Vancouver journalist re-examines careers of four ‘90s stars in ‘We Oughta Know’

By Alex Hudson

we-oughta-know-book-cover-graphicsVANCOUVER — Alanis Morissette. Sarah McLachlan. Céline Dion. Shania Twain. What do these four women have in common? Well, a few things: they’re all Canadian, they all achieved massive commercial success in the mid-90s, and they’ve all been widely dismissed by music critics.

Vancouver journalist Andrea Warner is seeking to re-examine these singers’ critical status with her new book, We Oughta Know: How Four Women Ruled the ’90s and Changed Canadian Music, due out this month through Eternal Cavalier Press. The tome features a series of essays that explore feminism, pop culture, and Warner’s own evolving relationship with the artists in question.

“They’re so important to our country’s history and culture, and yet their achievements have been minimized in so many ways,” Warner tells BeatRoute. She notes that the critical response to these artists has typically ranged from subtle condescension to outright hostility.

“I genuinely think sexism had a lot to do with it,” Warner argues. “Young people are both feted and targeted by critics, and young women particularly are dismissed or disqualified much more quickly than their male counterparts”

The writer admits that she fell into a similar trap: while growing up in the ‘90s, she loved Morissette and McLachlan, but hated Dion and Twain.

“I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to be a feminist and believe in feminism, in equality and it forced me to think about the women to whom I have been unfair,” she reflects. “Then I wanted to think about why I was so quick to judge, what kind of systems are in place that make it easy to disqualify certain women from their successes. I saw how complicit I’d been and I didn’t like it at all, but I wanted to really examine the roots of that, where it had come from.”

Warner will launch We Oughta Know with a Vancouver event on April 25 at the Lido. The evening will include a Q&A session and a reading, plus performances from Louise Burns and Kathryn Calder.

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