With Jagged Little Pill, Alanis got blasted into the stratosphere. The world was hers. If she’d wanted to be snorting coke off the bellies of beluga whales, I’m sure someone in her employ would have made that happen.
But what really happened to Alanis when fame hit hard? After the shit really got real and expectations were so high for the follow-up? She made a record even better than Jagged Little Pill.
Look at the cover. She’s smiling, and the text is a reference to the eight precepts of Buddhism. That’s all well and good, but when one of them is “Please refrain from… playing music, singing,” well, one wonders why that is on the cover of a music album. Ah well. Instead of letting the fame sweep her away into unreality, she went inside, deeper, and came back stronger and more gracious.
Her songs are still insanely catchy pages ripped out of her diary. Her voice has not changed, and she’s now even tackling playing the flute (poorly), but to the same effect the harmonica on Jagged had. It’s just bad enough to be good. The album had five singles: Thank U, Joining You, Unsent, So Pure, and That I Would Be Good, all of which are excellent. And there are so many other great songs here, besides.
These days, when I wanna play Alanis, this is the album for which I’ll reach first. I love it. It’s searching, it’s open, it’s clear-eyed. It’s the older, calmer sister of Jagged.
You don’t need me to tell you about this album. Even if you weren’t a fan back then, or aren’t now, or never were, you’ll have heard most of this damn thing everywhere and at every opportunity. It sold over two million copies (2x Diamond) in Canada alone (we only have 35 million people), and she toured the world for 18 months on its back.
It spawned 6 singles, all of which you’ll know by name: You Oughta Know, Hand In My Pocket, Ironic, You Learn, Head Over Feet, All I Really Want… See what I mean? And the rest of the songs could/should have been singles as well: Perfect, Right Through You, Forgiven, Mary Jane, Not The Doctor and Wake Up. There’s even an alternate version of You Oughta Know tacked onto the end, with a hidden track [Your House (A Capella)] too!
So rarely in Canadian music history (Bryan Adams’ Reckless comes to mind, there will be a few rare others) has a pop/rock album come so packed to the gills with perfectly conceived and packaged songs and that absolutely exploded as these rare records do. This was aimed at the charts, and it hit them. A lot.
OK, so it was popular (and still is). What did I think of it now, in 2014? It’s still damned good. These are solid songs. I still knew every word – proof that they are permanently lodged in my brain. And I always liked that, despite being a damned-near perfect record, there are still imperfections. Her voice… well, she can sing… but then sometimes she can’t. Her harmonica playing… yeah. But those are its charms, the rough bits that, in tandem with the perfection of the rest of it, make this Diamond (Record) shine.