Jagged Little Pill: The Album That Almost Wasn’t

Alanis. The songwriter of the anthems of a generation and the album that elevated the expression of raw truths to new heights.

You may think that songs filled with raw honesty launched her career, but Alanis Morrisette got her initial break as a pop princess, not a powerhouse. A Canadian ‘Debbie Gibson’ of sorts.

At 17 she was dropped by her record label when she tried to stray from that stereotype. That ‘failure’ to conform led to her meeting a pivotal collaborator – one that the millions who chanted her songs (ourselves included) are unlikely to have heard of – Glen Ballard, producer of countless mega hits including Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror. Glen created a safe space for Alanis to channel her unique talents, unfazed by her desire to ignore conventional song structure and use provocative language:

“I felt that I knew she was coming from a real place and I encouraged her to go for it and not be afraid to say what was on her mind. She was so courageous to keep doing that. And if I was able to provide a sanctuary where she was able to do that safely, then I accomplished my mission.”

Glen Ballard on Alanis Morrisette

Alanis and Glen wrote 20 songs in just 20 sessions — 13 of which would be included on Jagged Little Pill. He says of Morrissette’s songwriting process that “she was able to turn phrases right out of her psyche.” 

Despite that collaborative gold, Jagged Little Pill wasn’t snapped up by the music industry. Glen shopped it around to his vast network of contacts for months.

“People liked it, but literally, by the end of the year, I had basically taken it to every major record company that I could, and nobody bid. We had all those songs, and they were already essentially the way they are now, but still, everybody passed.”

Glen Ballard

It took a 19 year old record executive, Guy Oseary, just starting out at Madonna’s Maverick Records, to recognise its promise. He proved to have good instincts. Jagged Little Pill sold 33 million copies, making it the second biggest-selling album by a female artist of all time.

A parting thought: without Madonna would there even be an Alanis?

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This recently released HBO documentary that tells the darker story behind Jagged Little Pill. Alanis initially participated only to later denounce it as ‘salacious’.


An interview with the Jagged documentary director Alison Klayman about the making of the film and Alanis’ reaction:


Have you heard this version of You Oughta Know in collaboration with musical group Duomo & Kroma Strings?

It inspired the song’s inclusion in Bridgerton Season 2.

Who knew an orchestral version could sound so good!

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