Alanis Nadine Morissette (born June 1, 1974) is a seven time Grammy Award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter and occasional actress. She is the best-selling female rock artist of all time.
Her international debut album Jagged Little Pill (1995) became one of the most successful albums of all time with total worldwide sales estimated at thirty million copies. Six more studio albums followed – Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (1998), Under Rug Swept (2002), Feast On Scraps (2002), So-Called Chaos (2004), Flavors Of Entanglement (2008) and Havoc and Bright Lights (2012) .
Alanis Morissette was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, to school teachers Alan and Georgia Morissette. Her father is French Canadian and her mother is Hungarian. She has an older brother, Chad, and a twin brother named Wade. Between the ages of three and six they lived with their parents in Lahr (Black Forest), Germany.
Morissette showed a love for singing and songwriting at an early age. When she was 9 years old, Morissette wrote her first song. With the money saved from her stint on the children's television show You Can't Do That On Television, Morissette released an indie single Fate Stay With Me with the B-side Find The Right Man.
In New York City, Morissette landed a spot on Star Search, a popular televised American talent competition with her stage name of Alanis Nadinia. Morissette flew to Los Angeles to appear on the show, but lost after one round.
Alanis and Now Is the Time
In 1990, Morissette signed with MCA Records Canada and released her full-length debut album, Alanis in 1991 with producer Leslie Howe. At the time, Morissette dropped Nadine from her name and was credited simply as "Alanis". The dance-pop album, which was only released in Canada, went double platinum and its first single, "Too Hot", reached the Top 10 on the Canadian charts. Subsequent singles included "Feel Your Love", "Walk Away" and "Plastic".
In 1992, Morissette was nominated for three Juno Awards: Single of the Year, Best Dance Record, and Most Promising Female Vocalist, the last of which she won. In the same year, she released Now Is the Time, her follow-up to Alanis. The album attempted to move Morissette away from her debut album's dance-pop sound and its lead single was An Emotion Away, with No Apologies, Real World and (Change Is) Never A Waste Of Time being the other three. However, Now Is the Time sold less than half the number of copies of her debut album, and, with her two album deal with MCA Canada complete, Morissette was without a major label recording contract.
Move to Los Angeles
In 1993, Morissette moved from her home town of Ottawa to Toronto. Living alone for the first time in her life, Morissette met with a bevy of songwriters, but the results frustrated her. A visit to Nashville a few months later also proved fruitless. Morissette began making trips to Los Angeles and working with as many musicians as possible, in the hopes of meeting a collaborator. During this time, Morissette met with producer and songwriter Glen Ballard.
According to Ballard, the connection was "instant" and within 30 minutes of meeting each other, they had begun experimenting with different sounds in Ballard's home studio. Despite Morissette's naivety, Ballard believed he was dealing with a woman wise beyond her years. Ballard and Morissette penned their first song together called The Bottom Line.
The turning point in their sessions was the song Perfect, which was written and recorded in twenty minutes. Morissette improvised the lyrics on the spot to Ballard's delicate guitar strums. The version of the song that appeared on Jagged Little Pill was the only take the pair had ever recorded.
Ballard and Morissette recorded the songs on Jagged Little Pill literally as they were being written. According to Morissette, Ballard was the first collaborator who had encouraged her to express her emotions completely and fully without any fear of shame or embarrassment. As a result, Morissette unabashedly shared everything, from her buoyant love of life in You Learn, to her warm infatuations in Head Over Feet, to her darkest, most ruthless revenge fantasies in You Oughta Know. Morissette drew inspiration for her lyrics completely from personal experiences. By the spring of 1995, Morissette penned a deal with Maverick Records.
Jagged Little Pill era (1995–1998)
In 1995, at the age of twenty-one, Morissette released her first international album, Jagged Little Pill. Since expectations for the album were low, Morissette's manager and long-time friend Scott Welsh would later admit that he did not expect the album to sell any more than around 250,000 copies. The album debuted at number 118 on the Billboard 200 chart.
However, things changed quickly when a Los Angeles DJ from an influential radio station stumbled onto You Oughta Know and began playing it non-stop. The song instantly garnered attention and a subsequent video went into heavy rotation on MTV. Listeners were shocked, unnerved, and delighted by the song's use of profanity, rare for a female artist at the time. The subject of the song, an ex-boyfriend, became the most guessed about protagonist since "You're So Vain."
