Jagged Little Pill
|Jagged Little Pill|
|Studio album by|
|Released||June 13, 1995|
|Recorded||March 8, 1994 – April 1995|
|Studio||Westlake Recording Studios and Signet Sound, Hollywood|
|Alanis Morissette chronology|
|Alanis Morissette studio album chronology|
|Singles from Jagged Little Pill|
Jagged Little Pill is the third studio album by Canadian singer Alanis Morissette, released on June 13, 1995, through Maverick. It was her first album to be released worldwide. It marked a stylistic departure from the dance-pop sound of her first two albums, Alanis (1991) and Now Is the Time (1992). Morissette began work on the album after moving from her hometown Ottawa to Toronto; she made little progress until she traveled to Los Angeles, where she met producer Glen Ballard. Morissette and Ballard had an instant connection and began co-writing and experimenting with sounds. The experimentation resulted in an alternative rock album that takes influence from post-grunge and pop rock, and features guitars, keyboards, drum machines, and harmonica. The lyrics touch upon themes of aggression and unsuccessful relationships, while Ballard introduced a pop sensibility to Morissette's angst. The title of the album is taken from the first verses of the song "You Learn".
Jagged Little Pill was a commercial success, topping the charts in thirteen countries. With sales of over 33 million copies worldwide, it is one of the best-selling albums of all time and made Morissette the first Canadian to achieve double diamond sales. Jagged Little Pill was nominated for nine Grammy Awards, winning five, including Album of the Year, making the 21-year-old Morissette, at the time, the youngest artist to win the top honor. Rolling Stone ranked Jagged Little Pill at No. 69 on its 2020 list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time"
The album has been re-released twice: on October 30, 2015, in a 2-disc deluxe edition and a 4-disc collector's edition commemorating its 20th anniversary; and on June 26, 2020, in a 25th anniversary deluxe edition. An acoustic re-recording of the album was released on June 13, 2005, to mark its 10th anniversary. A musical stage production based on the album premiered at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge on May 5, 2018; it transferred to Broadway the following year, and was nominated for 15 Tony Awards including Best Musical. A world tour celebrating the 25th anniversary of Jagged Little Pill began in early 2020 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 1991, MCA Records Canada released Morissette's debut studio album Alanis, which went Platinum in Canada. Her second album Now Is the Time sold a little more than half the copies of her first album. With her two-album deal complete, Morissette was left without a recording contract. In 1993, Morissette's publisher Leeds Levy at MCA Music Publishing introduced her to manager Scott Welch. Welch told HitQuarters he was impressed by her "spectacular voice", her character and her lyrics. At the time she was still living with her parents in Ottawa. Together they decided it would be best for her career to move to Toronto and start writing with other people.
After graduating from high school, Morissette made the move. Her publisher funded part of her development and when she met producer and songwriter Glen Ballard, he believed in her talent enough to let her use his studio. The two wrote and recorded Morissette's first internationally released album, Jagged Little Pill, and by the spring of 1995, she had signed a deal with Maverick Records. According to Welch, every label they approached passed on Morissette apart from Maverick.
Morissette co-wrote the album solely with Glen Ballard, who also produced the album. 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.
Ballard met Morissette in 1994 when his publishing company matched them up. 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 also declared to Rolling Stone that, "I just connected with her as a person, and, almost parenthetically, it was like 'Wow, you're 19?' She was so intelligent and ready to take a chance on doing something that might have no commercial application. Although there was some question about what she wanted to do musically, she knew what she didn't want to do, which was anything that wasn't authentic and from her heart." The first track the pair wrote was "The Bottom Line", which was not included on the album's initial release, but was included on the album's 2015 re-release. The song was written in one hour, immediately after they met.
The album's most successful single "Ironic" was the third track to be written for the album. In an interview with Christopher Walsh of Billboard, Ballard explained how he and Morissette met, and how "Ironic" was written. He commented: "I'm telling you, within 15 minutes we were at it — just writing. 'Ironic' was the third song we wrote. Oh God, we were just having fun. I thought 'I don't know what this is — what genre it is — who knows? It's just good'."
The lead single, "You Oughta Know", has guitar by Dave Navarro and bass by Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers. The song was written with a different instrumentation; the pair were then asked to re-write the music – something Navarro described as being "A lot like a remix ... The structure of the song was in place but there were no guide tracks, we just had the vocal to work from. It was just a good time and we basically jammed until we found something we were both happy with. Alanis was happy too."
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 December 1994, before Morissette penned a deal with Maverick Records, the duo took the demos to a studio and began working on full band arrangements for 5 songs: You Oughta Know, Right Through You, Forgiven, Wake Up and Mary Jane. Los Angeles engineer Chris Fogel engineered the sessions.
