Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill.jpg

Jagged Little Pill is Alanis Morissette's third studio and international debut album which was released on June 13, 1995 by Maverick Records.

Album Background

In 1991, MCA Records Canada released Alanis Morissette's debut studio album, "Alanis" which went Platinum in Canada. Her second album, "Now Is the Time" sold a little more than half the copies of her first album. With her two-album deal complete, Morissette was left without a recording contract.

In 1993, Morissette's publisher Leeds Levy at MCA Music Publishing introduced her to manager Scott Welch. Welch told HitQuarters he was impressed by her "spectacular voice", her character and her lyrics.

At the time, Morisette was still living with her parents in Ottawa, and they decided it would be best for her career to move to Toronto and start writing with other people.

After graduating from high school, Morissette made the move. Her publisher funded part of her development and when she met producer and songwriter Glen Ballard, he believed in her talent enough to let her use his studio.

The two of them wrote and recorded Morissette's first internationally released album, "Jagged Little Pill." By the spring of 1995, she had signed a deal with Maverick Records. According to Welch, every label they approached passed on Morissette apart from Maverick Records.


Morissette co-wrote the album solely with Glen Ballard, who also produced the album. The demo recording sessions started in 1994 at Ballard's home studio and included only Morissette and the producer, who recorded the songs as they were being written.

Ballard provided the rough tracks, playing the guitars, keyboards, and programming drum machines, and Morissette played harmonica.

The duo sought to write and record one song a day, in twelve- or sixteen-hour shifts, with minimal overdubbing later. All of Morissette's singing on the album respects that rule, each recorded in one or two takes. The tracks that were redone later in a professional studio used the original demo vocals.

Ballard met Morissette in 1994 when his publishing company matched them up. According to Ballard, the connection was "instant." Within 30 minutes of meeting each other, they had begun experimenting with different sounds in Ballard's home studio in San Fernando Valley, California.

Ballard also declared to Rolling Stone that: "I just connected with her as a person, and, almost parenthetically, it was like 'Wow, you're 19?' She was so intelligent and ready to take a chance on doing something that might have no commercial application. Although there was some question about what she wanted to do musically, she knew what she didn't want to do, which was anything that wasn't authentic and from her heart."

The first track the pair wrote was "The Bottom Line", which was not included on the album's initial release, but was included on the album's 2015 re-release. The song was written in one hour, immediately after they met.

The album's most successful single "Ironic" was the third track to be written for the album. In an interview with Christopher Walsh of Billboard, Ballard explained how he and Morissette met, and how "Ironic" was written. He commented: "I'm telling you, within 15 minutes we were at it — just writing. 'Ironic' was the third song we wrote. Oh God, we were just having fun. I thought 'I don't know what this is — what genre it is — who knows? It's just good'."

The lead single, "You Oughta Know", has guitar by Dave Navarro and bass by Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers. The song was written with a different instrumentation; the pair were then asked to re-write the music – something Navarro described as being "A lot like a remix ... The structure of the song was in place but there were no guide tracks, we just had the vocal to work from. It was just a good time and we basically jammed until we found something we were both happy with. Alanis was happy too."

The first song to be shown to A&R and record company people was "Perfect", with a simple arrangement containing only Morissette's vocals and Ballard's acoustic guitar.

In 1995, around the time that Morissette penned a deal with Maverick Records, the duo took the demos to a studio and began working on full band arrangements for some tracks.


  1. All I Really Want 4:45
  2. You Oughta Know 4:09
  3. Perfect 3:08
  4. Hand In My Pocket 3:41
  5. Right Through You 2:55
  6. Forgiven 5:00
  7. You Learn 3:59
  8. Head Over Feet 4:27
  9. Mary Jane 4:40
  10. Ironic 3:49
  11. Not The Doctor 3:47
  12. Wake Up 4:53
  13. You Oughta Know / Your House 8:11

Chart Performance

"Jagged Little Pill" is one of the most successful albums of the 1990s. In the US, the album debuted at No. 117 on the Billboard 200 and peaked at #1 in October 1995, almost three months after it was released.

It was the first album to reach both 12 million (in February 1997) and 13 million (in August 1998) in sales in the US since 1991 when Nielsen SoundScan started tracking music sales. It was certified 16× Platinum for shipments of 16 million copies.

Morissette held the record by the youngest artist to be certified diamond in the US, until she was beaten by Britney Spears with her debut album "...Baby One More Time."

On the week ending June 21, 2015, "Jagged Little Pill" sold 5,000, bringing the sales to just over 15 million, making the album one of only three albums to have sold at least 15 million copies in the United States since Nielsen Music began tracking data in 1991. and a further 350,000 units through BMG Music Club.

The album also peaked at number one on the Canadian Albums Chart, selling over two million copies, being certified 2× Diamond.

"Jagged Little Pill" was very successful worldwide. In Oceania, the album debuted at number 46 in Australia, and rose to peak at number one, staying there for 10 consecutive weeks. It was certified 14× Platinum, selling over 980,000 copies there.

The album debuted at number 46 in New Zealand, then rose to number one, staying there for 11 non-consecutive weeks. It had been certified 14× Platinum, selling over 200,000 copies.

In Europe, the album peaked at number six on the French Albums Chart, staying in the charts for 37 weeks. It was certified Platinum in that country. In Italy, the album has shipped half a million copies.

The album debuted at number 76 in the United Kingdom and later reached number one, staying in the charts for a total of 221 weeks. It was certified 10× Platinum, shipping over 3 million copies.

Overall, "Jagged Little Pill" sold 33 million copies worldwide, becoming one of the most successful albums in music history.

One of the best selling albums worldwide, in 1996, "Jagged Little Pill" was the best selling worldwide with 18.7 million copies sold with 500,000 or more copies sold during more than 15 non-consecutive weeks. As of 2009, it has sold 33 million copies worldwide.

Critical Reception

"Jagged Little Pill" received generally positive reviews from music critics.

Los Angeles Times writer Steve Hochman found that few artists explored "extreme emotional games" as "strikingly" as Morissette, whom he viewed as "a fresh talent—somewhere between, say, Sinéad O'Connor and Liz Phair—who's determined to let her feelings out, whether with a snarl or a smile."

Anne Ayers of USA Today said that Morissette "compels with mature, assured songcraft and pointed writing" while Philadelphia Inquirer critic Tom Moon described her as "wise beyond her years, determined to expose the hypocrisy she encounters at every turn."

The Village Voice's Robert Christgau wrote that Morissette is "happy to help 15 million girls of many ages stick a basic feminist truth in our faces: privileged phonies have identity problems too. Not to mention man problems."

In a retrospective review, Stephen Thomas Erlewine from AllMusic highlighted the intensely personal nature of the album's lyrics and found it "remarkable" that the album "struck a sympathetic chord with millions of listeners, because it's so doggedly, determinedly insular."

Erlewine concludes, "As slick as the music is, the lyrics are unvarnished and Morissette unflinchingly explores emotions so common, most people would be ashamed to articulate them."

Other critics were less favorable. David Browne of Entertainment Weekly gave it a middling review, stating that the album "is [a hard] swallow. What sounds arresting on a single grows wearing over a full album. Producer-co-songwriter Glen Ballard's arrangements are clunky mixtures of alternative mood music and hammy arena rock, and the 21-year-old Morissette tends to wildly oversing every other line."

Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune wrote that Morissette "strives for catharsis but often merely sounds histrionic."

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