On June 13, 1995, the Canadian singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette released Jagged Little Pill, an alt-rock landmark of a record that, despite modest expectations, ended up selling more than 30 million copies and winning four Grammy Awards. But beyond its commercial success, the album ended up having a profound impact on music, both in the second half of the ‘90s and beyond, as well as entering the canon of music that defines a generation. To mark the record’s 20th anniversary, Sophie Gilbert, Spencer Kornhaber, and Megan Garber discuss what it meant to them then, and how it sounds two decades later.
Gilbert: When I think about Jagged Little Pill, I mostly flash back to a history trip I took in junior high to visit the French battlefields of World War One (stay with me here). Imagine 50 13-year-olds all screaming along to “You Oughta Know,” but then abruptly stopping any time it got to a vaguely sexual part, thanks to the fact that the trip was chaperoned by our youngish drama teacher, Mr. Graham (hi, Mr. Graham) and we were all too embarrassed to vocalize things like, “AND ARE YOU THINKING OF ME WHEN YOU FUCK HER” in front of him.
The release of Jagged Little Pill on June 13, 1995, happened to coincide with the beginning of my teenage angst, as did that very inappropriate singsong right by the location of the Battle of the Somme. But it’s amazing listening to it 20 years later, because unlike so much of the music from that time, it isn’t dated. It doesn’t have the affectedness of Britpop or the brittle plasticity of ‘90s R&B. Instead, it tapped into a kind of poetic female rage that I don’t think anyone has vocalized quite as well since. Its lyrics practically beg to be quoted in ALL CAPS. Even Alanis herself acknowledged the record’s potency as a kind of female call to arms in the video for “Ironic,” which features a bunch of Alanis clones screaming along to the lyrics on a road trip and grinning at each other. (At the end it appears there’s only been one Alanis all along, so maybe it’s all about multiple personality disorder and I’ve been misinterpreting it all this time, but never mind.)