It’s difficult to overstate the effect Alanis Morissette’s work had on the music industry in the ‘90s — skeptics need only to sit down to a screening of Jagged from documentary filmmaker Alison Klayman (the director behind the excellent Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry) to understand the genius of Alanis. The Canadian singer/songwriter opens up to Klayman about her career in a notoriously fickle industry and how it impacted both her personal life and the music that came out of the frustration and fury inherent in being a female artist during a decade where the artistic landscape was evolving quickly and, at the same time, not quickly enough. Screening at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, Jagged reminds us of what we “oughta know” about Morissette.
By the time she was 18, she’d recorded and released the chart-topping dance-pop single "Too Hot," shot a video for the track in Paris, opened for Vanilla Ice, and won a Juno Awards for Most Promising Female Vocalist of the Year.
As a pre-teen, Alanis was a cast member on the iconic YTV comedy series where the second you uttered the episode’s secret word, a bucket of green slime was unceremoniously dumped on your head. Alanis was subjected to three slimings while on the show but only one ever made it to air (and yes, the scene made its way into Jagged).
After being dropped by MCA in Canada and rejected by nearly every other major label, it was Madonna’s boutique record company Maverick that finally signed Alanis (after hearing 30 seconds of ‘Perfect’, recorded with Glen Ballard).
Don’t believe us? Give "All I Really Want" a listen. We’ll wait.
Thanks to the string of successful singles that kicked off with the release of "You Oughta Know," Jagged Little Pill became the second biggest-selling album in the US. According to the film, nearly one in ten people in America owned the album.
According to Alanis, the band wasn’t terribly approachable. The opposite was true for Neil Young and the Foo Fighters who Alanis also toured with. Her band got along so well with Dave Grohl’s that her drummer eventually left to play with the Foo Fighters.
“Alanis proved to the world and to the music business that all of us were viable,” says Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson. Alanis, Manson, Fiona Apple and others were all working in a male-dominated environment and fronting all-male bands, essentially making them their bosses. Morissette was just 21 but assertive about the fact that Jagged Little Pill was her record. The men in the band auditioned for her. If they weren’t okay with it, they could go.
Ben Affleck. Matt Damon. Janeane Garofalo. Chris Rock. Salma Hayek… and Alanis Morissette, who banishes Affleck and Damon’s fallen angels to Wisconsin. Her ruling sets into motion a chain of events that nearly wipes out all of existence. The fantasy-comedy flick was denounced as blasphemy by the Catholic church.
Who would have thought? It figures.
[video_embed id='2278364']BEFORE YOU GO: Everything you need to know about the 46th annual Toronto International Film Festival[/video_embed]