This section reads like a review rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (August 2020)
Jagged Little Pill departed from Morissette's previous releases – Alanis and Now Is the Time – that predominantly featured dance-pop. The album is seen as a landmark in alternative rock. Most of the lyrics were written by Morissette and Glen Ballard.
The album opens with "All I Really Want". It features harmonica, swirly guitars and canned drums, and is in a grunge-pop vein. The lyrics talk about "intellectual intercourse" and a mental connection with another angry, frustrated, frightened, uncomfortable soul.
"You Oughta Know" features themes of "raw anger and frank portrayal of female sexuality".
"Perfect" is a pristine ballad that talks about "pushy" parents.
"Hand in My Pocket" is a cataloging of contradictions set over fuzzy guitar and a '90s drum machine. It portrays a lighter side to Morissette, with lyrics that touch upon themes of her self-effacing and hopeful side.
"Right Through You" is a grunge song with angry lyrics about sleazy record bosses who prey on female artists who they want to "Wine dine and sixty-nine" rather than actually supporting their musical careers.
"Forgiven" draws on Morissette's Catholic upbringing. "I was told," she recalled, "that if I wasn't a virgin when I was a teenager, I must be a real whore. I believed that if I had sex I would be damned in hell forever."
"You Learn" is a mid-tempo self-help rock song, with Morissette giving out advice; "Ditch the fear, open your heart, speak your mind, and when the going gets tough, walk around the house naked."
"Head Over Feet" is a ballad that contains guitar and drum box backing, with plainspoken vocals. The lyrics talk about Morissette being a "handful", and that she's not the type to get emotional.
"Mary Jane" is built over a ballad's tense and ringing electric guitar, and sees Morissette trying to reassure a friend who's having a rough time, or possibly smoking marijuana ("Mary Jane" is another name for the drug).
"Ironic" is a pop rock song, set in the time signature of common time, composed in a moderate tempo of eighty-two beats per minute. The song's use of situational irony led to some fascination with whether it is a correct application of the term ironic. According to the Oxford English Dictionary "irony" is "a figure of speech in which the intended meaning is the opposite of that expressed by the words used" making lyrics such as "It's like rain on your wedding day" not ironic.
"Not the Doctor" features gnarly guitars, acoustic strumming and a languid drum loop, with needle-sharp lyrics.
The closing "Wake Up" takes the shape of a cry for help to an apathetic world.
Release and promotion
Maverick Records released Jagged Little Pill internationally in 1995. The album was expected only to sell enough for Morissette to make a follow-up, but the situation changed quickly when KROQ-FM, an influential Los Angeles modern rock radio station, began playing "You Oughta Know", the album's lead single. The song instantly garnered attention for its scathing, explicit lyrics, a subsequent music video went into heavy rotation on MTV and MuchMusic in Canada, and the song rapidly ascended the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart peaking at No. 1 for five weeks, the most ever by a female artist to that date. Soon after US Top 40 and Album Rock radio stations began playing the song and it reached No. 7 and No. 3 on the Mainstream Top 40 and Album Rock Track charts, respectively.
After the success of "You Oughta Know", the album's other hits helped send Jagged Little Pill to the top of the Billboard Album Chart. "Hand in My Pocket" was the next track released; it topped the Modern Rock chart and reached No. 8 and No. 4 on the Mainstream Top 40 and Album Rock Track charts, respectively. While top 40 and album rock stations were still catching up to modern rock radio stations on playing the first two tracks, "All I Really Want" was promoted at modern rock stations and reached No. 14 on the Modern Rock chart. The fourth U.S. single, "Ironic", became Morissette's biggest hit, partly due to the unique music video featuring four identical but differently dressed Alanises driving around in the same car. The video was nominated for six MTV Video Music Awards in 1996 winning three including "Best Female Video". "Ironic", which was released as a physical single, therefore, becoming the first track off Jagged Little Pill eligible for the Billboard Hot 100, peaked at No. 4 on the Hot 100, while also hitting No. 1 on the Modern Rock and Mainstream Top 40 charts. "You Learn" and "Head over Feet", the fifth and sixth singles, also topped the Mainstream Top 40 chart, reached No. 7 and No. 25 on the Modern Rock chart, but were not picked up by Mainstream Rock stations, instead charting highly on the Adult Alternative ("You Learn" No. 2; "Head Over Feet" No. 11) and Adult Top 40 charts ("Head Over Feet" No. 1: "You Learn" No. 3), with a single of "You Learn" backed with Morissette's Grammy Award performance of "You Oughta Know" peaking at No. 6 on the Hot 100. The parade of singles kept Jagged Little Pill (1995) in the top 10 on the Billboard 200 albums chart for 72 weeks.
