Alanis' 'Jagged Little Pill' Turns 20: Kiesza, Magic! & More Canadian Artists Reflect

Alanis Morissette
Ilpo Musto/REX Shutterstock

Alanis Morissette performs in Paris, France in 1996.

Twenty years ago, on June 13, 1995, Alanis Morissette released Jagged Little Pill, an album that changed the musical landscape and found her unleashing a creative force kept from the public eye for much of her youth.

After two dance-pop albums that didn't reveal anything too personal, her deal with MCA Records Canada came to an end and she started writing with anyone and everyone -- even trying her hand at country music demos -- before falling into a partnership with Los Angeles-based Glen Ballard that would change everything. The resulting collaboration, Jagged Little Pill, was released on Maverick Records and was an instant hit. The debut single, “You Oughta Know,” was delivered with a vocal fierceness and accompanying video performance full of abandon.

Alanis Morissette's 'Jagged Little Pill' Turns 20: Classic Track-by-Track Review

Jagged Little Pill still holds up today as an all-out rock confessional with unique vocal phrasing and pulled-from-the-diary lyrics. It went on to sell millions and demonstrate what can happen when an artist frees herself from industry parameters and just stays true to herself without a care in the world.

"What was happening at the time was I was transitioning from having worked with Leslie Howe [on her dance-pop], so people I was surrounded with there, their focus was more on creating an image or a persona and my imperative was I won’t stop until I write a record that I actually feel expresses who I am as a human being," Morissette told Billboard in March, backstage after being inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.  

“I remember before I met Glen and traveling and collaborating with lots of incredible people, I was just willing to find a spot where someone whom I was sitting across from would say ‘Who are you?’ as opposed to having their agenda imposed on me. So Glen was that, in spades.”

Billboard asked a handful of fellow Canadians what they remember about Jagged Little Pill and what the album means to them:

Kiesza: “I would have been six, I think, if that was 20 years ago. But I listened. That album lives on today. That album never went away. I would bet that every woman in Canada who is a musician today is some way influenced by Alanis Morissette because she is an incredible songwriter. She is an incredible performer. She has an incredible voice and she is so empowering as a woman.”

Buffy Sainte-Marie: "I loved it and particularly the single [‘You Oughta Know’]. I still hear it and I’m glad. I think it’s a very original song. The song itself is great, but the way she sings it, too, it’s just such originality and it’s seldom that that amount of originality can make it through the flak of getting to the public. It’s not easy. The recording business part, in spite of the music, is very competitive, so whoever helped that song get to the public deserves some applause, especially her."

Dallas Smith, country singer (formerly of Default): “I have a very vivid memory at the Pacific National Exhibition, the PNE in Vancouver.  I was up on those hanging swings that go around in a big circle, but they play music while that [amusement ride] is going on and that was the first time I heard that single off that record. It just got my attention. I forgot where I was; I was just into the song. That’s the one memory I have."

Nasri Atweh, lead singer, MAGIC!: "I actually bought it again on iTunes earlier today. I was reminded 'this album is crazy [good]' and I bought it. Just a great album. We feel like we made a great album and we feel like great albums are being ignored because of songs. I think songs should lead people into hearing more of your songs. So back then, she had that advantage, but hopefully people can bring it back to hearing a whole body of work and understanding that the creative mind has a lot of facets and you need to know what is going on in our heads to truly experience our creativity.”

Ben Spivak, bassist, MAGIC!: “When I was young -- that was 20 years ago -- I’m like 12 years old and my favorite thing is to just learn songs on guitar by ear and the intro of ‘Ironic’ comes on and it’s just this acoustic little fingering thing I’ve never really heard before and I thought, ‘I gotta learn that.’ So that’s a big memory for me. That’s why Jagged Little Pill is such a big album is because it’s part of learning guitar for me.”

Mark Pellizzer, guitarist, MAGIC!: “I went to see her play at Molson Park and it was back when Taylor [Hawkins] was playing drums for her, before Foo Fighters had snatched him up, and she was incredible. And I was thinking to myself, ‘Wow, now that is an amazing singer, amazing artist.’ And here we are 20 years later -- and we got to hug her [at the Juno Awards].”

Alex Tanas, drummer, MAGIC!: “When we saw that they were going to be inducting her into the Juno Hall of Fame, my mom was like, ‘She did so much for women’s music,’ because when I was a kid, she was listening, too. She was beyond music. She was one of the cool female artists. She wasn’t all about her look.” 


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