Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Jagged Little Pill

The caterwauling of bitter diary excerpts and glossy pop production values didn't seem likely bedfellows, but Jagged Little Pill proved itself one of the few AM8s of the nineties (out of few 9s and 10s). Detractors condescend Alanis's authenticity, as if her flirtatious pop debut (Alanis, 1991) disavowed any credibility, but people are stupid.  The biggest selling female pop album of all time, JLP was far from pop and for many of us, men and women alike, a renaissance of the singer-songwriter; lyrics suddenly mattered again, and not la-de-da unrequited boo-hoo lyrics, this was Pet Sounds all grown up and pissed.  For most of us, we dedicate ourselves as twenty-somethings to whom we hope to be, while the world has other plans.  We're all pretty on the outside, pretty smiles, all sexed-up, angry nonetheless; we are indeed "hot and bothered." Alanis just wrote it all down: bad parent relationships ("Perfect"), religion ("Forgiven"), the heady froth of new love ("Head Over Heels"), coming to terms ("You Learn"); and, ironically, we've even got a college student (I'm interpreting) who wrote a poem about (so-called) irony. Again, JLP is the biggest selling album by a woman and yet, one can't help being surprised that so many people connected to this record in such a personal way.  The music, as well as the lyrics, are insular and cutting and obvious. Jane Austen, unlike the Brontes and George Sand, didn't have to play herself off as a man; her novels were the novels that a woman would write, at least on the surface.  Austen should have been the first to change her name, but her moxie and her expertise allowed her to expose the dirty face of a man's world while batting her eyelashes in the corner. Austen gave England the finger and it didn't even know. Twenty years ago, Alanis did the same thing.  This time, everyone knew.

Jagged Little Pill is a big glossy fuck you.  Not a perfect album, but one of the best from the 90s, and still fresh and unabashed twenty years later.

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