While "You Oughta Know" was a hit, it was the bevy of hit singles that followed that sent Jagged Little Pill to its meteoric rise to the top. Following Hand in My Pocket, the third single, Ironic, went on to become Morissette's biggest hit. She received heavy criticism for the lyrics, however, when it became apparent that many of the situations described by Morissette did not actually qualify as being 'ironic'. Indeed, the Irish comedian Ed Byrne based a significant part of his stand-up act on pointing out the lack of irony in the song. "You Learn" and "Head Over Feet", the fourth and fifth singles, respectively, kept Jagged Little Pill on the Billboard Top 20 charts for over a year.
Jagged Little Pill was a phenomenal success. It went on to sell 16 million copies in the United States alone, over 30 million copies worldwide, making it one of the most successful records of all time. Indeed in Ireland just as Under Rug Swept was released in 2002, Jagged Little Pill (6 years after its release) re-entered the album charts on 21 February 2002 at #72 and reached a peak of #19 on 7 March . It took 9 weeks before it departed the charts again on 2 May of that year.
Morissette was dismissed by some as a record industry puppet. She was attacked for collaborating with producer and supposed image-maker Glen Ballard, though Morissette was responsible for all of Pill's lyrics and much of the album's music, and though such a collaboration was not uncommon for many solo artists at the time. Her early albums in Canada also proved a hinderance for her respectability, particularly in her native country.
Despite this setback, the album was nominated for six Grammy Awards. At the 1996 ceremony, Morissette performed a moving rendition of "You Oughta Know", one that all but drained the anger from the song, leaving only an air of sorrow and remorse. That night, Morissette won awards for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, Best Rock Song and Best Rock Album, and the big one, Best Album.
Later that year, Morissette embarked on an eighteen-month world tour in support of Jagged Little Pill, beginning in small clubs and ending in large venues. The DVD Jagged Little Pill, Live chronicled the bulk of this tour.
Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie era (1998–2002)
In 1998, Morissette recorded Uninvited, a song from the soundtrack to the film City of Angels. The track was never officially released as a single (only as a promo one), but nevertheless received widespread radio airplay.
Later that year, Morissette released Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, once again collaborating with Glen Ballard. Fans and critics alike were unprepared for Morissette's new songwriting approach, as most of the songs on the disc, including The Couch and Unsent, challenged traditional song formulas.
Nowdays, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie is considered the biggest highlight of Alanis in terms of fans' opinions.
Upon release, the album started selling extremely well. Privately, the label hoped for a million copies upon initial release. It sold about half of that. Nevertheless, the album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart, breaking the record for the most albums sold in a single week by a female artist, with sales at 469,000 copies (eventually eclipsed by Britney Spears's Oops!... I Did It Again album). As a follow-up to Jagged Little Pill, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie had very little staying power. Its wordy, personal lyrics turned many fans off and after only 28 weeks, it left the Billboard 200, selling 2.5 million, a huge drop from Jagged. Worldwide, the album sold about 7 million copies. However, it received positive reviews, including a four-star review from Rolling Stone magazine. In 1999, the song "Uninvited" won two Grammy Awards for Best Rock Song and Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. The first single, "Thank U", was also nominated for a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. The video for this song, which featured Morissette in the nude, generated mild controversy. That same year, Morissette released the live acoustic album MTV Unplugged.
In 1999, Alanis Morissette briefly returned to acting, appearing as God in the Kevin Smith film Dogma. Smith, who claimed to be a big fan of Morissette's, asked her to be in the film several times. She had to turn down the female lead and by the time her schedule allowed her to participate in the film, only the role of God, which involves virtually no speech and only an appearance at the very end of the film, was left. She also wrote and produced a song for the movie's soundtrack, that song being Still.
She also appeared on the hit HBO comedies Sex and the City and Curb Your Enthusiasm and starred in the play The Vagina Monologues.
Under Rug Swept era (2002–2004)
Alanis Morissette on stage at the Brazil Music Festival, 2003In 2002, after a four year absence, Alanis Morissette released her third international studio album Under Rug Swept, with the notable absence of Jagged Little Pill and Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie collaborator Glen Ballard. For the first time, Morissette took on the role of sole writer and producer.
The album spawned the hit single Hands Clean, while the album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 215,000 in the first week. Under Rug Swept would eventually sell close to a million copies in the United States alone, though only "Hands Clean" received any substantial radio airplay. The album was overlooked by the Grammy Awards, but Morissette won yet another Juno Award for Producer of the Year.
In December 2002, Morissette released a CD/DVD combination package, Feast on Scraps, which included live concert footage and eight previously unreleased songs from the Under Rug Swept recording sessions. The album was nominated for a Juno Music DVD of the Year award.
