By Laura Stanley and Madeleine Cummings
Read the complete oral history of Jagged Little Pill, as told through interviews with Alanis Morissette, co-writer Glen Ballard, Maverick Records' Guy Oseary and more.
Jagged Little Pill was an instant success in 1995. It topped charts around the world, inspiring fans and musicians alike.
"It doesn’t matter if you’re into music or if you’re struggling in college or if you’re working at McDonald’s," says Canadian country/blues singer-songwriter Crystal Shawanda. "We’re all just trying to find the courage to be ourselves and I think that’s what she showed us. You can just be you and it’s going to be OK."
From global superstars Katy Perry and Beyoncé, to up-and-coming acts like Born Gold and Grace Mitchell, here are 13 musicians and bands who have spoken out about the influence of Alanis Morissette's seminal album.
In her autobiographical concert movie, Katy Perry: Part of Me, the pop sensation said that JLP changed her life. In fact, the album was one of the first non-Christian ones Perry ever listened to. After hearing Morissette’s raw and personal lyrics, Perry said she "started singing about everything I was going through as a young woman."
Perry hasn’t been shy about her love for Morissette or the album. On The Ellen Degeneres Show in 2012, Perry introduced Morissette as the show’s musical guest, calling her "one of the reasons I became a songwriter." In a 2013 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Perry said that JLP helped her feel understood and made her want to be Alanis Morissette.
For Shawanda, hearing JLP for the first time was a pivotal moment in her young life.
"I had just moved off the reserve and was the only native kid in my school," she said. It was tough to fit in. But here was this album, telling Shawanda that she could be powerful and strong as a woman. "It was fearless and I was drawn to it."
Shawanda believes that the bravery of her own songwriting stemmed in part from listening to Morissette’s lyrics.
"As women, we’re made to feel that if we show our anger then we come off as a bitch and for some reason a lot of us women are afraid to be called a bitch. On her album she was like, 'Call me a bitch, call me whatever you want. This is how I feel and I have every right to feel this way.'"
Toronto musician Darrelle London comes from a generation of women who fell in love with JLP at a young age.
"She wasn’t concerned with coming off in a sweet or sexy or feminine way," London said. "[The album] was just so raw and I think that’s part of the human experience when you hear another human’s emotions conveyed so honestly."
Like Shawanda, London also said Morissette’s songwriting style greatly influenced her own, years later.
"Hearing a woman being able to express herself and be so vulnerable and so strong and such a badass at the same time ... definitely planted a seed of inspiration."
With a booming voice and smooth, synth-pop melodies, 17-year-old Portland-based musician Grace Mitchell has been called the next Lorde. Although she wasn’t born when JLP came out 20 years ago, the up-and-coming singer still cites it as a big inspiration.
Mitchell borrowed the album from her mother when she was just 10 years old, and listening to it on repeat after school soon became a daily occurrence. She memorized every word. As her own interest in music developed, Mitchell saw Morissette as a powerful female role model.
"I was planning on pursuing music from a really young age and she was a good motivator and inspiration for the kind of music I wanted to pursue," she said.
Today, the "abrasive but beautiful" album, as Mitchell calls it, remains one of her favourites and serves as a guiding light for her music. "It inspires my songwriting by letting me know that it’s OK to break out from the box."
JLP was also an early influence for London-based singer-songwriter Lail Arad. The album was the first she ever bought and, at age 11, she remembers being hugely excited by the lyrics but also a little shocked and confused — particularly by the line, "Would she go down on you in a theatre?"
"In the U.K., the theatre is where you go and see plays," she explained. "I remember thinking, what could you possibly be doing there, in the theatre, while watching Shakespeare?"
"Hand in My Pocket" was a more accessible entry point, but she performed "All I Really Want" in a school concert later that year. People in the audience looked at her narrow face and long, wavy brown hair and told her she looked like a mini Alanis Morissette. Though her own music would have less angst and a decidedly different sound, Arad found Morissette’s boldness and uncompromising lyrics empowering.
"I think I was inspired by the fact that she was so courageous and gutsy and spirited," she said. "And she made the harmonica cool."
Listening to JLP for the first time was a "life-changing experience," said Akie Bermiss from the Brooklyn-based band Aabaraki. The intensity and complexity of the lyrics led him to think in a way he hadn't been encouraged to before. He was just 13 years old when the album came out. As to whether the album changed the way he thought about women: "It made me think of them as less icky and more interesting," he said.
Aabaraki has covered "You Oughta Know" and the band was particularly drawn to the challenge of expressing the accusational and vulnerable aspects of the song from a male perspective.
Edmonton experimental artist Born Gold (Cecil Frena) named JLP one of his essential albums on Chart Attack. Frena said he finds the record interesting because of how "unusual and idiosyncratic it is in terms of being pop music." He also praised the directness of the record and called it "completely unique and uncompromising in its individuality."
Clarkson’s powerful vocals on her 2007 record, My December, earned numerous comparisons to JLP from the press. As was the case for Katy Perry, JLP was one of the first CDs Clarkson ever listened to. She told Rolling Stone that she’s tried to introduce the record to her young step-daughter, saying she’s always trying to introduce her to "stuff that was a staple in my musical experience growing up as a child." She’s also called "Perfect" one of her favourite songs of all time.
Anjulie, winner of the 2013 Juno Award for dance recording of the year, called JLP the record that changed her life. The Oakville-born singer-songwriter told the blog Three Imaginary Girls, in 2009, that Morissette was part of a group of female artists that inspired her. Women like Missy Elliott, Melissa Etheridge and Morissette were women who "weren’t afraid to take chances lyrically and wear their heart on their sleeve."
Avril Lavigne told the Guardian that JLP was the soundtrack to her high school years and spoke effusively about performing "Ironic" with Morissette at the House of Blues in Los Angeles. "I grew up thinking she was so cool," she said. (They also performed Avril’s song "Losing Grip.")
Though she once called JLP her all-time favourite album, she said her idol put her at ease and asked how she was adjusting to her newfound fame. "She’s Canadian too, like me, so obviously she’s nice," she told the Guardian. "I wasn’t starstruck; I just really appreciate her music."
In 2014 the Brooklyn-based jam band Dopapod gave a funky spin to the classic "You Oughta Know."
"We all appreciate how real [JLP] is," said the band's guitarist, Chuck Jones. He added that "You Oughta Know" spoke to him as an angry teenager and continues to do so. He and his band felt drawn to cover the song, explaining that "a good song is a good song and if it’s timeless, it’s going to work for every era."
Serena Ryder was 13 when JLP came out, and she told the feminist magazine Herizons that listening to it was like listening to someone bursting out of her body. Ryder said the album helped her connect with her emotions and start using them in her own music.
Beyoncé may have confused some audience members when she started singing "You Oughta Know" in the middle of her performance of "If I Were a Boy" at the 2010 Grammy Awards. But it’s easy to see why she chose it: the two songs have surprisingly similar themes. Morissette, in turn, credited Beyoncé’s music for helping her finish the last few miles of a gruelling marathon.
"Her 'Survivor' song, I just kept hitting repeat. She really did save my life," she told Rockerazzi.com.