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Retro Reviews: Alanis Morissette sings about her ‘Jagged Little Pill’

Bryson Jones

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“Jagged Little Pill” is a very different album for Alanis Morissette who, before the album’s release, had sung dance-pop music. This album reached more genres of rock music, including post-grunge, rock, alternative rock and even acoustic rock music. Lyrically, most of the songs were written by Morissette and Glen Ballard. She sings about broken relationships, hurt, rage and confusion from a feminine perspective.
Neither of Morissette’s first two albums (“Alanis” and “Now is the Time”) achieved much success outside of Canada. In 1993, after leaving MCA Records Canada, Morissette moved from her hometown of Ottawa to Toronto.
Living alone for the first time in her life, she met with a large number of talented songwriters; the results, however, frustrated her. A visit to Nashville a few months later also left her with negative results. Morissette began making trips to Los Angeles and working with as many musicians as possible, seeking a talented collaborator with whom she worked well.
During this time, she met producer and songwriter Glen Ballard. According to Ballard, the connection was “instant”, and within 30 minutes of meeting each other they had begun experimenting with different sounds in Ballard’s home studio in San Fernando Valley, Calif.
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. Morissette improvised the lyrics on the spot, and Ballard played guitar. The version of the song that appears on “Jagged Little Pill” is the only take that the pair recorded.
Morissette later revealed that during her stay in Los Angeles, she was robbed at gunpoint on a deserted street. After the robbery, Morissette developed an intense angst and suffered from daily panic attacks. She was hospitalized and attended psychotherapy sessions, but it didn’t improve her emotional condition.
As Morissette later revealed in interviews, she focused all her inner problems on the album’s soul-baring lyrics for her own health. According to Morissette, Ballard was the first collaborator who encouraged her to express her emotions.
“Jagged Little Pill” peaked at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 and certificated 16x Platinum for shipments of 16 million copies, actually selling over 15 million in the United States.
The album was nominated for six Grammy Awards in 1996, and Morissette won “Best Female Rock Vocal Performance”, “Best Rock Song”, “Best Rock Album” and “Album of the Year.” Until 2010 she held the record for being the youngest person to receive the “Album of the Year” award at age 21. Later that year she embarked on an 18-month world tour, beginning in small clubs and ending in large venues. In 1997, she was nominated for two more Grammy Awards: “Record of the Year” and “Best Music Video, Short Form” for “Ironic”. The video “Jagged Little Pill, Live”, which chronicled the bulk of the tour, won a 1998 Grammy Award for “Best Long Form Music Video”. In 1998, “Q” magazine readers voted “Jagged Little Pill” the 19th greatest album of all time. In 2003, the album was ranked number 327 on “Rolling Stone” magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

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Retro Reviews: Alanis Morissette sings about her ‘Jagged Little Pill’