Alanis Morissette’s debut turns twenty this week. It sounds as raw, pure, and emotional as when it originally came out. It’s a personal album that reads like a person’s two month affair with a broken relationship where your significant other stabbed you in the back or an unrequited love where you’re tired of being rejected and almost feel cheated in some cosmic joke. What makes the album timeless and better than so much of the 90’s angry grunge is that the album provides a healthy mix of anger and regret, but also motivation, thankfulness, and the humility to understand that ever moment has its worth, regardless of the catastrophe.
That’s how it begins on the opening track, “All I Really Want”. Who we find straight away is a punk-like meets hippie who lets loose straight away that she’s insecure. Nonetheless, she’s aware of her weirdness and in that knowledge, she takes it to form her character. She’s a non-conformist with her sweatshirt inside out and back to front, laughing at quiet society with their old fashioned guidelines on how to live. it’s one of the best intros to a lead singer ever. She lays down her defeats and her goals. She wants to be a lover, humble, or basically to be a better her. She wants a better world. Instead of feeling depressed about it, Alanis makes it seem she’s enjoying the ride. The absurdity of the chase. The line where she asks “why are you so petrified of silence” and then drops it for a few seconds only to ask what you were thinking about. Such a brilliant piece of writing that is more meaningful now with our facebook and cell phones than the 90s could ever have imagined. The line where she says “Enough about me let’s talk about you for a minute” and then switched it straight away to wanting to talk about life. Just an awesome way to make the point about how similar we all are as humans with our day to day troubles. For an opening song, it’s triumphant with its harmonica and all, a simple, almost mediocre, addition that makes the humility all that more perfect.
Then there are the moments on the album found on “You Oughta Know” and “Right Through You”. These are what Alanis was made famous for. I remember playing these one afternoon with my sister in the car and she asked to turn it off because Alanis was too crazy. These were the songs that captured the angry lover, using their full person both musically and lyrically to make the mistakes of a cheater come full force back in their face. These songs could be applied to any situation where an individual felt they hadn’t been given due credit. 20 years on, Alanis is still reminding those who did her wrong not to mess with her. The drums on “You Oughta Know” how they come back in after a quick slow down of the song only make the tune more aggressive in its revolt.
This is all calmed down on “Hands In My Pocket” and “You Learn”. Such simple lyric structures that take sentences and change a few words every verse. Drink these down with a dose of “Forgiven” and Alanis mixes the album with her more open self. In the midst of her struggle, she is happy she had the hard moments. They made her a stronger person. In fact, they beg the listener to go out of their way to deal with life’s hardest moments. The album is a testament to that. They make a person more experienced in both emotion and character.
In all honesty, however, the second half of the album isn’t as great. “Ironic” is a classic single. Not to mention a music video extremely memorable for me because it’s just so 90s. The clothing,the car. There is still the great debate that can be summed up by this on youtube:
The song has such nostalgic abilities. The tone and the setting in the car. it’s where one often lets thoughts drift back to the past to remember mistakes or achievements. In the end, “Jagged Little Pill” was an album that has stood the test of time due to its ability to capture the complexities of good and bad both in life and in a person’s self. As the band’s first international debut, It was an opener to a band, and a lead singer, beautiful in every emotion they had to share. it was an album of an uncompleted person which made the listener want to see the progression of a story to come.