The angry woman syndrome isn’t a new thing in rock. Female wrath has come from a long list of “mad bitches” including, Joan Jett, Sinead O’Connor and Courtney Love to name a few. One element these ladies had in common was that were arguably one hit wonders who would command respect if not high chart positions consistently.
The rawness of Joan Jet or Courtney Love was fitting in a time when grunge was at its height, but new forms of female rage would join them with varying degrees of sophistication. Tori Amos, PJ Harvey, Meshell Ndegeocello, Phrank and others had begun to carry the torch well into the ‘90s until silly manufactured “Girl Power” bands like the Spice Girls came along and set the genre back about 30 years.
All was not lost however because one the greatest mad girl albums of all time reinvigorated the genre and no doubt influenced a new generation, just as Kristin Hersh and Joan Jett did before her.
Jagged Little Pill was not Alanis Morissette’s first album, but her first major release in America. As a student, the 19-year-old Canadian had plenty more to sing and be angry about than most teens. While the album had its share of in your face yelling, it was all tempered with power chords and smart arrangements thanks to her collaborator Glen Ballard.
It wasn’t a completely new sound. A few years before, Jane Child provided a similar rage but with a more rhythmic formula. Where Child had vaguely Prince sounding touches, Morissette would combine elements of rock and indie music to become the critics and music buyer’s darling of the decade. It was easy to hear why. The rage and anger usually associated with punk was tempered with intimate passages, making for a string of medley rich radio friendly singles that stretched from 1995 to early 1997. In that time she was nominated for no less than 6 Grammy Awards and won 4. Rage certainly had its privileges.
Of the 13 tracks about post teen-angst, 3 of them including like ‘You Oughta Know’ and ‘Ironic’ reached #1 on the newly created alternative music singles chart. In all 6 hit singles kept ‘Jagged Little Pill at the top of the album charts for months. It has sold over 16 times Platinum and has become one of the ‘90s biggest selling albums.
Of course with sales like that, it’s difficult to stay angry. Morissette’s music would evolve, becoming less angry but no less interesting. Jagged Little Pill remains her masterpiece with it’s own brand of angst. Her next album would move beyond the juvenile exploits to reveal a more polished and mature artist who managed to grapple with fame with considerable style.