Famous Like Me > Singer > M > Alanis Morissette
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Profile of Alanis Morissette
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|Also Know As:
|Date of Birth:
||1st June 1974
|Place of Birth:
||Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Alanis Nadine Morissette (born June 1, 1974) is a Canadian/American singer-songwriter and occasional actress. Her international debut album Jagged Little Pill became one of the most successful albums of all time. The success of the album's first single, "You Oughta Know", was followed by four other successful worldwide hits, with the total worldwide sales of the album being estimated at 30 million copies.
Alanis Morissette was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, to schoolteachers Alan and Georgia Morissette. She has an older brother, Chad, and a twin brother, Wade.
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. 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 and released her debut full-length album, Alanis, in 1991 with producer Leslie Howe. At the time, Morissette was credited simply as "Alanis" to avoid possible confusion with fellow Canadian singer Alannah Myles. The album 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 (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 featured the single "An Emotion Away". 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 naïveté, Ballard knew 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 two had ever recorded. With "Perfect", the floodgate was opened, and soon Morissette's thoughts and emotions began pouring onto paper at a frenzied pace.
In Los Angeles, Morissette lived in a small, one-room apartment. On the way home from the supermarket one afternoon, she was robbed at gunpoint. A man rummaged through her bag while another held a gun to her head and made her lie face down on the pavement. Morissette later revealed that her only concern was for the book of lyrics she was carrying in her bag. To her relief, the lyrics were untouched. They would eventually make up the bulk of Jagged Little Pill.
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 ("You Learn"), to her warm infatuations ("Head Over Feet"), to her darkest, most ruthless revenge fantasies ("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. Expectations for the album were low, and Morissette's manager and long-time friend Scott Welsh would later admit that he didn't expect the album to sell any more than around 250,000 copies. The album debuted at number 118 on the Billboard 200 chart.
Things changed quickly, however, 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.
While "You Oughta Know" was a hit, it was the accumulation of hit singles subsequent to it that sent Jagged Little Pill on 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'.
Fourth and fifth singles "You Learn" and "Head Over Feet", respectively, kept Jagged Little Pill in the Billboard Top 20 charts for over a year. "Head Over Feet" popularized the phrase "friends with benefits".
Jagged Little Pill was a phenomenal success. It went on to sell sixteen million copies in the United States alone, over 30 million copies worldwide, and its singles have become some of the most recognizable songs of the decade. A backlash, however, was quickly brewing.
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 such a collaboration was not uncommon for many solo artists at the time.
Others called her sudden image change "calculated", "manipulative", and "greedy", while fans countered that such criticisms failed to acknowledge the possibility that Morissette may have grown artistically since she was a seventeen-year-old.
Despite this backlash, the album was nominated for six Grammy Awards. That night, Morissette won awards for Album of the Year, Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, Best Rock Song and Best Rock Album.
Later that year, Morissette embarked on a one-and-a-half year 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, 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, in which most of the songs on the disc, including "The Couch" and "Unsent", challenged traditional song formulas.
Upon release, the album started flying off the shelves. Privately, the label hoped for a million copies out of the gate. 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. 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. That same year, Morissette released the live acoustic album MTV Unplugged.
The album itself marked a major turning point in Alanis' career. She never expected it to sell as well as Jagged Little Pill and wanted to remain true to herself. The lyrics are more profound, deep and a lot more meaningful than the Jagged era. Critics and listeners alike, at first taken aback by its stark contrast to Jagged, began to judge the record on its own merit. Rolling Stone gave the album four stars and concluded it was musically and lyrically a profound piece of music. Alanis herself has described the album as being her "perpetual f... you bird".
In 1999, Alanis Morissette expanded her résumé by delving into acting. She appeared as God in the film Dogma, directed by Kevin Smith. 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 appears at the very end of the film, was left.
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)
In 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. It would eventually sell close to a million copies in the United States alone, even though only one song from the album 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 for Music DVD of the Year.
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.
So-Called Chaos era (2004–present)
"Everything", the first single from Morissette's fourth international studio album So-Called Chaos, was released to radio in March 2004. Two other singles, "Out Is Through" and "Eight Easy Steps", soon followed.
In April 2004, Morissette hosted the Juno Awards of 2004, which was held in Edmonton, Alberta. At the event, Morissette satirized the public outrage caused by Janet Jackson's breast-baring incident during the Super Bowl. Stepping out of a nightgown and wearing a semi-nude bodysuit, Morissette said: "We live in a land Canada where we still think the human body is beautiful and we're not afraid of the female breast."
Morissette's music video for the single "Eight Easy Steps" featured various video clips spanning her career in music, film, and television. Beginning in present day proceeding in reverse-chronological order, the clips were digitally edited to make it appear that Morissette was singing "Eight Easy Steps".
In May 2004, Morissette released So-Called Chaos, on which she received sole writing and co-producing credits. 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.
In June 2004, Morissette announced her engagement to actor Ryan Reynolds. The date of the wedding has not yet been finalized.
