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When Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill” came out in 1995, I was assistant manager at a Musicland record store. That album enjoyed a lot of in-store play, but since we were in a shopping mall, we had to try to keep the music… family friendly, shall we say?
But rather than having to skip the one song on the album that dropped an F-bomb in the lyrics, we employed diversionary tactics. Whenever the song “You Oughta Know” came on, we’d scan the store for any customers we thought might be offended, then we’d distract them right at the moment of profanity.
“Can I help you find anything today?”
Worked every time.
“Jagged Little Pill” is definitely one of my favorite albums from that era. I was a big Tori Amos fan at the time the album came out, and I really liked how Alanis took some of the same themes and gave them more of a pop-rock focus. Obviously, there were a bunch of songs from the album that turned into radio hits. Tracks like “Ironic,” “Hand In My Pocket” and “You Learn” were terrific earworms.
But many listeners… women in particular… were drawn to the rawness in some of the lyrics. Songs like “You Oughta Know” and “Right Through You” became pop-anthems for female empowerment, and Alanis Morissette became the defacto standard bearer for angry young women everywhere. And although that spirit would in part fuel the Lilith Fair movement in the latter half of the 90s, Alanis Morissette never did participate in those female artist driven festivals.
Of course, “Jagged Little Pill” wasn’t Alanis’ first rodeo. After a brief stint as one of the kid performers on the Nickelodeon show “You Can’t Do That On Television,” Alanis released a hit pop music album in Canada in 1991, recording only under her first name. After the 1992 follow-up failed to live up to the success of her debut, Alanis met producer Glen Ballard and proceeded to reinvent her sound.
Interestingly enough, Warner Brothers music was actually grooming another “angry young woman” singer-songwriter at the time. On the very same day they released “Jagged Little Pill,” they released the debut album from Jennifer Trynin. “Cockamamie” was a little harder edged than “Jagged Little Pill,” and it was actually the album Warner expected to be the hit. Instead, Alanis Morissette’s success completely eclipsed Jennifer Trynin, and consequently you probably have never heard of her. She’s worth checking out though, as is her memoir about that experience, called “Everything I’m Cracked Up To Be.”
As the years have passed, I don’t know that “Jagged Little Pill” has aged as well as some of Alanis’ later music. The album still feels very much “of its time.” As much as I love it, I find myself more inclined to listen to the three albums that followed it: “Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie,” “Under Rug Swept” and “So-Called Chaos.” Still, “Jagged Little Pill” is an essential part of any good music collection, and for true fans, the four disc anniversary edition featuring demos and live tracks is strongly recommended.
Note: This review is also available on video on the Track X Track YouTube channel.
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