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Jagged Little Pill
Released: June 13, 1995
Peak: 112 US, 111 UK, 121 CN, 110 AU
Sales (in millions): 16.0 US, 2.7 UK, 33.0 world (includes US and UK)
Genre: alternative rock
Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.
All songs written by Glen Ballard and Alanis Morissette.
Total Running Time: 57:23
4.193 out of 5.00 (average of 22 ratings)
Quotable: “A Nineties version of Carole King’s Tapestry: a woman using her plain soft-rock voice to sift through the emotional wreckage of her youth, with enough heart and songcraft to make countless listeners feel the earth move.” – Rolling Stone
Awards: (Click on award to learn more).
About the Album:
Alanis Morissette got her start on the children’s variety show You Can’t Do That on Television at the age of 10. In a move now seemingly replicated by every actress to ever land a show on the Disney channel, she parlayed it into an attempted career as a dance-pop singer. She released two albums in Canada, one of which was a top ten hit, but remained an unknown internationally. Then she left the Great White North, partnered with producer and songwriter Glen Ballard (Paula Abdul’s Forever Your Girl, Wilson Phillips’ self-titled debut) in L.A., and tapped her bitter diary entries of teen angst to transform from “mall-pop songstress” to “angry rocker chick.” ZS Of course, she was savvy enough to give her songs enough pop gloss to move over 30 million copies of the album worldwide and inspire “a generation of soundalikes to bare their souls on record.” PR
“According to Ballard, the connection was ‘instant’, and within 30 minutes of meeting each other they had begun experimenting with different sounds…Ballard and Morissette penned their first song together, called ‘The Bottom Line’. The turning point in their sessions was the song Perfect, which was written and recorded in 20 minutes.” WK Alanis “snarls, at the top of her formidable lungs, about egregious slights – from parents who suffocate with their expectations.” TM She “improvised the lyrics on the spot, and Ballard played guitar. The version of the song that appeared on Jagged Little Pill was the only take that the pair recorded” WK and the first song shared with “A&R and record company people.” WK
From there on, they aimed to write and record a song a day over 12-16 hour shifts. WK Ballard provided rough instrumentation and Morissette’s vocals were recorded in one or two takes each; those original demo vocals were still used when the tracks were redone in a professional studio later. WK
Maverick Records had low expectations for the record, assuming it wouldn’t sell more than 250,000 copies. WK However, “things quickly changed when a Los Angeles DJ from the influential radio station KROQ began playing You Oughta Know, the album’s first single.” WK With its “hello-it’s-me phone rage” RS Alanis “turns jealous bile into something worth hearing EW as she “unleashes her rage at a lover who dumped her for another, threatening to disrupt dinner and taunting him: ‘Everytime I scratch my nails down someone else’s back,’ she rasps, ‘I hope you feel it.’” EW The victim of that venom “became the most guessed-about antagonist since that of Carly Simon’s ‘You’re So Vain’.” WK However, it has long been suspected to be Dave Coulier of television’s Full House, whose relationship with Morissette had soured shortly before the song was recorded.” WK
Elsewhere “song such as All I Really Want and Forgiven fester with a barely suppressed rage against institutionalized hypocrisy and what she sees as the emotional dishonesty of the male species.” PR The “lyrical hints” AMG suggest “a record executive…took advantage of a young Alanis…This is such insider information that it’s hard to believe that millions of listeners not just bought it, but embraced it.” AMG
A whopping six radio releases “kept Jagged Little Pill in the top twenty on the Billboard 200 for over a year.” WK As for the biggest hit of the batch, much has been made about the song Ironic not really being about irony; in reality, “it’s just Alanis speaking her piece about the perils of being a girl in a fickle-as-fuck world, singing like an acoustic guitar.” RS
“At its core, this is the work of an ambitious but sophomoric 19-year-old, once burned by love, but still willing to open her heart a second time.” AMG She provided an “inside look into the minds and moods of young women who’ve been jilted and scorned” ZS refuting the “wisdom about how anger is not a terribly constructive emotion,” TM opting to “unflinchingly explore emotions so common, most people would be ashamed to articulate them.” AMG “Every teenage girl who owned it says, ‘she’s not annoying, damn it! She’s me!’” ZS
Alanis “isn’t a particularly good singer” AMG as she “tends to wildly oversing every other line” EW and stretch “the limits of pitch and credibility with her octave-skipping caterwauling.” AMG However, her “wounded bleats and bellowing screams” TM “feel truly wild, too unruly to have been plotted beforehand.” TM She “chews up and spits out the lyrics in a style reminiscent of Tori Amos at her most melodramatic.” PR
“This anger is articulated by a ferocious, sub-grunge sound” PR aided by some contributions on bass and guitar from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea and Dave Navarro. Sonically, this “clearly is an attempt to embrace the ‘women in rock’ movement in alterna-rock.” AMG Alanis “aspires to the swaggering confidence of U2’s big-tent anthems” TM with “similarly broad sing-along refrains.” TM
“This combination of unsophisticated, low-fi sound and sexually explicit lyrics caught the mood of the moment and inspired a generation of soundalikes to bare their souls on record.” PR “Perhaps it was the individuality that made it appealing, since its specificity lent it genuineness.” AMG She has a “knack for bringing listeners into the center of her storm. She doesn’t merely recount assorted setbacks, she offers a minute-by-minute tour of them, sparing no detail to describe raw and often uncomfortable emotions.” TM
Her “bitter diary entries are given a pop gloss that gives them entry to the pop charts.” AMG Alanis knows “she’s selling pop songs. Not transcripts of therapy sessions.” TM “Jagged Little Pill is like a Nineties version of Carole King’s Tapestry: a woman using her plain soft-rock voice to sift through the emotional wreckage of her youth, with enough heart and songcraft to make countless listeners feel the earth move.” RS It was “a defining disc for her generation.” ZS
The album garnered six Grammy nominations, of which Alanis snagged Album of the Year, Best Rock Album, Best Rock Song, and Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. She missed out on Best New Artist and Song of the Year. Until 2010, “she was the youngest person to receive the Album of the Year award, at age 21.” WK
Notes: In 2005, a collection of the entire album performed acousticly was released in celebration of the album’s 10th anniversary.
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First posted 3/22/2008; last updated 9/3/2021.