Step into any karaoke bar, and there’s a solid chance that the emotional climax of the evening will come from the brave soul who tackles You Oughta Know, the debut 1995 single by the Canadian singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette. The pop-rock song builds from serrated whisper to full, livid belt, a tour de force of uncut anger and sexual frankness that still scorches 25 years after it dominated music charts.
Alanis Morisette at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 04: Alanis Morissette performs at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on March 04, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Rob Ball/WireImage)
Alanis Morissette criticises ‘salacious agenda’ of HBO film about her life
Though still the most recognizable song, You Oughta Know is only one shade of the kaleidoscope of emotions on Jagged Little Pill, Morissette’s debut album from the same year – a commercial juggernaut and cultural touchstone for female angst that broke ceilings for such confessional pop stars as Taylor Swift, Lorde and Olivia Rodrigo.
For many who came of age in the 1990s, Jagged Little Pill was a revelatory album, radical in its honesty and stunning in its ubiquity – the 12th best-selling album of all time, with 33m copies sold. Half of the track list, with lyrics at turns fiery and vulnerable, unsure and wise, became chart-toppers that still play in stores, on radio, and in a 2019 Broadway musical of the same name. And, as a new documentary argues, Jagged Little Pill was a piece of art born from a few searing years of disempowerment and exploitation in the music industry, a fortuitous production partnership, and the miraculous trust a 19-year-old songwriter put into her own vision despite numerous rejections.
Jagged, directed by Alison Klayman and the latest installment in the HBO Music Box series created by Bill Simmons, is a film clearly born of love for the album, tracing its arc from its inspiration – specifically, frustration with the music industry and the men in it – to creation to its global chorus of fervent fans.