How Alanis Morissette’s “Little Jagged Pill” Medicated My Soul

Imagine: Kingston, Jamaica, 1996. A 9-year-old with an unhealthy obsession with the “Little Mermaid” was playing with his toys when “IT’S LIKE RAIN ON YOUR WEDDING DAY” sounded on his television. Little did I know there wouldn’t be anything “ironic” about the impact of those lyrics from “Little shredded pill», the third studio album of Alanis Morissette, would have on my life.

In 1996, I didn’t know what Morissette and her three personalities were singing in the clip for “Ironic”, but I remember that it was aesthetic and catchy. Three years later, CDs eclipsed cassettes and my mother placed her order for a new set of records. My allocation cycle hadn’t arrived, so I asked my mom if she could buy P!nk’s “Can’t Take Me Home,” Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill,” and the Spice Girls’ debut album. “Spice” (to replace the tape that I somehow lost).

When the CDs arrived, my excitement exploded. From my mother? Not really. She saw these covers and had a meandering conversation about her concerns about me being such a big fan of “girly things”. What she and I didn’t know was that I was 55 Shades of Gay and my inner gay child was drawn to those iconic albums because of the vibrant colors on the covers and my natural attraction to women. Even though my mother considered these albums to be “girl stuff,” that didn’t stop her from allowing me to discover the music she knew would bring me joy. After the “conversation”, I ran to my CD player and pressed “Jagged Little Pill”.

“All I Really Want” opened the album, and the lyrics spoke to me, a sexually confused teenager who had recently been diagnosed with clinical depression. I was 12 years old and at this point in my life, it was the first time I told my family that I wanted to kill myself. I wasn’t easily accepted by my peers or my extended family, and that never made me feel like my life mattered. And when Morissette uttered the lyrics, “All I really want is some peace, man,” I vividly remember crying because I desperately yearned for it at that age. Yes, “Ironic” was the hit single that indoctrinated me into Morissette, but it was the whole “Jagged Little Pill” album that was medicinal to my soul.

Alanis Morissette on stage. (Photo by Mick Hutson/Redferns)

Mick Hutson/Redferns/Getty Images

The next step was “You should know”. The song may be one of the most recognizable tracks on the album, but for me it was the soundtrack to one of my earliest heartbreaks. I remember writing a note expressing my undying love to this girl who had long, draped hair, with scrunchies to match her Lisa Frank folders. She tore up the note and laughed at my “happily ever after” proposal.

“You Oughta Know” is the kind of breakup anthem that had me jumping on my bed, screaming what I thought were the lyrics. I didn’t quite understand what Morissette was talking about, but the lyrics spoke to my soul. And now after every heartache I used ther healing song – because what could be more therapeutic than screaming your head off to release all your pain? Add a few snacks to that equation and I was cured.

In true teen dramaatic angst, I went into a complete emotional spiral after listening to these tracks. Later I realized that I double down on the sad vibes when I’m down by turning on the most emotional music.

The next song on the album, “Perfect”, seemed like it was written for me. I’m the child of immigrants, and with that comes the expectation of being the brightest in your class. For Jamaican men, it is also believed to come with an affinity for football and cricket. Books? I read them. Sports? Well, not so much. So there was pressure on me to be the perfect student, kid, and athlete. I was none of that. I was just me – and that didn’t seem like enough at the time.

In “Perfect”, Morissette sings, “How long until we screw it all up?” “Be a good boy, try a little harder.” Those words resonated with me, as I was just coping with my dose of antidepressants. I faced years of verbal abuse; I was never “good enough,” and it was like someone had sent Morissette an AOL instant message telling him all about my stuff. I was only a few songs away and I was crying a river of tears.

By the fifth song, Morissette won a new fan in me, 12 years old.

Alanis Morissette.

Later in the album, when “Ironic” begins with the lyrics, “An old man turned 98”, I was sent back in time to me, younger, the one who had this unhealthy obsession with “Little Mermaid “. It was a looping moment because I vividly remembered the video I had seen on MTV all those years ago. I was filled with a feeling of happiness that I needed so much. A feeling that I rarely felt when I was a child. I smiled.

As a child, I had a limited understanding of his words. But today, I understand his message: “And it all boils down to what no one has yet really understood.”

Hearing this song years later reminded me of how far I’ve come and how my best experiences have overshadowed the darkest days.

Now when I listen to “Jagged Little Pill” I know Morissette’s lyrics were tools that helped shape my identity. The vindication I felt as an adult listening to “You Oughta Know” wasn’t something I understood as a kid, but now I can scream the lyrics at the top of my lungs regarding every line.

Today, there is also a sense of joy and contentment knowing that his words have taught me to live shamelessly as myself.

And I have “one hand in my pocket,” and the other is writing this thank you to Alanis Morissette for giving me the album that healed my soul — and saved my life.


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