There was a moment in the '90s when women dominated all: There was Fiona, there was Liz, there was Alanis. Morissette's standout release, Jagged Little Pill, performed as much more than an album, it illustrated exactly how and why the female voice is so important. As Stereogum writer Caitlin White begins her anniversary piece, "Society taught me that a woman should be quiet...Alanis Morissette taught me to be loud, and that my anger was righteous."
Pop music is good when it's memorable, it's excellent when it ushers in a new understanding, acceptance, and influences the culture that inspired it. Today, on the 20-year anniversary of Jagged Little Pill, we ask other female artists about the album and its legacy.
When did you first hear Jagged Little Pill? Do you have any specific memories with the album?
I remember pulling it out of my parents CD collection, drawn to the green in the cover.
Was it love at first listen? When did you realize something special was happening?
What about Jagged Little Pill makes it so special?
She was able to capture the pure, multifaceted energy that love creates in a person. Jealousy, pain, bliss. All with a kind of angst poetry.
When we talked last, Lisa said JLP is "the greatest female angst record of all time." Care to elaborate?
"You Oughta Know," alone, with its uncensored honest passion, dark poetry—"every time I scratch my nails down someone else back I hope you feel it"—Alanis' spitting performance and Dave Navarro on guitar & Flea on bass, naturally make it the greatest female Angst Anthem of all time. Then add "Hand In My Pocket," "Ironic," "You Learn," "All I Really Want," we've all been there.
Where would you be without the record?
Still in the mentality of a teenager—sorting through my parents CD collection trying to find the right song to articulate exactly how I felt through my teenage years.
What memories do you have with Jagged Little Pill?
Oh the many times I sang into a fake microphone—my hairbrush—in front of the mirror singing Jagged Little Pill! In full fantasy mode, I would let my hair fall into my face but not nearly as sexy as the way Alanis Morissette did it. Her long brown hair cascading into her eyes, belting out "you live... you learn!!"
Then attempting her unique runs—once again not nearly as good but close enough, ha!—I just simply love her voice. She has this real, raw grunge feel to her vocals with so much character and her tone is truly unique.
Don't get me started on her poignant heart piercing lyrics!! When I think about music in the '90s, I always hear Alanis Morissette's voice in my head.
What memories do you have with Jagged Little Pill?
I remember coming home from swim practice one evening to a stack of new CDs in the family room; Fiona Apple's Tidal, The Cardigans' First Band on the Moon, and Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill. Looking back, these albums really informed my taste in music and my idea of femininity. I distinctly remember sitting in the backseat of the car reenacting the "Ironic" music video with my friends. As a nine-year-old girl, liking Jagged Little Pill felt edgy and a little dangerous. Then "Thank You" happened.
What are you memories with Jagged Little Pill?
I remember it was one of the first CDs of my sister's that I stole from her collection. I listened to it on repeat on my discman the year it came out. I was six years old. It was a really important record for me, for sure.
It was the first time I heard a woman say "f*ck" in a song and it was so powerful. I could tell even at six years old that it wasn't for shock value. I felt her and I felt her pain. Even though I was so young, I related to her. It felt like she was speaking to me. It went on to be one of my all-time favorite records. When it turned 10, I got to see the Jagged Little Pill acoustic tour at the Disney Concert Hall in LA. It was amazing. It's been an album that I've loved for a really long time.
If you waited there was a hidden track, "Your House." I loved the hidden track. I liked being a showoff to my friends, "Wait! There's a secret song you don't know about." I loved having that secret song.
As a songwriter, she was so honest. Honesty always resonates with people. Everyone goes through the same things and she explored so many of them whether it was a song about going through a tumultuous relationship or being betrayed or feeling self-doubt all these things, especially with women! I know men and women love this album but especially me, I'm a woman, I can listen to it at six and now at 26, can relate. They're classic.
I think Alanis is so brilliant and I'm so grateful for what she's done for women in music. I can't believe that the album is 20 years old. I'm going to listen to it for 20 more years and beyond.
What are your memories with Jagged Little Pill?
I remember the first time I saw the music video for “You Oughta Know” on MTV. Who the heck was this chick? What was she doing in the middle of the desert? Why was I so into this corny bass line?
I ran to my parents and begged them to buy me the CD. I wasn't really into riot grrrl growing up, so for me, Jagged Little Pill was an introduction to what I'll shallowly refer to as “angry girl music.” Alongside artists like Fiona Apple and Liz Phair, Alanis Morissette was one of the only women I was listening to who was really owning her emotions and talking about her experiences unapologetically. She made it feel okay to write lyrics reflecting angst and ennui. She made it feel okay to be both a lover and a fighter. She made it feel okay, and even empowering, to have your heart broken.
To this day, I think "You Oughta Know" is the greatest breakup song ever written. At least it's the most fun to scream along to.