inspiration, Music, Writing

You Live, You Learn: 20 years of Jagged Little Pill


I was 12 when Alanis Morrisette released Jagged Little Pill twenty years ago and it was one of the first CD’s I bought for myself. I remember being nervous but excited seeing the ‘parental advisory’ sticker stuck on the front. My mum complained whenever I played the album as it sounded like wailing to her. That obviously made it even cooler to me.

Twenty years on, Jagged Little Pill remains a favourite. When I was 12, I couldn’t fully understand or appreciate the stories she tells on the album, I just enjoyed singing along loudly to You Oughta Know! But now I can. As a writer, you can learn a lot from the way Alanis tells a story in the space of three minutes. You instantly feel the way she feels about the ex that’s the subject of a lot of the album. You can relate. You have felt the same way yourself. That’s why the album is timeless. Emotion has no expiry date, and the album is full to the brim with emotion – anger, sadness, regret, it’s all there.

It’s a truthful album. It’s honest to the point you squirm for her. It’s still rare for an album to feel so personal. I think Taylor Swift is the only current artist I can think of that speaks so personally through music (though less explicitly!) I think that’s why the album has consistently been on best of lists, why it sold so many copies, and why it remains so many people’s favourite. Again as a writer I have learnt from this. Using your own experiences, drawing on emotion you have felt and passing this on to your characters helps make stories feel truthful, and readers will respond to that.

This album much started a lifelong love of music. I still buy CD’s (am
I alone in this?!) and am still drawn to songs that tell a personal story, that make you feel something. I connect best with emotional stories, and I think this has fed into the stories I tell myself.

To celebrate the album’s 20th anniversary, I shall be listening to it as I start to write my next novel. I would love my own writing to be as emotive (and successful!!!) as the writing is on these songs. I think as a writer to know that someone has connected with the story you have written is all the success you want, and need.

Are you a fan of Jagged Little Pill?r



6 thoughts on “You Live, You Learn: 20 years of Jagged Little Pill”

  1. Haha, so funny, this was the first CD I bought for myself (I was 9 at the time) and it was very quickly followed by No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom (an album I still rate as one of their best today). I agree, it is a very emotional album and I laugh now thinking of these lyrics I used to sing 20 years ago but I guess I’m not surprised all these years later that, like you, I love music and I love storytelling in music, whether it be personal or not. For example, lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Mark Knopfler (I’m bizarrely preferring his solo stuff to Dire Straits stuff now) and he is great for telling stories – it’s pretty much how he writes every song. I also love Paul McCartney’s solo stuff – if you listen to “Flaming Pie” you can hear the urgency and sadness in it as it was the last album to feature Linda before she died, and you could tell they knew this would the last time together, so they tend to sing about their feelings very openly and (bitter)sweetly. Hmm…I sound like I’m 60 years old don’t I? I do listen to young artists, I swear!
    I was buying CDs when I lived in Australia (I have about 1200 sitting in a storage unit there) but now in Sweden they don’t really sell CDs anywhere (not surprisingly – Spotify is Swedish so everybody here uses it). But I have enjoyed Spotify, too – I have discovered literally hundreds of new artists this past year or so through it and have realised just how many amazing songwriters are out there.
    What I wish I could do better is actually weave music into my stories. I envy writers who can do this (though I dare say it is a rare talent).

    1. That’s really interesting about the lack of CD’s in Sweden, I feel like if we didn’t have HMV here in the UK, they would die out too. Nowadays I def listen to an album on Spotify first to make sure I really like it, sometimes one good song doesn’t equal a good album!

  2. Thinking of this album brings back so many memories! I wasn’t actually allowed to buy it because of the parental advisory sticker, but that didn’t stop me from listening to it at school with my friends! Such raw, powerful emotion – it really stuck with me. I should probably go have another listen and walk down memory lane – and maybe even buy the album, now that I can lol. Alanis is Canadian, by the way ๐Ÿ˜‰

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