Jagged Little Pill is the third studio album by Canadian recording artist and songwriter Alanis Morissette and her first album released internationally. Her first studio album after a three year hiatus following her break with MCA Records, it became a commercial and critical success, selling over 33 million copies worldwide. Co-written with the album's producer, Glen Ballard, who introduced a pop sensibility to Morissette's bitter angst,Jagged Little Pill produced six singles, including the Grammy nominated "Ironic".
Morissette started recording the album after moving to Toronto, Canada until she travelled to Los Angeles where she met Glen Ballard, who was the only producer for the album. The album had charting success worldwide, peaking at number one in her native Canada for 24 weeks (three weeks in late 1995, an unbroken 19-week run in 1996 and two separate weeks later in the year) as well as reaching number one on the U.S. Billboard 200, staying there for twelve non-consecutive weeks. By 2009, the album had sold over 33 million units/copies worldwide, topping the charts in ten countries, including the UK, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Finland and the Netherlands and even ranking on the top 100 on many countries' best selling of all time lists. Billboard further ranked the album as the number one Best Selling album of 1990s.
Jagged Little Pill received general acclaim from music critics, with many praising the album's talent and lyrical content. The album received many accolades. In October 2002, Rolling Stone ranked it number 31 on its Women In Rock - The 50 Essential Albums list, and in 2003 the magazine ranked it number 327 on its list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The album also holds a title in The Definitive 200 Albums list, in which it is placed at number 26. The album ranked at #50 on Rolling Stone's list of Women Who Rock: The 50 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2012.
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 home town of Ottawa to Toronto. Living alone for the first time in her life, she met with a bevy of songwriters, but she was frustrated with the results. A visit to Nashville a few months later also proved fruitless. Morissette began making trips to Los Angeles and working with as many musicians as possible, in the hopes of meeting a collaborator. 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, California. 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 appeared on Jagged Little Pill was the only take that the pair recorded.
Morissette later revealed that during her stay in Los Angeles, she was robbed on a deserted street by a man with a gun. After the robbery, Morissette developed an intense and general angst and suffered daily panic attacks. She was hospitalized and attended psychotherapy sessions, but it didn't improve her emotional status. As Morissette later revealed in interviews, she focused all her inner problems on the soul-baring lyrics of the album for her own health. According to Morissette, Ballard was the first collaborator who encouraged her to express her emotions.
The demo recording sessions started in 1994 at Ballard's home studio and included only Morissette and the producer, who recorded the songs as they were being written. Ballard provided the rough tracks, playing the guitars, keyboards and programming drum machines, and Morissette played harmonica. The duo sought to write and record one song a day, in twelve- or sixteen-hour shifts, with minimal overdubbing later. All of Morissette's singing on the album respects that rule, each recorded in one or two takes. The tracks that were redone later in a professional studio used the original demo vocals.
The first song to be shown to A&R and record company people was "Perfect", with a simple arrangement containing only Morissette's vocals and Ballard's acoustic guitar. In 1995, around the time that Morissette penned a deal with Maverick Records, the duo took the demos to a studio and began working on full band arrangements for some tracks. During the overdub sessions, Flea and Dave Navarro (then Red Hot Chili Peppers bandmates) appeared at the studio, discovered Morissette's work, and offered to play on "You Oughta Know".
Demos of several tracks, including "You Oughta Know," "Ironic," "Head Over Feet," "Forgiven," "Mary Jane" and "Right Through You," as well as two unreleased songs, "Superstar Wonderful Weirdos" and "No Avalon," have been made available by fans. Two other songs, "Keep the Radio On" and "The Bottom Line," are known by a set of handwritten lyrics once auctioned on eBay and a clip of the song played on Behind the Music.
Jagged Little Pill is a very different album for Morissette, who before the album, had sung dance-pop music. Unlike her previous albums Alanis and Now Is the Time, the album strayed from her typical dance and bubblegum pop. In contrast, this album is seen as a landmark in alternative rock. Lyrically, most of the songs were written by Morissette and Glen Ballard. A lot of her lyrics talk about broken relationships, hurt, rage and confusion of a woman.
Tracks like "All I Really Want" and "Right Through You" talk about frustration in her life. Her song "Ironic" talks about irony in her life. "You Oughta Know" talks about a sudden split with a man who has fallen for another woman. The song "Perfect" is about parents demanding too much of their children. "You Learn" is about life being a learning experience. It is a slower pop rock number. The song "Head over Feet" is a love song about people who treat her like a "princess". "Mary Jane" is about a girl who suffers from depression. "Wake Up" takes shape of a cry for help to an apathetic world.
