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12th Jun 2015

REWIND – Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette turns 20 this week : JOE’s tribute to a famous album

We all had it

Paul Moore

We all had it.

Broke, dumped, frustrated but young. Everyone experienced it at some stage but it’s these universal feelings that launched Alanis Morrissette’s career into the stratosphere with her landmark album, Jagged Little Pill.

There’s certain records that just latch with people because they seem like they’re the perfect soundtrack to a very particular moment in your life.

Jagged Little Pill is this album and while it’s far from being the greatest record of all-time, it’s incredibly raw, truthful and honest. That’s why it still holds up.

Alanis Morissette on 12/20/95 in Chicago, Il.   (Photo by Paul Natkin/WireImage)

To fully understand it’s concept, you have to look at the stage where Morrissette was in her career at the time.

The Canadian musician was 21 years old, pigeon-holed as a ‘pop-act’ (her prior albums to this one sound like a different artist) and frustrated that her artistic instincts were being blunted.

What do you do when you’re sad, laughing, brave and chicken shit at the same time?

Any music fan can instantly tell if a song is cynically produced, choreographed and dictated by what producers ‘think’ people want. Everyone had a copy of Jagged Little Pill because it’s the story of a girl that’s dealing with the same crap as you.

Alanis Morissette performing at the Warfield Theater in San Francisco CA on November 15th, 1995. Image By: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Pretentious musical hipster klaxon alert, but like all great art, the album remains relevant because it transcends gender, time and age.

Morisette had that unique ability that most songwriters strive for, she didn’t overcomplicate her lyrics and wrote them from the heart.

She wasn’t being ironic, just truthful. That’s why Jagged Little Pill sat at the top of the Billboard charts for 12 consecutive weeks and sold over 33 million copies.

Here are my 5 favourite songs, swallow it down.

UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 01:  PHOENIX FESTIVAL  Photo of Alanis MORISSETTE  (Photo by Mick Hutson/Redferns)

5) Hand in My Pocket

The song feels like that jumper in your wardrobe that you’ll never wear in public but it’s still your go-to item of clothing when your hungover on the couch.

It’s reassuring, safe and a reminder that things will be ok.

Morrissette somehow managed to find happiness, optimism and positivity in the ordinary trials of her life and make it feel universal. Not an easy thing.

4) All I Really Want

Alanis will rightfully take all the acclaim for this album but a massive kudos belongs to producer Glen Ballard, who introduced a pop sensibility to her bitter angst.

Her falsettos, distinct Canadian accent and elongated vowels instantly grabbed your attention on this psychedelic opener.

Any track that has the confidence to pause and drop the tempo is a good indication that you’re on to a winner.

3) You Learn

Much like the incredible PJ Harvey, Morrissette blazed the trail for female musicians but as mentioned previously, her cathartic lyrics were so emotive that they could appeal to anyone.

That opening line “I recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone” just has that ability to resonate and stay with you.

2) Head over Feet

Ever fallen in love with someone that’s your best friend? This song is for you then.

That languid guitar is perfectly judged while it’s almost impossible not to whistle along with the harmonica at the two minute mark.

1) You Oughta Know

It’s rather fitting that Rolling Stone called Morrissette an “angry white female,” in their original review only to later add Jagged Little Pill to their top 100 albums of the 1990s.

Sadly every person will probably experience a partner that has a ‘wandering eye’ and this song deserves to top the list because it demonstrates just what an incredibly brave musician the Canadian singer is.

Who else would bare their soul, publicise their dirty laundry and absolutely destroy an ex at the same time?

FYI, the song also features the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea on bass, Dave Navarro on lead guitar and a certain Foo Fighters drummer.

In a word, anthem.

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