In July 2004, Morissette appeared in the Cole Porter biopic 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.
On February 11, 2005, she became a naturalized citizen of the United States while still maintaining her Canadian citizenship. Morissette refers to herself as a Canadian–American.
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.
Months later, she was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame, along with stars such as Kiefer Sutherland and Paul Anka.
Morissette released an acoustic version of Jagged Little Pill on June 13, 2005. CNN first 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 (Canada) removing their entire Morissette catalog for the duration of the deal in protest.
The Jagged Little Pill Acoustic tour ran for two months in the summer of 2005, with Alanis choosing small, intimate theatre venues.
Morissette was a featured pregame act before Game 1 of the 2005 NBA Finals, singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" only several months after becoming an American citizen. The telecast aired on the American television network ABC the night before the same network aired an interview with Morissette on their news magazine 20/20.
Most recently, she did a GAP commercial and covered the Seal song "Crazy". She has plans to release a greatest hits album on November 15, 2005 titled Alanis Morissette: The Collection.
On October 14th, she released the Seal cover song "Crazy" as her first single of the greatest hits album, "Alanis Morissette: The Collection". She also released a video for the song in which she plays a woman following a couple, only later to be revealed that the girl from the couple was her girlfriend who was cheating on her. The video shows a new look and a new style for Alanis.
- Alanis (Canada-only release) (1991)
- Now Is the Time (Canada-only release) (1992)
- Jagged Little Pill (1995) #1 US (12 weeks), 16x Platinum, #2 Italy, #6 France, (worldwide sales: 30 million)
- Space Cakes (1996) (import acoustic album of six Jagged Little Pill songs)
- Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (1998) #1 US (2 weeks), 3x Platinum, #1 Italy, #5 France (worldwide sales: 7 million)
- MTV Unplugged (1999) #63 US, Gold, #6 Italy (worldwide sales: 3 million)
- Under Rug Swept (2002) #1 US (1 week), Platinum, #1 Italy, #2 France
- Feast on Scraps (2002) (CD/DVD set)
- So-Called Chaos (2004) #5 US, Gold, #5 France, #4 Italy
- iTunes Originals (2004) (exclusively released on the iTunes Music Store)
- Jagged Little Pill Acoustic (2005) (released for Starbucks outlets on June 13; other retailers on July 26) #50 US, #8 France
- Alanis Morissette: The Collection (2005) (not yet released)
- "You Oughta Know" #1 US Modern Rock Tracks, #22 UK, #4 Australia
- "Hand in My Pocket" #1 US Modern Rock Tracks, #26 UK, #12 Australia
- "You Learn" #6 US, #24 UK, #20 Australia
- "Ironic" #4 US, #11 UK, #8 Germany, #3 Australia
- "Head over Feet" #1 US Top 40 Mainstream, #7 UK, #73 Germany, #12 Australia
- "All I Really Want" #59 UK, #38 Australia
- from Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie
- "Thank U" #17 US, #5 UK, #19 Germany, #13 Australia, #1 Canada, #6 Italy
- "Joining You" #16 US Modern Rock Tracks, #28 UK, #28 Germany
- "Unsent" #58 US
- "So Pure" #38 UK
- "That I Would Be Good"
- "King of Pain" (Europe and Japan only)
- "You Learn (MTV Unplugged)" (France only)
- "Hands Clean" #23 US, #12 UK, #18 Germany, #8 Australia, #1 Canada, #3 Italy
- "Precious Illusions" #53 UK, #77 Germany, #36 Australia, #4 Canada
- "Utopia" (Internet Exclusive)
- "Everything" #76 US, #22 UK, #29 Germany, #11 Australia, #3 Canada, #3 Italy
- "Out Is Through" #56 UK, #75 Germany
- "Eight Easy Steps" #3 US Hot Dance Singles Sales
- from Alanis Morissette: The Collection
- "Crazy" (James Michael Mix)
- "Hand in My Pocket (acoustic)" (promo from Jagged Little Pill Acoustic) (2005)
- "Simple Together" (Europe-only promo from Feast on Scraps) (2002)
- "Uninvited" (promo, charted from airplay (1998) #1 US Top 40 Mainstream
- "Still" (on Dogma soundtrack) (1999)
Stage, film, and television
- You Can't Do That on Television (1986)
- Dogma, God (1999)
- The Vagina Monologues (1999)
- Sex and the City, Dawn (episode "Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl", 1999)
- Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, That Woman (God) (2001)
- Curb Your Enthusiasm, herself (episode "The Terrorist Attack", 2002)
- The Exonerated, Sunny Jacobs (2003)
- De-Lovely, unnamed singer (2004)
- American Dreams, Singer in the Lair (episode "What Dreams May Come", 2004)
- Degrassi: The Next Generation, principal (episode "Goin' Down the Road: Part 1", 2005)
- Jagged Little Pill, Live (1997)
- Live in the Navajo Nation (2002)
- Feast on Scraps (2002)
- VH1 Storytellers (2005)
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