“Jagged Little Pill” celebrated it’s 20th anniversary in 2015. Morissette has had a fine career in music and had a number of albums out since this release but she will be forever synonymous with the tracks on this album.
People talked about ‘Girl Power’ a year later when the Spice Girls came about but if you want Girl Power you go to this album. This was as female an album as you are going to get with Morissette leaving little room for debate in what she was trying to say. She had been hurt and she was going to call the fucker who hurt her out and air every bit of dirty laundry she could – even to her own detriment.
It is a bit like watching an episode of Jeremy Kyle (stay with me here) in that you can’t quite believe that things that are so personal would see a desire to be made so public. But when listening to this album you wouldn’t want to interrupt Morissette for fear of possible death.
“All I Really Want” kicks off the album. This song does’t have a chorus. It is a dissection of her partners character. She even states that she doesn’t mean to dissect everything he does but she can’t help it. He voice is snarling and this sets the tone for what is to come.
“You Oughta Know” is the most damning song on the entire album. For me it is the same story as in “Someone like you” by Adele. Whereas Adele is apologetic that she is aware her former partner has now moved on Morissette cannot just leave things without comment. Like Adele she comes off as little unstable and whilst there is a seriousness in what she is saying there is a little bit of humour. We all know that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Morissette proves this theory.
“An older version of me
Is she perverted like me
Would she go down on you in a theatre?”
and the clear heartbroken anger in:
“Does she know how you told me you’d hold me
Until you died, till you died
But you’re still alive”
But the line in “You Oughta Know” which sums it all up is:
“It was a slap in the face how quickly I was replaced
Are you thinking of me when you fuck her?”
After all that anger we find out a little more about our angry but fragile character in “Perfect”. This song is about parents who push their children due to not having succeed themselves. The final line of the song is one that sticks with me:
“We’ll love you, just the way you are.
If you’re Perfect”
“Hand in my pocket” is a bit of an Alanis anthem. It’s a song which is actually optimistic. For every negative there is a positive in her personality.
Track 5 “Right Through You” is really one of the females. It is Alanis vs Misogyny. It would seem that she is taking from personal experience how men (or one man) have treated her and now that she has gained a little success no one can take her for a joke any more.
“Forgiven” is about a religious upbringing. It’s a very somber tale and doesn’t reflect well on how the church would judge and ridicule. She doesn’t believe the male aspect of a religious upbringing had as much difficulty with lines such as
“My brothers never went blind for what they did, but I may as well have”
“You Learn” is similar to “Hand in my pocket” as its more of a positive take on bad situations giving simplistic examples stemming from the phrase “You live you learn” which seems to be our protagonist taking more balanced view than that on “You Oughta Know”.
For me the albums weakest track is Head Over Feet. Whilst lyrically it offers hope that anyone listening to this album will also see that you can meet someone else and that love will come again but as a song itself I find it engaging.
Mary Jane is track 9. This song is either about her friend Mary Jane or the use of the name Mary Jane is simply used as a way of reflecting on her own life. For anyone who knows about depression and a lack of self worth I think this song encapsulates what it means. Mary Jane could be anyone.
“I hear you’re counting sheep again Mary Jane
What’s the point of trying to dream anymore
I hear you’re losing weight again Mary Jane
Do you ever wonder who you’re losing it for?”
The massive hit from the album is track 10 Ironic. Even if you haven’t heard of Alanis Morisette the liklihood is that you will know this song. Whilst lyrically it has been torn to pieces over the years (just check out comedian Ed Byrne’s take on the song on youtube) it remains a brilliant pop song. The song isn’t angry like many of the albums tracks, nor is it depressive. It is a reflective song about how bad luck can alter ones life and there is little you can do about it.
“Not the Doctor” is one of my favourite songs by Alanis Morissette. It’s clever, quirky, pissed off and witty.
“I don’t want to be your mother
I didn’t carry you in my womb for nine months”
Wake Up is more sombre track. It again picks apart the failings of the ex partner and she brings all the blame to their door. The song irks me a little because I feel she is being pedantic and running out of things to hate about her ex. The first lines of this song are:
You like snow but only if it’s warm
You like rain but only if it’s dry
Perhaps this deliberate as she is growing tired of criticism and is finding it difficult to muster any more vitriol.
The final track is “You Oughta know” again. It is slightly different it its mix but it is really the exact same song. Perhaps it is to remind us of this being the key track.
But when the song ends something happens about a minute after. When I was listening to this album years ago I never knew this was on here. I heard it completely by accident after the CD ended as usually I would just put it back to track one.
The song is acapella. The song is the explanation to it all. It explains “Jagged Little Pill”. All that anger and nastiness is washed away because the reason for it all is here.
This track is “Your House”. It tells the tale of a girl who has gone to her loved ones house whilst he is not there. She knows she shouldn’t be there but the hope seems to be to surprise him. She is in his bedroom and at total ease with herself. She is in love, she is treating the room as an extension of him (presumably him).
But as she is looking around she finds a letter:
I noticed a letter that sat on your desk
It said “Hello love, I love you so love, meet me at midnight”
And no, it wasn’t my writing
I’d better go soon
It wasn’t my writing
When I listened to this for the first time I there was a knot in my stomach. Even when I hear it now I feel the heartbreaking anguish she is feeling.
So forgive me love
If I cry in your shower
So forgive me love
For the salt in your bed
So forgive me love
If I cry all afternoon
When she says “afternoon” the song immediately end and the album is over. This bitter, almost feminist album is in a just a few minutes understood and as much as Alanis Morissette will never be connected to making an album about love, this IS a love story. This is a love story which doesn’t have a happy ending. It’s a real love story, full of anguish and hostility. It’s one of the greatest love stories told in an album.