Unforgettable, Vol. 15: Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill

Where we left off at Danger Mouse’s fusion of two absolutes – black and white – we delve further into the foggy haze of the future by looking back at where it all began; for this generation, we emanated as products of irony with one hand in our pocket searching for a jagged little pill to cure the confusion. Music is the most wonderful of all drugs; amidst the plethora of genres, artists, tracks, and tribulations Alanis Morissette’s album stands out as the Raggedy Ann within the proverbial valley of the dolls.

The 1995 culture-defining album Jagged Little Pill still stands as the most angst-ridden-apathetic, yet understated-articulate anthem for those on the fringe of Gen X and Gen Why Care? The tone, the timbre, the subdued style, and subjective substance flow as effortlessly through the recording as any given listener no doubt flowed through their bleak, semi-charmed life.


The only way to get through such a gray existence is to live through it and learn what you can in the meantime. “You Learn” rhythmically trudges along repetitiously like any given soldier plodding along a warpath, from seventies Vietnam to the 21st century Twietnam, the lyrics trek through the track as the anthemic voice in the back of any disillusioned youth’s head en route through battleground life:

I, recommend getting your heart trampled on to anyone, yeah. I, recommend biting off more than you can chew to anyone; I certainly do. Swallow it down (what a jagged little pill). It feels so good (swimming in your stomach). Wait until the dust settles. You bleed you learn, you scream you learn. You live you learn; you lose you learn.

It’s all about the little things, making the most of the mundane, if only for the sake of making something out of nothing – “life is plain; no pain, no gain, if I could I would resurrect: kurt. cobain.” *snap* *snap*

Alanis exudes a sense of beautiful contradiction. She’s starkly pure and clean, but worn and weathered. She’s bitten, but not broken. She’s bitter, but sweet. Her sound is folksy, but soulful and universally appealing. There are multitudes of layers within the simple acoustics. The sound lulls the listener into a deceptive state of passivity, while the sentiment strikes with the force of a lost lover’s scorn.

I want you to know… that I’m ha ppy for you. I, wish nothing but – the best, for, you both.

“You Oughta Know” is the Canadian “Not Gon’ Cry” meets Waiting to Exhale Angela Bassett meets 10 Things I Hate About You Julia Stiles meets criminal-minded Fiona Apple meets Betty Friedan meets the grit-flinging female to which Al Green awoke one Southern morning: it’s the fury against which Hell can nary hold a flame – it’s knocking at Uncle Joey’s door and it’s everywhere you look.

And every time you speak her name, does she know how you told me you’d hold me until you died, til you died? But you’re still alive…

… likely not by choice.

There is everything, but there is nothing. Track by track the album wanders through the psyche as if it were an endless tundra, with social commentary as clear and cold as a winter day, yet as ambiguous and dense as the midnight winter fog. Alanis says everything that needs to be said on behalf of a generation who can’t objectively identify themselves in a world of subjectivity. Words aren’t minced, nor is their volume magnified, and there is a calm and clarity to the confusion.

“Hand in my Pocket” is the track that conceptually defines an album that defines a demographic – the song that wasn’t a single, the generation that wasn’t special. One hand in her pocket kept close, and the other welcoming the world.

I feel drunk but I’m sober. I’m young and I’m underpaid. I’m tired but I’m working, yeah. I care but I’m worthless. I’m here but I’m really gone. I’m wrong and I’m sorry baby. What it all comes down to is that I haven’t got it all figured out just yet. I’ve got one hand in my pocket, and the other one is giving the peace sign.

She’s lost and looking for someone to take her drunk, she’s home – just like everyone else.

One of the most understated, and underrated, tracks on the album is “Forgiven.” The arguable Magnum Opus within the socio-cultural sphere stands as an anthem to those who led the current generation of youths down this dubious path. It is as much a subtle Sinead O’Connor motion to the Pope, as it is the anyman’s aside to their President or parent.

We make up for so much time a little too late. I never forgot it, confusing as it was: No fun with no guilt feelings. The sinners, the saviors, the loverless priests. I’ll see you next Sunday.

Bowing at the altar, Alanis confesses on behalf of the collective culture uncertain about where they’re headed or why, but certainly clear on how they got there.

We all had delusions in our head. We all had our minds made up for us. We had to believe in something: So we did.

Kneeling before the priest Morissette pleads for absolution, not from a place of fault, but as a last resort in an effort to find direction, an answer, anything.

What I learned I rejected but I believe again. I will suffer the consequence of this inquisition. If I jump in this fountain, will I be forgiven?

We didn’t mean to to turn our back on authority, but what we were taught seemed wrong. Now, succumbing to the inevitability that wrong is right, it wasn’t rebellion it was just a joke, “we kid, we kid; after all, we’re just kids.”

Blurring the lines of text and subtext, and forever requiring English teachers to preface vocabulary classes with “though rain on a wedding day is unfortunate, I assure you it is not irony; and contrary to popular belief, neither is paying for a free ride – though the title of song not being rooted in irony is, in fact, ironic,” the album’s standout track is the subconscious foundation upon which pseudo-intellects (read: those NYU students who know more about your specialty than you, though they’ve never heard of it) tread. Solitude’s not so bad for a schizophrenic scribe – because you’re never really alone, or deficient in good conversation.

Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill was America’s early foray into the cultural catalyst that permeates through Pop and politics alike – from the everyperson looking to quell their nerves to Palin’s most coveted covertly obtained treasure. The nation has never been opposed to knocking on Canada’s door for anything whether it be fossil fuels or maple syrup, but it was Morissette who introduced us to the wonders of nondescript, nameless capsules. Before we were garage glamorous we were generically grunge, and Jagged Little Pill was the nameless medication that is as much the cause, as it is a concentrated cure, for an ailment that didn’t need curing thirty years ago: everyday life. Amidst a world where one wonders what life would be like if said memory should fade, it is in this time capsuled gem is where creative consolation remains: unforgettable.


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