Jagged Little Pill,
Maverick, June 13, 1995
Track Listing: 1. All I Really Want, 2. You Oughta Know, 3. Perfect, 4. Hand in My Pocket, 5. Right Through You, 6. Forgiven, 7. You Learn, 8. Head Over Feet, 9. Mary Jane, 10. Ironic, 11. Not the Doctor, 12. Wake Up
During the summer of ’95, Batman Forever topped the box office, Windows launched a new operating system, and the O.J. Simpson murder trial assembled a jury of millions in living rooms around the world. In the midst of the headlines, Alanis Morissette released her first international studio album and, boy, was she pissed.
“Well, I’m here to remind you
Of the mess you left when you went away”
-from “You Oughta Know”
From the date of the CD’s release (the cuts garnered attention slowly at first, reaching an apex nearly a year later in 1996) a palpable rage wailed on the disc, resonating atypical to the comfortable tunes that dominated radio playlists of the day like Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” and TLC’s “Waterfalls.” Separated from the pack, Morissette burst onto the scene as an artist with an agenda, writing and singing songs that settled scores and took no prisoners.
“Now that I’m a millionaire
You scan the credits for your name
And wonder why it’s not there”
-from “Right Through You”
She was one angry bitch, and people apart from her enemies joined in taking notice. Hard to ignore the disgruntled chick from Canada with long stringy black hair, given her direct lyrics. More affecting than a series of harshly vented jabs, though, the songs pierced because they were sung without inhibition.
In spite of the fervid personal angst—mostly centered on relationships gone bad with a dose of confessed Catholic guilt—Morissette struck a universal chord. By hanging dirty laundry out to dry, a welcoming freshness fluffed the coarseness of her sentiment. Rancor set free a lighter side to proportionately embrace: Sometimes she picked up a harmonica, a mellow instrument if there ever were one, and played it with casual flair, imparting an infectious excuse to smile and sing along.
“I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is giving the peace sign”
-from “Hand in My Pocket”
Spouting attitude as well as cool restraint, Morissette coated rugged emotion enough to establish an accessibility fit for over-the-counter purchase—no FDA approval required. Alt-rock excitingly produced a new drug for consumption by the masses as a cure for the doldrums of popular music.
“Swallow it down (what a jagged little pill)
It feels so good (swimming in your stomach)”
-from “You Learn”
Bitterness never passed through the gullet with such ease.
Thinking back to that summer, while Morissette exorcised personal demons, healing the misery of an era of pop monotony, sentimentality sneaks in amid the cynicism. Now, isn’t that ironic? A soft spot throbs; no medication on the market reduces the swell. Dumping the memories to treat the symptoms would hurt too much and would likely warrant one a place on Morissette’s list of scorned loves—company which lays bare an unenviable position to claim.
No worries here. One hand’s in my pocket. And the other one is reaching for the “Play” button with unyielding affection.