Morissette toured Jagged Little Pill worldwide for 18 months, supported by Radiohead. A live video was released on VHS and DVD, Jagged Little Pill, Live, and won a Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video.
On the album's tenth anniversary in 2005, Morissette released an acoustic version of the album, Jagged Little Pill Acoustic. 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 HMV boycotted 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. On October 30, 2015, Jagged Little Pill was reissued by Rhino Records and Warner Music Group to mark its 20th anniversary. A two-disc deluxe edition contains a newly remastered version of the album, appended with ten demo recordings, two of which were previously released on the "Joining You" single in 1999. A limited four-disc collector's edition also adds 2005's Acoustic album and a full live concert recorded in London at Subterranea on September 28, 1995. As with the Acoustic release, this edition also updated the cover artwork; this time presented in white and gold and labeled as Jagged Little Pill • Collector's Edition.
|Christgau's Consumer Guide||B+|
|Los Angeles Times|||
|Music & Media||Positive|
|The Philadelphia Inquirer|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
Jagged Little Pill received generally positive reviews from music critics. Los Angeles Times writer Steve Hochman found that few artists explored "extreme emotional games" as "strikingly" as Morissette, whom he viewed as "a fresh talent—somewhere between, say, Sinéad O'Connor and Liz Phair—who's determined to let her feelings out, whether with a snarl or a smile." Anne Ayers of USA Today said that Morissette "compels with mature, assured songcraft and pointed writing", while Philadelphia Inquirer critic Tom Moon described her as "wise beyond her years, determined to expose the hypocrisy she encounters at every turn." The Village Voice's Robert Christgau wrote that Morissette is "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." In a retrospective review, Stephen Thomas Erlewine from AllMusic highlighted the intensely personal nature of Morissette's lyrics and found it "remarkable" that the album "struck a sympathetic chord with millions of listeners, because it's so doggedly, determinedly insular." Erlewine 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."
Other critics were less favorable. David Browne of Entertainment Weekly described the album as "[a hard] swallow", continuing, "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." Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune wrote that Morissette "strives for catharsis but often merely sounds histrionic".
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".
|Slant||The 10 Best Albums of 1995||
Jagged Little Pill is one of the most successful albums of the 1990s. In the US, Jagged Little Pill debuted at No. 117 on the Billboard 200 and peaked at No. 1 in October 1995, almost four months after it was released, remaining in that position for twelve weeks in total. It was the first album to reach both 12 million (in February 1997) and 13 million (in August 1998) in sales in the US since 1991, when Nielsen SoundScan started tracking music sales. It was certified 16× Platinum for shipments of 16 million copies. Morissette held the record by the youngest artist to be certified diamond in the US, until she was beaten by Britney Spears with her debut album ...Baby One More Time. On the week ending June 21, 2015, the album sold 5,000, bringing the sales to just over 15 million, making the album one of only three albums to have sold at least 15 million copies in the United States since Nielsen Music began tracking data in 1991. and a further 350,000 units through BMG Music Club. The album also peaked at No. 1 on the Canadian Albums Chart, selling over two million copies, being certified 2× Diamond.
Jagged Little Pill was very successful worldwide. In Oceania, the album debuted at No. 46 in Australia and rose to peak at No. 1, staying there for 10 consecutive weeks. It was certified 14× Platinum, selling over 980,000 copies there. The album debuted at No. 46 in New Zealand, then rose to No. 1, staying there for 11 non-consecutive weeks. The album had been certified 14× Platinum, selling over 200,000 copies.
In Europe, the album peaked at No. 6 on the French Albums Chart, staying in the charts for 37 weeks. It was certified Platinum in that country. In Italy Jagged Little Pill has shipped half a million copies. The album debuted at No. 76 in the United Kingdom and later reached No. 1, staying in the charts for a total of 221 weeks. The album was certified 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. 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. As of 2009[update], it has sold 33 million copies worldwide.
Impact and legacy
The album received numerous awards and accolades. Morissette and the album won six Juno Awards in 1996, including the Album of the Year, Single of the Year for "You Oughta Know", Female Vocalist of the Year, Songwriter of the Year and Best Rock Album. At the 1996 Grammy Awards, she won Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, Best Rock Song (both for "You Oughta Know"), Best Rock Album and Album of the Year. "Ironic" was nominated for two 1997 Grammy Awards—Record of the Year and Best Music Video, Short Form—and won Single of the Year at the 1997 Juno Awards, where Morissette also won Songwriter of the Year and the International Achievement Award. The video Jagged Little Pill, Live, which was co-directed by Morissette and chronicled the bulk of her tour, won a 1998 Grammy Award for Best Music Video, Long Form.
