There have always been aggressive female rockers. But none of them achieved mainstream critical and commercial success like Alanis Morisette with Jagged Little Pill in 1995. It wasn’t her first album, the first two bubblegum pop records only selling in her native Canada, but it was the first time she was able to unabashedly her own woman. The teenage pop star who had once opened for Vanilla Ice was now full blown rock banshee.
The first single off the album“You Oughta Know”, featuring the guitar skills of Dave Navarro and Flea, became the anthem of jilted women everywhere. I remember playing it on my cassette player a lot when my 6th grade boyfriend dumped me after a week and started dating another girl (we only ever just held hands and one year later he came out as gay, so don’t get too mad at him).
The video is mostly unremarkable. At least compared to the other hit single “Ironic” and the video parodies it inspired. Nick Egan directed the video of Alanis going through multiple costume changes as she sang in the desert. But it was fine, the song was strong enough to be memorable on its own. It went to number one on the US Rock charts and stayed in the Top 10 for mainstream charts in the US, Canada, and New Zealand.
On the cover of Rolling Stone her “angry woman” persona was solidified, and she was labeled “Miss Thing“. In a 2012 interview, Alanis revealed that she had been afraid of expressing her anger, anxious about receiving backlash. While her multiple albums since that record have been anything but subtle and subdued, her image seems to have softened somewhat. But perhaps that has more to do with age. No longer the messy young woman, she projects confidence and wisdom as well as assertiveness.
Like some of the other songs featured in this series, its also a fairly popular choice on international TV singing contests. It appeared on 2014’s The Voice of Brazil, 2015’s The Voice of Holland, and the French Canadian show La Voix. They had to tweak the lyrics for the family friendly American Idol in 2011.
For the 20th anniversary of the song, Alanis and Demi Lovato sang the song at the American Music Awards. So Alanis has no problem being known for her hit and for passing the torch on to a new generation of female artists.
If Alanis proved that female aggression could be profitable for the mainstream, Beyonce proved she could take it even further. She made it so that men would have to dance to it at every wedding you will ever attend. Hats off.
Britney Spears (2009)
Britney covered Alanis’ song at a concert for which apparently only this one fan video exists. Its pretty trashy, if you ask me. But that’s what some people genuinely like about Britney and I don’t feel like inciting the ire of my gay guy friends so fine. Alanis certainly had no objections.
Ok, maybe not quite a “cover” as it is backstage karaoke. But still fun if you were ever into KoRn.
Lauren Aquilina (2016)
Born the year Jagged Little Pill came out, English singer songwriter does what I unfortunately think is a snooze worthy cover from the famed Abbey Road Studios. But that’s what happens after Beyoncé goes first. And its tradition to have a drippy British version of each of these songs. So there.
There’s probably a lot of great analysis to be made on the gender/racial politics of female expressions of anger in music and what the acceptable genre is. Hit me up if you’ve got any!