In November 2003, Morissette appeared in the off-Broadway play The Exonerated as Sunny Jacobs, a death row inmate freed after proof surfaced that she hadn't committed the crime, a role that she would revisit three years later, in Spring of 2006.
So-Called Chaos era (2004)
May 2004 saw the release of Morissette’s 4th international studio album, So-Called Chaos. While all song writing on the album was credited to Morissette, the album was co-produced with Tim Thorney and John Shanks.
Selling over 115,000 copies in its first week of release, the album debuted at number five on the Billboard 200 chart to generally favorable critical reviews. The album’s lead single, an optimistic ballad called Everything, was released in March 2004 and saw some commercial success on adult contemporary radio. In an effort to avoid a censor "bleep" in the first line of the song, the radio and music video versions changed the word "asshole" to "nightmare". The radio and music video version also edited out several verses from the album version. Two other singles, Out Is Through and Eight Easy Steps, soon followed but neither matched the success of "Everything". A dance mix of "Eight Easy Steps" was a top ten hit on US dance music charts.
In June 2004, Morissette announced her engagement to actor and fellow Canadian, Ryan Reynolds. Morissette expanded her own acting credentials with the July release of the Cole Porter biographical film De-Lovely, in which she performed the song Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love and had a brief acting role as an anonymous stage performer. Her recording of the song was featured on the film's soundtrack and on The Collection.
Jagged Little Pill:Acoustic and The Collection era (2005)
On February 11, 2005, Morissette became a naturalized citizen of the United States while still maintaining her Canadian citizenship. Morissette refers to herself as a Canadian–American.
Also in February 2005 she made a guest appearance on the Canadian television show Degrassi: The Next Generation along with Dogma co-star Jason Mewes and director Kevin Smith.
To commemorate the 10 year anniversary of Jagged Little Pill, Morissette released a studio acoustic version on June 13, 2005 entitled Jagged Little Pill Acoustic. CNN reported that the album would be exclusively released through Starbucks' Hear Music retail concept through their coffee shops for a six-week run, much like Ray Charles's successful album Genius Loves Company. This move caused much controversy, with companies such as HMV in Canada removing their entire Morissette catalog for the duration of the deal in protest. The album sold about 310 000 copies. The album went into wide release to all retail chains the last week of July. This version included enhanced features not included on the Starbuck’s release version. The accompanying Jagged Little Pill: Acoustic tour ran for two months in the summer of 2005, with Morissette playing in small, intimate theatre venues.
On October 14th, Morissette released a cover of the 1991 Seal song Crazy as the first single from her greatest hits album, Alanis Morissette: The Collection. The song reached number 9 on the Billboard Top 40 chart during the week of December 5.
The Collection was released on November 15, 2005, followed by a limited edition version of the album on December 6, 2005. The limited edition features a DVD including a documentary with videos of two unreleased songs from Morissette’s 1996 "Can’t Not" Tour: King of Intimation and Can't Not (the latter appeared in a reworked version on Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie). The DVD also includes a 90 second clip of the unreleased video for the song "Joining You".
Morissette contributed a song entitled Wunderkind to the soundtrack of the film The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The song was nominated for a Golden Globe award for Best Original Song.
Flavors of Entanglement
Morissette's latest studio work, "Flavors Of Entanglement" (2008), was released June 2nd internationally and June 10th in the United States. Production of this album was done Guy Sigsworth (Madonna, Frou Frou) and the album is said by Morissette and Sigsworth to have a very different, unique sound and it drifts apart from Morissette's past works. She even included male choruses in one of her songs, something she's never done before.
Morissette said she wrote 25 songs for Flavors, but only 11 of those made the cut. On March 6th, 2008, the final track list was published via her official website:
1. Citizen of the Planet
4. Versions of Violence
5. Not As We
6. In Praise of the Vulnerable Man
9. Giggling Again for No Reason
The other songs will be released in some other manner as Morissette said herself. Some of the other titles are "On The Tequila", "Limbo No More", "It's a Bitch To Grow Up", "Madness", "I Am", "Orchid", "Wounded Leading Wounded"
Underneath, the lead single from Flavors of Entanglement, was released officially on April 15, 2008 in the United States and a month later in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The single was originally featured at the Elevate Film Festival, a festival of films that encourage environmental activism, on September 15, 2007. The original video featured Morissette and others swimming underwater. An official video was released with the single, featuring contrasts between Alanis' environmental activism and her romantic life, and sending the message that change a person wants to see must start in their heart.