Jagged Little Pill was released on June 13, 1995 in the United States, followed by a worldwide release. Jagged Little Pill received general acclaim from most music critics. Stephen Thomas Erlewine from Allmusic gave it a very positive review, giving it four-and-a-half out of five stars. He mostly complimented the album's standout talent saying "It's remarkable that Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill struck a sympathetic chord with millions of listeners, because it's so doggedly, determinedly insular." He concludes, "As slick as the music is, the lyrics are unvarnished and Morissette unflinchingly explores emotions so common, most people would be ashamed to articulate them. This doesn't make Jagged Little Pill great, but it does make it a fascinating record, a phenomenon that's intensely personal."Robert Christgau gave it a B+ grade, mainly praising its thematic content: "she's happy to help 15 million girls of many ages stick a basic feminist truth in our faces: privileged phonies have identity problems too. Not to mention man problems." David Browne of Entertainment Weekly gave it a middling review, stating that the album "is [hard] swallow. What sounds arresting on a single grows wearing over a full album. Producer-co-songwriter Glen Ballard's arrangements are clunky mixtures of alternative mood music and hammy arena rock, and the 21-year-old Morissette tends to wildly oversing every other line." John Hanson from Sputnikmusic had said "It’s one of the most varied pop/rock albums I own, and its also one of the most emotionally powerful to boot". When listing the album at 45 on the "100 Best Albums of the Nineties", Rolling Stone commented: "Jagged Little Pill is like a Nineties version of Carole King's Tapestry: a woman using her plain soft-rock voice to sift through the emotional wreckage of her youth, with enough heart and songcraft to make countless listeners feel the earth move".
Jagged Little Pill is one of the most successful albums of the 1990s. It peaked at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200, and was certificated 16× Platinum for shipments of 16 million copies. It has sold 14,868,000 copies according Nielsen SoundScan, and a further 1.24 million units through BMG music club. The album also peaked at number one on the Canadian Albums Chart, selling over 2 million copies, being certificated 2X Diamond.Jagged Little Pill was very successful worldwide. In Oceania, the album had debuted at number forty-six in Australia, and rose to peak at number one, staying there for ten consecutive weeks. It was certificated 14× Platinum, selling over 980,000 copies there. It is currently the 4th best selling album in Australian history. The album debuted at number 46 in New Zealand, then rose to number one, staying there for 11 non-consecutive weeks. The album had been certificated 14× Platinum, selling over 200,000 copies. It is currently the 14th best selling album in New Zealand.
In Europe, the album peaked at number six on the French Albums Chart, staying in the charts for 37 weeks. It was certificated Platinum in that country. The album debuted at number 46 in the United Kingdom but peaked at number one, and stayed in the charts for a total of 145 weeks. The album was certificated 10× Platinum, shipping over 3 million copies. Overall, the album sold 33 million copies worldwide, becoming one of the most successful albums in music history.
Morissette later toured for the album. Due to the success of the album, Morissette had toured the worldwide for a total of 18 months for the album. A DVD and VHS was released, under the title Jagged Little Pill, Live. That had received positive reviews from music critics as well. The tour had spanned from different countries (which was eventually featured on the VHS) where she had travelled to Australia, New Zealand, Germany, United Kingdom, South America, Asia, United States and her native Canada. It had won a Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video. One of the best selling albums worldwide, in 1996 it was the best selling worldwide with 18.7 million copies sold with 500,000 or more copies sold during more than 15 non-consecutive weeks.
"You Oughta Know" was released as the album's lead single. The song was written by Morissette and Glen Ballard. The song was originally supposed to be released only in Canada and the U.S., however, Maverick Records released the single worldwide. The song became an instant hit, peaking at number six on the Hot 100 and 20 in Canada. The song also peaked at number four in Australia and 25 in New Zealand. A music video was shot for the single, featuring Morissette in a desert. The song won two Grammy Awards.
"Hand In My Pocket" was released as the album's second single from the album. After "You Oughta Know", the single received more attention worldwide. The song peaked at number 1 on the U.S. Rock Charts, but failed to enter the Hot 100. The song peaked at number one in Canada, number 13 in Australia and number seven in New Zealand.
"Ironic" was released as the album's third single. "Ironic" became Morissette's most successful and known single to date, as it peaked at number one in Canada and in many rock charts in the U.S. The song peaked at number four on the Hot 100. The song also managed to peak in the top ten in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The song released a music video with Morissette singing in a car. The song was nominated for one Grammy Award.
"You Learn" was released as the album's fourth single. The song was a more moderate success compared to the success of "Ironic". The song was released outside of Canada, not even peaking in the country. The song peaked at number six on the Hot 100, number 20 in Australia and number 13 in New Zealand. A music video was featured for the single.
"Head over Feet" was released as the album's fifth single. The song was released in the UK, U.S and Canada, although getting a promotional release in Australia only. The song peaked at number seven in the UK, but didn't manage to chart in the U.S. Hot 100 but in Canada it was a massive hit and held the number one spot for 8 weeks straight.
"All I Really Want" was released as the sixth and final single off the album. The single was only released outside of the U.S. and peaked at number 40 in Australia and 59 in the UK.
As of 2009[update], it has sold 33 million copies worldwide.
In 2005, Morissette re-released an acoustic version of the album, Jagged Little Pill Acoustic, on the tenth anniversary of the original album's release. This album was originally sold through Starbucks' Hear Music brand in an exclusive six-week deal that ended on July 26, 2005. For the duration of this partnership, music retailer HMVboycotted the sale of Morissette's entire catalogue in Canada. The album was released on June 15, 2005, ten years to the day after the original United States release. The artwork of the acoustic version is similar to the original version, but is sepia tinted instead.