortunately, that means...

3. It's ironic that it's ironic

The final and most amusing (to me) layer of irony encompassing "Isn't it ironic" is the meta-irony regarding the nature of its irony. The utter failure of the intended goal of creating a literal laundry list of ironic things that wound up being an ideal embodiment at irony specifically for its lack of irony... is the ultimate irony in the story of this song's origin. It's almost too much to bear.

In Summary...

For these reasons, "Isn't It Ironic" is one of my favorite songs ever. I smile every time it comes on the radio, and it makes me think about irony so much more deeply than I ever have previously... isn't it ironic? :)

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