Alanis Morissette’s unfettered confessional songwriting has established a hefty legacy among confident Canadian songwriters like Alessia Cara, Chantal Kreviazuk, Serena Ryder and Crystal Shawanda, and among bold American artists too, like Beyoncé, Katy Perry, and Pink. The no-holds-barred singing style and provocative lyrics of Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill” album redrew the musical landscape around the globe, in which the polished vocal stylings of such artists as Anne Murray and Céline Dion had previously featured large. Morissette’s raw autobiographical realism was a giant sea change – shocking fans and other artists alike into paying close attention.
JUNO-winner Chantal Kreviazuk was one of the first Morissette followers out of the gate after “Jagged Little Pill,” with her 1996 debut album. Kreviazuk sings her Surrounded in a Morissette-like wailing cry, giving way to a realism that digs deep. And her powerful, frank God Made Me similarly pays homage to Morissette’s style.
Kreesha Turner’s 2008 pop-R&B hit Don’t Call Me Baby is another fine example of Morissette’s far-reaching influence. This No. 1 hit, written by Anjulie Persaud, echoes Morissette’s detailed autobiographical style, while cleverly standing her You Oughtta Know on its head, being sung from the viewpoint of the woman who is doing the dumping. Strong women have become the songwriting norm, thank you very much, and mushy romance now takes a back seat to realism.
Morissette’s influence is far from just a matter of opinion. Listen to what these songwriters have to say on the subject:
Crystal Shawanda told the CBC, “We’re all just trying to find the courage to be ourselves and I think that’s what she showed us. You can just be you and it’s going to be OK.” About “Jagged Little Pill,” Shawanda says, “It was fearless and I was drawn to it.”
Top-selling Grammy nominee Avril Lavigne cites “Jagged Little Pill” as her favourite album of all time. And Hot-100 artist Katy Perry (who, like Morissette, has worked with producer Glen Ballard) has bluntly declared that Alanis Morissette was one of the reasons she became a songwriter.
Pandemic-era newcomer Olivia Rodrigo told “Rolling Stone” magazine how Morissette’s extremely personal art had shown her the way to full, true self-expression in her music. “I remember having my mind blown when I was 13. I was in the car with my parents listening to Jagged Little Pill. I remember hearing “Perfect,” and I was like, “Oh, my God.” I told my music teacher a couple days after: “You can write songs like that?” I just looked at music and songwriting in a completely different way.” Rodrigo, like Morissette, parlayed her deep songwriting into multiple Grammy awards.
And then there’s Alessia Cara, winner of a Grammy for best new artist and writer of the songs Stay and Here. She told “Rolling Stone” magazine that “Jagged Little Pill is extremely honest. It feels like you’re listening to a diary….that album was really influential to me as a writer…. when I was coming into being a songwriter, I held back a lot, just because I was afraid of being too honest or too negative. …she wasn’t afraid to go off [pitch] or to let her voice crack. All of those little holes, I always felt those were really, really impactful — 10 times more impactful than something that sounded sonically perfect.”
Such sentiments may drive purist traditional voice teachers crazy, but there’s no denying that Morissette blazed a huge trail for successful female singer-songwriters, and her bold form of self-expression that was very new almost thirty years ago continues to influence many of today’s favourite artists. She has taken her rightful place among the top influencers in the pop music world.