From Frank Sinatra’s In The Wee Small Hours to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and Joni Mitchell’s Blue, and on to records by Taylor Swift (Red) and Lorde (Melodrama), the breakup album has long been a standard feature of pop music. In 1995, however, Alanis Morissette released arguably the breakup album to end all breakup albums: Jagged Little Pill. Spirited, liberated and full of rage, Morissette’s mainstream debut instantly became a symbol of independence for young women – and still stands as one to this day.
Listen to Jagged Little Pill here.
A career-defining album
Having gained relative fame in Canada after releasing two albums there as a teenager, Morissette found herself in search of a new recording contract that would help take her to an international audience. Her debut album, Alanis, had gone platinum in her home country, and with the encouragement of a new manager, Scott Welch, Morissette moved out of her parents’ house in Ottawa and relocated to Canada’s capital city of Toronto.
The 19-year-old singer’s talent was swiftly recognised by Glen Ballard, a songwriter and producer who had worked Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Bad and Dangerous albums. Believing in Morissette’s potential, Ballard invited Morissette to use his studio, and the pair began working on what would become her career-defining album.
A cathartic process
Writing Jagged Little Pill was cathartic for Morissette, who finally found herself able to express her coming of age through more mature imagery, adventurous lyrics and less conventional sounds. The singer spent months flying back and forth between Canada and Los Angeles to record the album with Ballard, and she later recalled spending just 30 minutes writing each song, while all her vocals were captured in one or two takes. The result was a chaotic yet authentic representation of her life at that time.
Equipped with two finished tracks, You Oughta Know and Perfect, Morissette and Ballard approached a number of record companies in search of an album deal. Though initially rejected by all the majors, an undeterred Morissette continued writing songs until a representative from the relatively new label Maverick Records, co-founded by Madonna, got in touch. With the support of Maverick behind her, Morissette finished up a year’s worth of recording and, on 13 June 1995, Jagged Little Pill became her first internationally released album.