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  • Writer's pictureGabrielle Bossy

Jagged Little Pill: A seminal piece of rock n' roll history

Updated: Feb 2, 2020

For me, the album dropped when I was just four so it’s a little crazy for me to call it an album for my generation but nonetheless I loved it then and I love it now. I would force my older sister Jillian to play that C.D. over and over. I knew all the words…hell, I even had a stuffed animal named Ironic. I don’t know if it sparked something visceral in young me or if it was something much less profound that I liked about it at the time but it grew with me over time. That album was a feminist manifesto of angst, anger, strength, sorrow, victory and inner peace. So with Alanis’s 2020 Anniversary Tour coming up this year and a Broadway musical on the stage, it only makes sense that we take a look at its history. Onwards and upwards!

In the beginning…

Well not the beginning. Morrissette had dropped two albums prior to Jagged Little Pill that did not live up to (nor did they generate) much hype. For the most part, they were fairly covered in the sparkles of pop music. Her label, MCA, dropped her after these two albums but did send her to California to write with the likes of Glen Ballard.[1] That is where it all started.

With absolutely no expectations or pressures on creating an album, Ballard and Morrissette met at Ballard’s studio in Encino, California post-earthquake and in the height of the chase for O.J. Simpson.[2] Despite all that was happening around them, they created a stripped down writing atmosphere focused on simplicity and ease. It worked.

Writing just the two of them, Ballard and Morrissette wrote tracks with an ease like Alanis hadn’t experienced before. The way Ballard describes it in the CBC Oral History, both lyrics and vocals were flowing from Alanis’s 19-year-old soul so much so that she wrote some of the songs on the album in an hour. Most songs took only one or two takes and were barely changed from demo to finish. Starting with “All I Really Want” (“The Bottom Line” at the time) and moving through other tracks smoothly, it’s clear the duo was, well, unstoppable.

The tracks ranged the gamut from angry and intense to angsty and a drive for freedom...pretty much exactly what a 19 year old girl would feel. That to me, is what makes the album so real. I mean, can anything really encapsulate the wounds and triumphs of womanhood quite like the line, "And it would knock me too the floor if I wasn't there already"?

Then Came a Deal...

Well not quite. First a bunch of major labels said no. Ballard and Alanis chalked that up to age- it was going to take somebody closer to Morrisette’s age to really get it and that’s what happened. Enter Guy Oseary of Maverick Records. Just a few years older than Alanis at the time, Guy instantly got it. Not only that, he convinced everyone else that it’s what they should be listening to and who they should be signing.[3] Largely leaving the demos alone (except for bringing Flea and Dave Navarro on to play on the radio version of “You Oughta Know”), Guy appreciated the album for what it was and what it could be.

What it Was and What It Is

When Jagged Little Pill dropped, the feedback was pretty electric…at least that’s what I hear. My four-year-old self really didn’t have a handle on that sort of thing yet. It must be true though because it won several Grammys and Juno Awards including the Grammy for Album of the Year. Until T-Swift came along in 2010, Alanis stood as the youngest artist to ever win that award.[4]

Today, Jagged Little Pill stands at #45 of Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Albums of the '90s. It’s been made into a Broadway musical. This piece of work which is nothing short of breathtaking still has young woman across the world screaming in their cars along with every word. It’s a masterpiece of intense, raw emotions.

Peace, love & history.

P.S. Want a super comprehensive history of this album? I highly recommend checking out CBC’s oral history of Jagged Little Pill which is where I got a lot of this info from!

P.P.S. Who else is stoked for this tour?

[1] Holly Gordon | You Oughta Know: an oral history of Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill | |

[2] Holly Gordon | You Oughta Know: an oral history of Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill | | |

[3] Holly Gordon | You Oughta Know: an oral history of Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill | | |

[4] Dana Rose Falcone | Jagged Little Pill: 12 fun facts you might not know about Alanis Morissette's hit record | |

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Gabrielle Bossy
Gabrielle Bossy
Feb 02, 2020

Hey Chris! Thanks for letting me know. I'll definitely take a listen. That's sweet.


Chris Dodd
Chris Dodd
Jan 13, 2020

Hi Gabrielle, Lori Majewski of Feedback (host of Volume's morning show on Sirius XM) did quite an extensive interview with Glen Ballard and it was really awesome. He gave a very comprehensive account of the birth and recording of the album. It was really good, maybe you can find it on line somewhere.

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