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Alanis Morissette - Alanis Morissette and 'Jagged Little Pill'

  by Sarah Rowland

published: 20 / 10 / 2009

Alanis Morissette - Alanis Morissette and 'Jagged Little Pill'


In our regular 'Soundtrack of Our Lives' column, in which our writers describe about the personal impact of music in their lives, Sarah Johnson writes about discovering Alanis Morissette as a 12 year old shortly after its release in 1995 and its continued effect on her

The first time I heard the album 'Jagged Little Pill' I was about 12 years old and at my friend's house, who lived next door to me. We were both generally into pop music and would listen mostly to recent ‘Now whatever number’ albums and mix tapes we had made from radio chart shows. I hadn’t really developed my own music taste and was happy to sing along to whatever songs were popular at the time. Singing our own Karaoke in her kitchen was how we spent a lot of our time. Then I found 'Jagged Little Pill' in a stack of her parents CDs. I don’t know what made me put the CD into her portable player, sitting perched on the kitchen bench. But I did, and it has remained one of my favourite CDs since that moment. The thing I like most about this album is that I’ve taken a million different things from it and listened to it with new ears as I’ve grown up and continued to play it. I think when I heard it that first day it was struck by the rawness of it. It doesn’t sound like that to me anymore, but at that time I was so used to polished up pop tunes - I think Britney had recently topped the charts - that its sound was very coarse to me. Alanis Morissette was further from Britney Spears than I even realised was possible. I made a tape copy of the album and would listen to it through my walkman. It felt grown up and it was the first music I listened to that I knew my parents wouldn’t approve of. One line in ‘You Oughta Know’ includes a "fuck" and there’s a "shit" in ‘Hand in My Pocket’ – I was a sheltered child. Still some of my most vivid memories evoked from 'Jagged Little Pill' is from those early years, when I’d listen to the music and words but take my own meaning from them and generally that would be a pretty literal interpretation. ‘All I Really Want’ includes lines about being "Frightened by the corrupted ways of this land" and finding someone to "Catch this drift", it made me feel like a potential eco-warrior. The music felt like a treasure and one which no-one else ‘got’. But it was while I was in the Lake District, on my residential trip in year eight, that I realised other people had indeed ‘got’ Alanis Morissette and was slightly disappointed to find one of those people was my teacher. The residential trips at my school lasted four days and my form group were taken to the Lake District where we stayed in a hostel, abseiled and canoed. During the bus trip there we were granted use of the tape player. It was a mini bus driven by one of our teachers, so anyone who had brought a tape with them passed it forward and the teacher choose what would be played first. She picked 'Jagged Little Pill' and sang along to it all the way. I’d often go through phases with this album, listening to it relentlessly for a few weeks or months then letting it slip to the bottom of my CD pile while I worked on broadening my musical horizons. I came back to it in a big way once I left school and started sixth form. I was late to rebel against my parents, but when I did this was part of the soundtrack to my rebellion. By that time a lot of my friends liked Alanis Morissette and also owned the album. I no longer felt the need to listen in secret on my walkman and instead blasted my CD copy through my speakers at home. I heard new depths in the lyrics and ‘Not the Doctor’, a song about not letting a relationship cancel out your independence, became one of my favourites. The album was default listening at parties and was played the first time I told my parents that I was not coming home but instead staying out partying with my friends getting drunk. They weren’t happy. I’ve filled so many hours with songs from 'Jagged Little Pill' that I know every word and can anticipate every note and beat. Now when I listen to it, it fills me with a nostalgic familiarity of home and growing up. But it also manages to keep briging something new along with it, depending on my mood when I listen or where I am. ‘You Oughta Know’ is still one of my favourite songs to sing out loud when I’m feeling stressed or just generally wound up. Morissette has a voice that fills every line with sincerity and emotion. When she wrote this album she was exposed to her nerve endings and I like that honesty. It’s a shame that Morissette has never managed to live up to' Jagged Little Pill' with any of her other albums, but in some ways it gives more gravitas to this, her debut, because she was obviously at a particular point in her life and tapping into emotion that only existed right then. Her second album, 'Supposed Former Infactuation Junkie,' couldn’t pull off the overblown ‘life’ lyrics that her first album did. It lacked conviction and seemed to be trying too hard. Her next album, 'Under Rug Swept', was even more lifeless and I cant even remember what her fourth album was like, I think it best I forget. For me, 'Jagged Little Pill' is an album that stands completely alone. It is more about the realisation that music existed outside of what was popular. And it was the first time I listened to an album as a complete thing rather than just picking out singles I liked. There’s a lot more music in my collection these days, but I know whatever else I’m listening to there will always be times when 'Jagged Little Pill' is dropped into my potable CD player and ends up staying there for weeks.

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Alanis Morissette - Alanis Morissette and 'Jagged Little Pill'

Alanis Morissette - Alanis Morissette and 'Jagged Little Pill'

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