Release date: 13 June 1995
UK chart peak: #1
Running time: 57:23
Singles: You Oughta Know (#22), Hand in My Pocket (#26), Ironic (#11), You Learn (#24), Head over Feet (#7), All I Really Want (#59)
Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Looking Pill is one of the best-selling albums of all time, reaching number 1 in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, Ireland, New Zealand, Portugal, Sweden & America. It also performed well in Switzerland, Austria & Italy (#2) and Spain, Norway & Germany (#3). The record won five out of the nine Grammy Awards it was nominated for, including Album of the Year – at 21 years old, Morissette was then the youngest artist to win this prestigious award.
The early 90s saw the end of the rave scene and the beginning of grunge & Britpop, amongst other things. Between late May & early June 1995, the album charts saw high entries from Alison Moyet (Singles), Paul Weller (Stanley Road), Take That (Nobody Else), Supergrass (I Should Coco), Pink Floyd (Pulse), Radiohead (The Bends), and Annie Lennox (Medusa). The singles chart around the time of Jagged Little Pill‘s release was similarly diverse, with songs such as Unchained Melody/White Cliffs of Dover by Robson & Jerome, Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me by U2, and Common People by Pulp charting highly; new releases included Verve’s On Your Own, Search for the Hero by M People, and Edwyn Collins’ A Girl Like You.
Jagged Little Pill was Morissette’s third album, marking a departure from her earlier efforts as it ended up as something a bit grungier – significant progress was made on the recording once she was introduced to writer/producer Glen Ballard in Los Angeles.
The result of Morissette’s change in direction was an alternative rock record, with songs mostly themed around unhealthy & failed relationships. This material has since been adapted for the stage (along with other tracks from Morissette’s back catalogue), the musical Jagged Little Pill premièring at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts before making its Broadway debut in November 2019.
Even if you haven’t heard the album you’ll likely be familiar with at least some of its content, thanks to a hefty six tracks being released as singles in the UK; Ironic is possibly the most famous of these, the true irony of course being that nothing in the lyrics actually is ironic… You Oughta Know is peak Alanis angst, its vengeful & aggressive lyrics delivered with real bite over the top of sharp guitar riffs. Right Through You is another in this vein, though this time talking of predatory men in authority (record label bosses, who we’d now refer to as Weinstein figures) – the frank line “wine, dine, 69 me” really standing out.
Despite the album’s reputation as being full of angst, there are some brighter moments; for example, Head over Feet, though there are still anxieties on display it hints at a relationship going in the right direction rather than heartbreak and separation. You Learn, too, has more of a positive outlook, suggesting that listeners throw themselves into experiences and dealing with the consequences rather than living a fearful, overcautious life. Another final highlight for me is the ballad Mary Jane.
The Greatest Show
Morissette embarked on the Can’t Not Tour (also called the Jagged Little Tour or Intellectual Intercourse Tour) in support of the album, with support acts such as Radiohead and Loud Lucy. Though mostly focused on North America, she also travelled to places including the UK, Germany, Japan, France, Austria & Spain.