You Oughta Know …

JAGGED LITTLE PILL is about a lot more than one woman’s anger.

Alanis Morrissette was not rock’s first angry woman.

We know, get the smelling salts.

Leslie Gore wasn’t having it on “You Don’t Own Me,” all the way back in 1963. That same year, Betty Everett told the jerk “You’re No Good,” an emotion Linda Ronstadt seconded in 1974.

Joni Mitchell let cheating boyfriend David Crosby have it on “That Song About the Midway.”  Carly Simon took aim at a conceited lothario on “You’re So Vain.” Marianne Faithfull blasted a cheating lover on the profane “Why’d Ya Do It.” Poly Styrene was nobody’s victim on X-Ray Spex’s “Oh Bondage! Up Yours!”

Need a refresher on the above songs? We’ve got you covered.

So yeah, there’s an impressive legacy of righteously riled women of which Alanis was only the latest upon the release of her album Jagged Little Pill in 1995.

Diablo Cody’s musical inspired by and named for Jagged Little Pill will fill the Morsani with said angst. 

Unlike other recent musicals based on a female performer’s music (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, TINA: The Tina Turner Musical, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical), Jagged Little Pill isn’t Morrissette’s life story in song.

Instead, Cody uses Morrissette’s songs (two new songs plus all the Jagged Little Pill album’s songs and tunes from Morrissette’s subsequent albums) to illustrate and comment about a barely functioning family reeling and dealing with a series of catastrophes.

The angry woman tag was easy to pin on Morrissette based on “You Oughta Know,” the first single released from the album and most listeners’ introduction to the singer, who already had a couple of Canadian release-only albums of teen pop to her credit.

It’s a song directed at an ex-lover and it’s shocking less for its explicitness than for Morrissette’s unfiltered emotion. She’s not mincing words (or making them rhyme, either).

It’s a song that likely would appeal to anyone who’s been through a bad break-up. However, it was rare (read: unheard of) for radio and MTV to play a song that expressed that feeling from a woman.

Or any feeling from a woman. Courtney Love made some inroads in the year or so between her band Hole’s Live Through This and the release of Jagged Little Pill. Love’s non-musical issues derailed Hole’s career, although most of what Love was chastised for would have been celebrated as rebellious iconoclasm had she been male. 

Think back to that time and how many other women were being played on rock radio? Sheryl Crow, maybe?

The underground was fairly teeming with all-female or female-led acts with no problems expressing anger: Sleater-Kinney, Babes in Toyland, Bikini Kill and all the Riot Grrrl bands that formed in its wake. All played rock music that was far too raw and visceral for commercial radio.

A Bob’s Burgers and Sleater-Kinney crossover? Unexpected, but we’re here for it.

Producer Glen Ballard couched Morrissette’s songs in anthemic choruses, grunge-lite riffing and more melodic, acoustic-led tracks, a sound radio programmers couldn’t deny.    

It set off a frenzy of record labels trying to nab any female musician who might have a bone to pick. Labels also put a bit more promotional heft behind female performers left on the back burner such as Paula Cole and Aimee Mann.

And, oh, isn’t it ironic that the emotional range of Jagged Little Pill was a good deal broader than all those glossy magazine and features section “angry young women” articles would have you believe.

There’s sorrow and joy, humor, empathy, wry observations and confessional musings. It’s the sound of a raw talent coming into her own and connecting with a decent percentage of the population (the album has sold 33 million copies worldwide).

For once, the angry woman has the last laugh.

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