This month marks the twentieth anniversary of one of the most pivotal albums of the ’90s.
The ’90s were an era that launched grunge. The rules of rock and roll had changed, and suddenly music was more torridly soul bearing than ever.
If Kurt Cobain could wallow in sardonic boredom and blistering self-loathing, and Alice in Chains could simmer with harrowing and agonised epics, then why couldn’t Alanis Morissette revel in caustic retribution?
Anger and bitterness was part of the fabric of the decade, but Morissette’s ability to inject this turmoil into superbly produced and commercial songs of mass appeal proved an explosive combination that nobody else was able to match.
Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill debuted on June 13, and defined the genre we know today as alternative rock.
It was a piercingly emotional powerhouse that continues to resonate with millions of listeners worldwide.
Her pop album sold over 30 million copies, becoming the decade’s highest selling in America, and earned Morissette five Grammy Awards.
Jagged Little Pill is the culmination of a journey for Morissette that began when she entered show business in elementary school on the children’s show You Can’t Do This on Television.
As a teenager, she released two dance-pop albums for MCA Records in her native Canada — 1991’s Alanis and 1992’s This is the Time. Her debut was moderately successful, but the follow-up tanked and she was dropped from her label. Neither album was ever released outside of Canada, and Morissette has largely disowned them.
Morissette’s breakthrough came when she met up with Glen Ballard. He was able to help mould the young artist’s over-boiling emotions into commercial pop-rock that’s catchy enough to garner a wide audience but still intense and impactful.
Jagged Little Pill didn’t exactly fly off the shelves from day one. Several weeks after its release, the first single, You Oughta Know, hit airwaves. It first gained traction at alternative radio.
However, once MTV picked up the video, the song was suddenly everywhere.
Twenty years later, Jagged Little Pill still holds up as a landmark.
It’s the potently emotional travails of a young woman exploring the pain of broken relationships, and the wonder and promise of her burgeoning adulthood.
The album has aged well — it still sounds crisp and contemporary.