Standard Issue writers are revisiting a film/book/TV series to see if it’s stood the test of time. As the 20th anniversary of its release approaches, Daisy Leverington looks at Alanis Morissette’s third album.
Rated or Dated: Listening to this at the age of 33, I am instantly 14 again. My shade-throwing could keep a playground SPF compliant and my eye roll is permanently on the edge of severing an optic nerve.
Jagged Little Pill was my generation’s Angry Young Woman album: a chest-beating uplifter we played on our massive CD players which gave us The Feelz at a time when we barely knew which way round our bras went.
Unflinchingly personal, it was the war cry of millions of women who had ever felt like ripping out their heart and throwing it in a man’s face.
The anthemic You Oughta Know (the tougher, swearier cousin of Adele’s Someone Like You) was the raw vocal purge of anyone who had ever been utterly screwed by someone they loved. It doesn’t seem to have lost any of its immediacy or truth in the years since it showed up near the doorway of HMV and demanded our attention, with its pretty purple and pink swirls hiding its ferocity.
The lyrics read like poetry; the music feels like a delivery system to our ears, a way to transport the meaning. It’s not an album we gently hum. Morissette wrote all the songs herself, which at 21 is fairly impressive when you think I’d only just discovered pasta. She also plays the harmonica, which deserves a ‘not giving a fuck about being cool’ mention. Until 1995 I thought only weird birthday party clowns and red-faced uncles played the harmonica. I dare you to play one and not think of the opening few bars of All I Really Want.
Rumours at the time suggested Morissette had written many of the songs about a man who had taken advantage of her when she was starting out in the industry, with the line “you scan the credits for your name and wonder why it’s not there” making us all throw two fingers up to anyone who has drunk texted us at 3am.
“Lines like ‘would she go down on you in a theatre?’ and ‘you took me out to wine dine 69 me’ were all alien to my naive ears, but by God, I couldn’t wait to find out what they meant.”
Morissette’s unique vocal rhythms didn’t go for the perfect vibrato of Celine Dion, the popcorn fluff of the Spice Girls or the slick late-1990s image of Madonna. She stood out in every way, unafraid to say what she meant and scare the bejaysus out of teenage boys the world over. Released in the same year as the equally iconic (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? by Oasis – what a year for our earholes, eh? – it seemed the boys and the girls of the ‘90s had a new groove.
At 15, I didn’t understand all of it, but I sensed I was going to. Lines like “would she go down on you in a theatre?” and “you took me out to wine dine 69 me” were all alien to my naive ears, but by God, I couldn’t wait to find out what they meant. And then be angry about them. All I wanted was for someone to take “a long hard look at my ass then play golf for a while.”
The album isn’t all rage: it has the loveliest moments of appreciation and adoration scattered through it. Head over Feet is a love song with a huge heart, and Hand in my Pocket is a self-esteem booster which can brighten the gloomiest of mornings. Who doesn’t feel better after a helping of “everything’s gonna be fine fine fine”?
Morissette doesn’t give all her energy to writing about love, though. Mary Jane is incredibly sad, as is Forgiven. It’s these quieter songs which give the album its soul. Chart successes like You Learn (my personal favourite) and Ironic helped boost the staying power and chart success of the album, although her shaky definition of irony didn’t do me any favours in my A-level English exam.
The (SPOILER ALERT) hidden track became one of the most iconic tracks on the album, a sleeper hit which showcases the huge character of Morissette’s vocals.
Would you forgive me love / If I danced in your shower / Would you forgive me love / If I laid in your bed / Would you forgive me love / If I stay all afternoon?
Yes, Alanis love, we would, and you can stay for the next 20 years too, if you like.
Verdict: RATED.3422 Views
Daisy Leverington - Actor, mother, expert at winging it.