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Jagged Classic albums revisited: Alanis Morissette


Jagged Little Pill (1995, Maverick Records)

All of a sudden I’m 14, sitting in my bedroom an angst-ridden teen. Sobbing and completely lost in the awesome voice and emotive lyrics of Alanis Morissette.

Alanis Morissette is a Canadian singer-songwriter, producer and actress.  Morissette began her career in Canada as a pop singer at 16, releasing two albums (only in Canada) before moving to Toronto where she started writing with producer and songwriter Glen Ballard.  Together they produced her first international and most influential album.

Three words should automatically come to the minds now of anyone of the same age who felt the anger from, the understanding for and the wonder at the album Jagged Little Pill. Arguably Morissette’s best work, Jagged Little Pill brought with it raw emotion, kick-ass production, an insane vocal and a guest appearance from Dave Navarro and Flea on single, You Oughta Know.

A multi Grammy award winning album, including Album of the Year, Best Female Rock Vocal Performance and Best Song , at just 21 Morissette burst onto the scene with a respectable and accomplished album.

A true lyricist, all written by Morissette with music co-written with Glen Ballard, all songs were recorded in only one or two takes – impressive for an album that is so developed.  Perfect, the third song on the album was written and recorded in 20 minutes; about a child’s strive for perfection in the eyes of its parents, it’s stirring and sensitive with traces of fury.

Described as post-grunge – alternative rock, the aggressive and piercing lyrics in songs like You Oughta Know and Forgiven against the more reflective and gentle lyrics of Head Over Feet and Mary Jane create an amazing contrast in writing, showing Morissette’s diversity and complexity.

Lines such as “…every time I scratch my nails down someone else’s back I hope you feel it” (You Oughta Know) and “My brothers they never went blind for what they did but I may as well have been” (Forgiven) focus on a raw honesty, no holds-barred statement and explanation; a true glimpse into the person behind the pen.

Morissette’s voice is astounding, an interesting mezzo-soprano but with a tone and style different to any other female vocalist at that time.  It’s pretty difficult to try and sing along to any of the songs on the album due to this, her voice is heart-breaking and commanding, full of every emotion attached to each song.  In recent years Avril Lavigne has been compared to Morisette in tone and strength, but it’s hard to think of many females who have the distinctiveness of this style of vocal.

Jagged Little Pill was a ‘beacon of shining light’ for teen girls, and an eye opener for males who may have been initially averse to a female rock singer.  This wasn’t just ‘angry girl music’ it was a debut of lasting music, an album where every song hasn’t dated; each lyric and each message relevant and affecting.

Ironic, probably the most well-known song from Jagged Little Pill was and still is clever.  A simple idea, point out the irony in the everyday and mundane but create a weaving story and an unforgettable chorus that cannot fail to get you (attempting) singing along to it.  The video was equally as simple and kept it Morissette all the way, having her play each character on a road trip to…Somewhere.

Jagged Little Pill continues to appear in various top albums lists and this year was ranked at 50 on Rolling Stone’s list of Women who Rock: The 50 Greatest Albums of All Time – not too bad for a lady who started out singing ‘bubble-gum’ pop songs at 16. Alanis Morissette produced a significant album that cannot be touched; iconic and an undisputed classic.

Fran Bonner – June 2012

Editor of LLR since 2005

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