Alanis Morissette - Biography
By David Downs
Singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette, the former Canadian child pop star turned “God” in Kevin Smith’s 1999 film Dogma, took America by storm in the mid 1990s with Jagged Little Pill (1995 Maverick/Reprise). The acrimonious and massively popular single, “You Oughta Know,” set the groundwork for platinum sales and a host of industry accolades that Morissette parlayed into film, stage, and television roles. The former child star grew into a defiant, wry, risky, and smart artist adored for songs like “Thank U” from Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (1998 Maverick/Reprise) and “Uninvited” from the City of Angels soundtrack (1998 Warner Bros.). Both initial albums were Billboard 200 number ones and Morissette beat up the charts throughout the late ‘90s and into the next millennium with “Hand in My Pocket,” “Ironic,” and “You Learn.” Jagged Little Pill earned her four Grammys and has sold 30 million records.
Alanis Nadine Morissette was born with her twin Wade on June 1, 1974 in Ottawa, Ontario in Canada. She was playing the piano by the age of six and writing songs by the age of nine. At 11, the show You Can’t Do That on Television made her a national children’s television star and the early mogul plowed the proceeds from the gig into her first record company. The independent single “Fate Stay With Me” came out in 1986 and a subsequent record deal yielded two albums of pre-packaged pop: Alanis (1991 MCA), which went platinum on MCA, and Now Is the Time (1992 MCA). The pop image was a facade. Morissette would later detail that she was in an abusive relationship, which started at age 14. The man she was dating was in his thirties. She has also said in interviews that she was bulimic and anorexic as a teenager due to the professional pressure to succeed and look thin. She would later distance herself from her early work in Canada and moved to Los Angeles at the age of 19.
In 1993, Morissette dated Dave Coulier from the television show Full House. In 1994, producer and songwriter Glen Ballard, who has worked with Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson, changed Morissette’s career. Her deeply confessional Los Angeles recordings resulted in Jagged Little Pill (Maverick Records 1994). The bitter “You Oughta Know,” wide-eyed “Head Over Feet,” defiant “Hand in My Pocket,” and wry “Ironic” made Jagged a best-seller. Teenage girls across the country had a new angry hero. Four Grammys gushed forth for Album of the Year, Best Rock Album, Best Rock Song, and Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for “You Oughta Know.” The music documentary Jagged Little Pill Live even won a Grammy.
By 1996, Ottawa was naming days of the year in honor on Ms. Morissette and her second album as an adult, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (1998 Maverick/Reprise), debuted in 1998 at the top of the Billboard 200. Morissette had flipped the pop script, issuing upright morality tales and philosophical wanderings that the masses lapped up. The Grammy-nominated single “Thank U” hit number one and “Uninvited,” from the City of Angels soundtrack, won two more Grammys for Best Rock Song and Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. It was a commercial peak for Morissette.
Alanis Unplugged (1999 Maverick) appeared in 1999, and in 2002 Morissette returned to the limelight with Under Rug Swept (2002 Maverick), with the single “Hands Clean” that reached number three on the Adult Top 40 chart. Morissette revealed to US Weekly that “Hands Clean” is about the underage affair she had when she was 14 years old. 2004 saw the release of So-Called Chaos (2004 Maverick), which hit number five on the Billboard 200 with the single “Everything” making it into the Adult Top 40 and “Eight Easy Steps” finding favor in the clubs. The following year, Jagged Little Pill: Acoustic (2005 Maverick) and a best-of collection called The Collection (2005 Maverick) were released. Also in 2005, Morissette became an American citizen.
Blowing off steam while writing her next album in 2007, Morrissette parodied the Black Eyed Peas’ song “My Humps” in a video on YouTube, which garnering more than 13.5 million views. 2008’s Flavors of Entanglement (2008 Maverick), produced with Britain electronica figure Guy Sigsworth, was her first original studio album in four years and it hit an impressive number eight on The Billboard 200.
Morissette has appeared on the Dave Matthews Band’s songs “Don't Drink the Water” and “Spoon.” She wrote “Still” for the soundtrack to Dogma (1999), as well as plays the role of God in that film. She also contributed “Wunderkind” to the soundtrack of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005), which earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Song. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001), Clerks II (2006), The Break-Up (2006), and The Devil Wears Prada (2006) all feature Morissette tracks. She has also appeared in HBO shows Sex and the City, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Nip/Tuck. On the stage, Morissette has starred in The Vagina Monologues, off-Broadway in New York and London.
Morissette has been a passionate, long-time advocate of women’s issues and artists’ rights, and is currently working on an autobiographical book about women’s health. In 2009, Alanis Morissette made a guest appearance on the fifth season of Showtime’s Weeds, playing the no-nonsense clinic obstetrician Dr. Audra Kitson. In 2012 she released the record Havoc and Bright Lights.