Thursday, May 6, 2021

Countdown to 30: My Favorite Album From 1995


I'm not saying everyone agrees that this album was the best album of 1995, but I will go so far as to say that I'm not even close to the only one to say it. While I was trying to figure out what albums came out that year, almost every list I found was topped by this album. I'm speaking of course, of Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette. 

In 1991 and 1992, Alanis Morissette released her first two albums. They weren't released internationally, and they were totally pop. They sound exactly like the early '90s and nothing like the Alanis Morissette that most of the world came to know. But she was eighteen when the latter of the two albums was released, so it's no surprise that when she got a little bit older, she was ready for a more mature sound. Morissette met Glen Ballard and the two became a perfect musical match. They were able to experiment with sounds and see what stuck. The result was something of a post-grunge, singer-songwriter form of pop rock. For me, Jagged Little Pill cements Morissette into the female songstress hall of fame along with Carly Simon and even Carole King. It doesn't sound dated either, which is something that can't be said of her first two albums.

Jagged Little Pill is one of the best-selling albums of all time. It topped the charts in thirteen countries. It was nominated for nine Grammys and won five, including album of the year. At the time, at twenty-one, Morissette was the youngest winner of album of the year, beating out Michael Jackson and Pearl Jam. Her record was broken by Taylor Swift 13 years later (Swift was 20). 

The album is just back to back classic tracks. Six singles were released from the album, and though only three charted significantly in the U.S., they all receive radio play to this day. The fourth single and opening track for the album is "You Learn," a track which sets the tone and theme for the rest of the album. Even though there are regrets, pain, and betrayal, you can grow from those things.

"You Oughta Know" was the first single from the album, and a sharp contrast to her poppy, Robin Sparkles image of the first two albums (literally guys, Robin Sparkles was based on Morissette's image on her first two albums. Look it up). "You Oughta Know" is raw and rough. Rumors still swirl about the subject of the song. Dave Coulier is the most common suspect. He has accepted fault for the situation described in the song, but then pulled the old "it was just a prank, bro!" It's hard to know what the truth is. Another suspect is Matt LeBlanc (yanno, Joey on friends. Guess it's just a Joey thing). He was in one of the videos from her first two albums. There are a couple of other theories too, but the most common one seems to be Coulier. Makes you look at Uncle Joey a little differently...The whole thing is a bit like Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" or more recently, a Taylor Swift controversy. Some have said that the song represents the female equivalent of the "friend zone," but I think it's more of a bitter goodbye to a lover that took advantage of her and then replaced her with someone similar but "better." 

I've probably talked about "You Oughta Know" for too long, but it's totally the "Someone Like You" or "Hello" for the '90s. Surely this song was in the back of Adele's mind as she wrote some of her spurned lover songs.

Onward..."Ironic" is probably her other best known song here in the states. Yes, the things described in the song are not irony. In my opinion, they don't have to be. She is speaking of something that is ironic that she doesn't explain to the audience before launching into the chorus. Something happened in her life that she finds ironic or like the many crappy situations she lists. That's my defense anyway. Morissette says of it "For me the great debate on whether what I was saying in 'Ironic' was ironic wasn't a traumatic debate. I'd always embraced the fact that every once in a while I'd be the malapropism queen. And when Glen and I were writing it, we definitely were not doggedly making sure that everything was technically ironic." "Ironic" was the third song penned by Morissette and Ballard shortly after they began working together. Talk of irony aside, the song is masterful in the sing-along-ability. The lyrics, even if they don't describe ironic situations, describe tragic and sometimes relatable situations. This song has the distinction of being banned by Clear Channel following the 9-11 attacks. 

I know I can't devote this much time to every song, and that I've probably already talked more about this album than the others so far, but when an album is deemed this "important," there's a lot to talk about.

Swallow it down, what a jagged little pill. Just
kidding, it's corn juice.
I became aware of Alanis Morissette- as with many other artists- in high school. Luckily, the songs I clung to were much more innocent. The first was "Head Over Feet," which I still love to do at karaoke, especially when I get to sing it to my boyfriend and also especially when I get to use my over-the-top Canadian accent. I have a very distinctive memory of really listening to this song for the first time when I heard it on the radio in my summer P.E. class, while we were at some kind of indoor trampoline area. I scurried home and downloaded it to put on my Doctor/Rose ship fanmix (an art form I still feel is under-represented in the present day). "Head Over Feet" is very sweet and innocent. It's the tale of redemption on the album. After all the ill-fated loves, all the emotional abuse, Morissette is finally able to find someone who treats her right, who cares about her. Their relationship blooms out of friendship. 

The other song I really latched onto in high school was "Hand In Pocket." I had a big love for "identity" songs, and this one is one for the books. Predating Meredith Brooks' "B*tch" by two years, "Hand In Pocket" is a song about the contradictions one can represent as a person. I don't want to sound silly, but this is certainly something a Gemini such as myself can relate to. I think I even wrote my own song similar to this one, but I can't remember exactly how it goes. The best part is that even though she has these contradictions in her life, she recognizes that everything will be fine despite them. 

"All I Really Want" is another identity song in a sense. It's actually very refreshing that so many songs on the album are about who she feels she is as a person, rather than just love or love lost songs.

Jagged Little Pill is both fantastic as an album and so deeply ingrained in our society that if you haven't heard it yet, you definitely need to.

Let's throw it up on the leaderboard!

Join me tomorrow for my favorite album of 1996.

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