In 2000 it was voted No. 51 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums. In October 2002, Rolling Stone ranked it No. 31 on its Women In Rock – The 50 Essential Albums list, and in 2003 the magazine ranked it No. 327 on its list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". The album was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. The album also appears on the National Association of Recording Merchandisers' "Definitive 200" list at No. 26. The album ranked at No. 50 on Rolling Stone's 2012 list of "Women Who Rock: The 50 Greatest Albums of All Time". The album was included on Billboard's "Best Selling Pop album of the 1990s", where it was placed at No. 1. The album peaked at No. 1 on the US Billboard 200, making Morissette the first Canadian woman to top the chart.
Morissette's success with Jagged Little Pill (1995) was credited with leading to the introduction of female singers such as Shakira, Tracy Bonham, Meredith Brooks, and in the early 2000s, Pink, Michelle Branch, and fellow Canadian Avril Lavigne. American singer Katy Perry cites Jagged Little Pill as a significant musical inspiration, and opted to work with Morissette's frequent collaborator Ballard as a result. Perry stated, "Jagged Little Pill was the most perfect female record ever made. There's a song for anyone on that record; I relate to all those songs. They're still so timeless." Grammy Award winner Kelly Clarkson said of the album, "It made me a better writer. It made me a better singer." In 2018, the album won the Polaris Heritage Prize Audience Award in the 1986–1995 category.
In November 2013, it was revealed that a theatre adaption of Jagged Little Pill was being adapted for the stage with Tom Kitt attached to arrange the orchestrations. In May 2017, it was announced that the stage adaption would receive its world premiere in May 2018, 23 years after the album was released.
Jagged Little Pill began a limited run of performances opening May 5, 2018, at the Loeb Drama Center, within the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, closing July 15, 2018. Notable casting for the show included Elizabeth Stanley as Mary Jane, Derek Klena as Nick, Lauren Patten as Jo, Sean Allan Krill as Steve and Celia Gooding as Frankie. The show has a book by Diablo Cody, with direction by Diane Paulus, choreography by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, set design by Riccardo Hernandez, costume design by Emily Rebholz, lighting design by Justin Townsend, and video design by Finn Ross. Music and lyrics are by Alanis Morissette and Glen Ballard, with musical direction by Bryan Perri, sound design by Jonathan Deans and orchestration by Tom Kitt.
All lyrics are written by Alanis Morissette, except where noted; all music is composed by Alanis Morissette and Glen Ballard, except where noted.
|1.||"All I Really Want"||4:45|
|2.||"You Oughta Know"||4:09|
|4.||"Hand in My Pocket"||3:42|
|5.||"Right Through You"||2:56|
|8.||"Head over Feet"||4:27|
|11.||"Not the Doctor"||3:48|
|13.||"You Oughta Know" (Jimmy the Saint Blend) / "Your House (a cappella)" (Hidden track)||8:13|
Note: You Oughta Know" (Jimmy the Saint Blend) / "Your House (a cappella)" only appears on the CD release and does not appear on the original 1995 vinyl release.
The following people contributed to Jagged Little Pill:
Certifications and sales
|Australia (ARIA)||14× Platinum||1,020,000|
|Austria (IFPI Austria)||2× Platinum||100,000*|
|Belgium (BEA)||2× Platinum||100,000*|
|Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)||Gold||100,000*|
|Canada (Music Canada)||2× Diamond||2,000,000^|
|Germany (BVMI)||2× Platinum||1,000,000^|
|Netherlands (NVPI)||4× Platinum||400,000^|
|New Zealand (RMNZ)||Platinum||15,000^|
|Norway (IFPI Norway)||Platinum||75,000|
|Spain (PROMUSICAE)||3× Platinum||300,000^|
|Sweden (GLF)||2× Platinum||200,000^|
|Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)||Platinum||50,000^|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||10× Platinum||2,810,000|
|United States (RIAA)||16× Platinum||16,000,000|
|Europe (IFPI)||7× Platinum||7,000,000*|
* Sales figures based on certification alone.
- List of best-selling albums
- List of best-selling albums by women
- List of best-selling albums in Australia
- List of best-selling albums in Canada
- List of best-selling albums in New Zealand
- List of best-selling albums in the United States
- List of best-selling albums in the United Kingdom
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A common misconception is that 'ironic' is a direct synonym for coincidental. The lyrics of Alanis Morissette's UK top 11 (and US top five) hit Ironic describe a number of apparently ironic situations, each verse ending with the refrain 'Isn't it ironic?' To which the answer must be a polite but firm 'no', as the lyrics are in fact a succinct explanation of what irony isn't. How ironic.
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Thanks to Peter Howell, rock critic for The Toronto Star, for noting that Morissette is the first Canadian female artist to have a No. 1 album in America.Cite magazine requires
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