pulled off one of the most successful second acts in rock history in
the summer of 1995, when the former teen dance-pop star reinvented
herself as the undisputed queen of alt-rock angst with Jagged Little
Pill and its vitriolic lead single, "You Oughta Know." The album went on
to sell 16 million copies in the U.S., surpassing the record for a
female solo artist previously set by her label boss, Madonna.
Morissette (along with a twin brother) was born in 1974 to a couple of
educators in Ottawa, Ontario. She showed an early interest in
performing; she began piano lessons at age six, penned her first song at
nine, and landed an acting gig on the Nickelodeon children's television
series You Can't Do That on Television at age 10. In 1987 she used part
of her TV earnings to finance a self-released single, "Fate Stay With
Me," which in turn led to a publishing deal and her signing to MCA in
Although both Alaniss (1991) and Now This Is the Time (1992) sold well
enough to make Morissette a moderately successful pop star in Canada
(where she was given a Juno Award for Most Promising Female Artist in
1992), neither album made any impact south of the border. A fortuitous
move to L.A. in 1994, however, led the 20-year-old-singer to Glen
Ballard, a producer/songwriter who had honed his craft working under
Quincy Jones and writing and producing hits for Michael Jackson ("Man in
the Mirror") and Wilson Phillips. Together, Morissette and Ballard
quickly hammered out the aggressive rock songs that would become Jagged
Little Pill. Their demos landed Morissette a new record deal with
Madonna's Warner Bros. subsidiary, Maverick Records.
Released in June 1995, Jagged Little Pill (#1) spawned a handful of
Modern Rock and crossover pop hits, beginning with the bitter breakup
rant, "You Oughta Know" (#13, 1995), and continuing with "Hand in My
Pocket" (#15, 1995), "All I Really Want" (#65, 1995), "Ironic" (#4,
1996), and "You Learn" (#6, 1996). Pill would also earn Morissette four
Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year. By the time she released
1998's decidedly lower-key Eastern-music-inspired Supposed Former
Infatuation Junkie (#1), Jagged Little Pill had sold close to 28 million
Inevitably, given the runaway success of its predecessor, Supposed
Former Infatuation Junkie (coproduced by Morissette and Ballard) was
judged a commercial disappointment despite domestic sales of 3 million.
Nevertheless, the album's "Thank U" climbed to #17, while "Uninvited,"
plucked from the 1998 soundtrack to the Nicholas Cage movie City of
Angels, earned Morissette two more Grammys (including Best Rock Song).
In 1999 Morissette embarked on a co-headlining tour with fellow alt-rock
singer/songwriter Tori Amos, and attracted some controversy by playing
the role of God in the Kevin Smith comedy Dogma. Meanwhile, sales of her
live MTV Unplugged set topped off at half a million, and the album
peaked at #63. Morissette was scheduled to deliver a new studio album –
her first self-produced effort – by the end of 2001.
The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001)