Alanis Morissette

Author: Janet

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Alanis Morissette was one of the most unlikely stars of the mid-’90s. A former child actress turned dance-pop diva, Morissette transformed herself into a confessional alternative singer/songwriter, in the vein of Liz Phair and Tori Amos. However, she added enough pop sensibility, slight hip-hop flourishes, and marketing savvy to that formula to become a superstar with her third album, Jagged Little Pill.

Morissette was born and raised in Ottawa, Canada. In her childhood, she began playing piano and writing songs. At the age of ten, she joined the cast of You Can’t Do That on Television, a children’s television program. Using money that she earned on the show, Morissette recorded an independent single, “Fate Stay With Me,” which was released when she was ten. After leaving the show, she concentrated on a musical career, signing a music publishing contract when she was 14. The publishing contract led to a record deal with MCA Canada. In 1991, she moved to Toronto and released her debut album, Alanis.

Alanis was a collection of pop-oriented dance numbers and ballads that was successful in Canada, selling over 100,000 copies, and leading to a Juno Award for Most Promising Female Artist. However, no other country paid any attention to the record. In 1992, she released Now Is the Time, an album that closely resembled her debut. Like its predecessor, it was a success in Canada, even if it sold half of what Alanis did. Following the release of Now Is the Time, Morissette relocated to Los Angeles, where she met Glen Ballard in early 1994. Ballard had previously written Michael Jackson’s hit “Man in the Mirror,” produced Wilson Phillips’ hit debut album, and worked with David Hasselhoff. Despite the duo’s mainstream pop pedigree, they decided to pursue an edgier, alternative rock-oriented direction. The result was Jagged Little Pill, which was released on Maverick Records, Madonna’s label.

On the strength of the single “You Oughta Know,” Jagged Little Pill gained attention upon its release in the summer of 1995. Soon, the single received heavy airplay from both alternative radio and MTV, sending the album into the Top Ten and multi-platinum status. The second and third singles from Jagged Little Pill, “Hand in My Pocket” and “All I Really Want,” kept the album in the Top Ten. In early 1996, she was nominated for six Grammys. Shortly after the nominations, Morissette released her fourth single, “Ironic,” which proved to be her biggest crossover success. Morissette won several Grammy awards in 1996, including Album of the Year and Song of the Year.

Her much-anticipated follow-up, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, was released in the autumn of 1998. An Unplugged set appeared a year later, and in 2002 Morissette released Under Rug Swept. So-Called Chaos followed in 2004, and a year later she took Jagged Little Pill on the road as an acoustic tour. That tour became Jagged Little Pill Acoustic, an album originally — and tellingly — sold exclusively through Starbucks outlets. Morissette and her fans had grown up. Collection, an 18-track retrospective of her work, followed in November 2005. – Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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