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Ian’s Seventeen Song Analysis

Ian’s Seventeen is a song that deals with some of the richest and most insightful themes about adolescents, their passions, and the dilemmas of the standards of beauty in our society. It was written over 25 years ago and listening it today does not make it outdated and old, it stimulates human emotions exactly the way it did when it was written in 1975.

Ian Janis wrote this song when she was 22 years old. Hence, the song is a reflection of mature age on adolescent cruelty and teenage angst. I think this song will be true even when it is played 25 years later due to its profound psychological implications and the power of the perfect harmony of rich lyrics and beautiful guitar. Not merely people of 17 but of any age can empathize with the song due to the honesty and the melancholic nature of the lyrics.

There might be multiple interpretations of the word ‘truth’ used by Janis Ian. For me, the most probable sense of the word is the truth of coming face to face with reality and the cruelties of the real world we live in when we start to see ‘us’ with the eyes of others that the realities of love are closely linked with the facial beauty and the isolation faced by the one with ‘ravaged’ faces. It is sad yet true.

By the middle of the song the ‘beauty’ that was praised at the beginning of the song comes under question with a warning, ‘remember those who win the game’, those who were married would lose the love they [were] sought to gain. Hence, the decision of the adolescent, which was made under the influence of beauty and attraction, is regretted.

The song was actually adapted from a newspaper article about a girl who learned that the challenging ways of being popular do not solve your problems. The article quoted, ‘I learned the truth when I was eighteen’; Janis Ian thought that the word ‘seventeen’ worked better than ‘eighteen.’ Furthermore, 17 and 18 is the age of entering into adulthood, hence, it focuses on those challenges faced in puberty.


In an interview, Alanis said that though the tone of the song does refer to her parents, it is actually about the societal pressure that young people face due to the higher expectations of perfection. The song has multiple interpretations, it can be about the parental expectations and a lover’s expectations towards his/her beloved as well.

We live in a world very different from the times oyr parents grew up, it is a world full of challenges that demands constant struggle to survive. There are some real pressures forcing you to act, parental expectations is one of those pressures that highly affects one’s growth. Societal pressure is of a secondary level yet very damaging to one’s true self and self-development.

The technological development of the recent few decades has changed our world so quickly that we wonder about the days when our parents were grown up. It was a deferent world with less challenges, today’s world demands more, expect more if you want to meet even the average standard of good life style. The gap between the rich and the poor is increasing day by day.

Works Cited

Napoletano, Margo A. “Teaching adolescent psychology using popular song lyrics.” Psychological Reports 62.3 (1988): 975-978.

Martinez‐Fernandez, Cristina, et al. “Shrinking cities: Urban challenges of globalization.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 36.2 (2012): 213-225.

“Perfect By Alanis Morissette Songfacts.” N. p., 2018. Web. 19 Mar. 2018.



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