I was 14, just a few months away from turning 15, when Alanis Morissette’s album “Jagged Little Pill” came out.
I don’t remember how I first heard it—maybe through a cooler cousin, or a more musically aware schoolmate—but I was hooked.
Alanis had entered my world in a blaze of dark hair and unflinching honesty, baring her soul, ragged and raw, with each song. She was fearless, she was loud, she was strong. She was exactly what I needed.
My parents had just split up when the album came out. It was a period of uncertainty, changes and big fights, and “Jagged Little Pill” became my shield. Whenever I felt caught in the crossfire, I would flee to my room, play my cassette tape and let Alanis express what I couldn’t: anger, frustration, confusion, wistfulness and hope—always hope. I found solace in her voice.
She never left
She was no longer just a singer I heard on the radio, she felt more like a friend, a constant companion, someone who always understood. She made the leap from cassette tape to CD to MP3 player to iPod to iPhone to Spotify. She never left.
One by one, her songs became part of my life. Each track is attached to a different memory:
Getting goosebumps the first time I listened to “Your House.” Screaming along to “You Oughta Know” before really understanding what it meant and using it as the perfect excuse to drop the F-bomb. Spending the summer waiting for MTV to play “Hand in My Pocket” and “Ironic.” Struggling to memorize “You Learn.” Buying a harmonica and singing “Head Over Feet” with the neighborhood boys I exchanged NBA cards with. Singing “All I Really Want,” “Wake Up” and “Right Through You” at different gigs with my band Mozzie. Singing “Forgiven”—the anthem of my life as a Catholic schoolgirl—at Fete De La Musique. Being moved to tears by “Mary Jane.” Watching Alanis perform the songs live twice and seeing her run around the stage, her long hair whipping around.
I grew up with “Jagged Little Pill” and the older I got, the more I understood the songs. Different lyrics jumped out at me at different points of my life.
“Why are you so petrified of silence?” “Do you ever wonder who you’re losing it for?” “I don’t want to be adored for what I merely represent to you.” “I don’t want to be your idol/see this pedestal is high and I’m afraid of heights.” “There’s an underestimated and impatient little girl raising her hand.”
Twenty years later, I still listen to “Jagged Little Pill” and marvel at the fact that Alanis was just 19 years old when she wrote the songs in it.
My adoration for Alanis continued as she released her other albums—I have so much love for “Supposed Former Infatuated Junkie” and “Under Rug Swept”—but “Jagged Little Pill” will always be special. It won Alanis five Grammys, No. 1 spots on numerous hit lists and my devotion.
And I’m not alone.
Alain Decena, a freelance events production manager, was 16 when he first heard the album: “My then-girlfriend made me listen to it on her Walkman.”
He still listens to it now: “As I matured and would revisit the album from time to time, I started paying closer attention to the lyrics. They weren’t anything overtly poetic as Suzanne Vega’s or Aimee Mann’s but JLP’s lyrics work for me… these are the things that either really speak to me or I really need to hear or relate to or extract lessons from at one time or another.”
Camille Hernandez, a business development manager, was 15 when “Jagged Little Pill” came out. She calls it “the platform where I built my musical identity… It is one of those records that you can play without skipping and I inexplicably got hooked, even my lola knew the songs. I eventually got my own copies. Yes! Copies! Because someone would borrow and never return it.”
She still finds it difficult to choose a song from the album: “My favorites are always revolving depending on where I am emotionally. I think, for the most part, my favorites were ‘Wake Up,’ ‘You Learn’ and the raw beauty and badass sound of ‘You Oughta Know.’ But now, I’d say ‘Forgiven’ and ‘Perfect,’ because no matter how old the songs get, these are still relevant during certain stages in our still young lives… The songs sound more than words put into music, you don’t just hear them, you actually feel them.”
And her favorite lyric? “Special props to the acoustic version of ‘Ironic’ with the line, ‘It’s like meeting the man of my dreams and meeting his beautiful husband’ because, who hasn’t had that experience?”
Ed Cruz, assistant Buteyko practitioner, first found Alanis on MTV when he watched the music video of “Hand In My Pocket”: “The line: ‘And what it all comes down to, is that I haven’t got it all figured out just yet’ struck a chord in me… I’m really a lyrics person so I read the lyrics before I listen to the actual music. I really adore the honesty, diversity and the eloquence of this album.”
These days, he counts “You Learn” as his favorite: “It’s very relevant in my day-to-day life. As long as I live, I will keep learning new things and gaining experiences from it, whether positive or negative. As Alanis said in one of her songs, the only way out is through.”
Ed’s love for Alanis led him to run a fan site in the early 2000s: “Because of ‘Jagged Little Pill,’ I met some wonderful people who I’m still friends with. As life became busier, I couldn’t maintain the site so my Alanis friends and I have moved to Facebook. Look up ‘Alanissettes.’”
Ed has also planned a celebration of “Jagged Little Pill’s” anniversary at Route 196 on June 13.
“Jagged Little Pill” will be 20 years old tomorrow. I can’t wait to celebrate an album that was so much more than that—it’s a tireless friend, an indestructible bond, a time capsule.