Alanis in Chains

The pressured pop career that led to Jagged Little Pill, which turns 20 years old today.

Soraya Roberts is a writer in Toronto who has contributed to Harper’s, Vanity...

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No regrets. Growth. Give yourself credit. Everybody is different. Their view of you may not be correct. Does it really matter? Who matters. You … Talk, listen, cry … Learn, learn about you. Be aware. Patience. Be positive. Be hopeful. Don’t ever let anyone destroy who you are and what you believe. Be open to change and evolution … Forgive. Let go. Swallow your pride. But spit it up when you’re done to make sure it’s still intact. Be gentle. Strong … Don’t be perfect, be excellent. Falter. Balance. Be grateful. Be real. Never give up. Don’t be afraid. I believe in you.

-Alanis Morissette, August 1992

That August marked the first moment Alanis Morissette’s consciousness seeped into her music. The liner notes appeared in the introduction to the aptly named Now Is the Time, which would be the singer’s final pop album, and they became the bridge connecting her old music to the new. Had Morissette already been singing, in’92, about going down on some guy in a theatre, no one would have questioned her psychobabble. But she wasn’t. To the public, she was a virginal pop princess who was too hot to hold, so the best the press could do was consider her “pep talk” a non-sequitur. “I just wanted to show people a little bit about where I’m coming from,” she explained. “Like when I read it I go, ‘cool.’ That’s what I want to strive for.”

She only had to strive for three more years. By June 1995, Alanis Morissette self-actualized her third album into existence. Jagged Little Pill single-handedly11The other was in her pocket. turned her from gender stereotype to patron saint of mainstream grrrl power. Rolling Stone dubbed her an “angry white female” for eviscerating her ex on the album’s lead single, “You Oughta Know,” but she wasn’t afraid to ask for what she wanted—“intellectual intercourse”—and bad-mouth men who didn’t give it to her. While Bikini Kill and Bratmobile had preceded her, they were overtly political. Morissette was a palatable grunge package who filled a hole for emo sorority girls who knew what it was like to be sad but laughing, brave but chickenshit. With more than 33 million copies sold as of 2009, Jagged Little Pill is one of the best-selling albums of all time. It topped the international charts and won Album of the Year at the Grammys. Morissette cleared the airwaves for Meredith Brooks’ “Bitch” and tough-talking pop-rock stars like Pink.

But she had to clear her own name first. In 1991, she had become Alanis, a Canadian pop star whose self-titled swig of carbonated boy-crazy went platinum within months and won her a Juno22A Canadian Grammy, except not really because no one really cares about the Junos. for most promising female vocalist. The next year, Now is the Time went, respectably, gold. But after a series of mental health crises, Morissette heeded her own advice—“Don’t be perfect, be excellent.” Following a brief hiatus, she re-emerged in 1995 to reclaim her last name, and worldwide success, on her own terms. In the wake of Jagged Little Pill, Morissette’s old albums were forgotten. Yet they had spawned this feminist cry exploding out of several years of patriarchal pressure;as Morissette told The New York Times upon Jagged’s release: “I know for sure that had I not made those albums, I never would have gone through everything I went through that enabled me to write this record.”

*

Grease gave Alanis Morissette chills at three, but it wasn’t until she was six years old that she realized you don’t have to be Olivia Newton-John to perform. Canadian folk duo Jacqueline and Lindsay Morgan, close friends of her parents, taught her that. “I thought it was something I could do,” Morissette said in Paul Cantin’s 1997 biography, Alanis Morissette: You Oughta Know. She started performing around Ottawa and composing songs, then she sent a recording of those songs to the Morgans, who helped her record a demo. They printed up more than 1,000 copies partially funded by Morissette’s discursive appearance on several episodes of “You Can’t Do That on Television.” By the time she found a manager at 13, she had already written 30 tunes.33Too young to write about her own experiences, many of Morissette’s songs, including “Find the Right Man,” were variations on popular reductive “lady pop.”

A former skater with the Ice Capades, Stephan Klovan had never been a manager before, but he knew how to make someone sparkle. During our conversation, he frequently recalls the times Morissette “looked really good” when he booked her to sing her own songs at local fashion shows or to belt out the national anthem at sporting events. “She really tried to emulate the two reigning pop princesses at the time, who were Debbie Gibson and Tiffany,” he says, clarifying that she “liked Debbie Gibson better because Debbie wrote her own music.” Klovan has a knack for remembering names. At 45 RPMs, he lists off clubs like The Lido, Studio 54 and Le Palais, where he took his 14-year-old charge—“She was certainly mature enough to do that,” he says—and famous people they partied with like the Sultan of Brunei.44The Prince Harry of the ‘90s.

Morissette met Leslie Howe in 1988. He was a celebrity of sorts too, known around Ottawa as one half of One to One, a cheesy Canadian version of Eurythmics (Louise Reny was his Annie Lennox), whose earworm “Hold Me Now” was circulating at the time. According to You Oughta Know, Morissette’s mom sent her daughter’s demo to Howe, who, upon meeting the teen, thought, This girl is good, she can sing, she has talent, she’s got a great personality, and great looks. Perhaps we can do something together. (Howe declined to be interviewed for this piece.) “I think that [Howe] probably viewed her as a potential big money maker for him,” says Karen Fournier, author of The Words and Music of Alanis Morissette. And vice versa. “Without him she was probably just going to keep singing the national anthem,” she says. “He had the recording studio. He had the connections.” So in October 1988, Morissette signed with Leslie Howe’s production company, Ghettovale, appointing him producer for her first five albums. All they needed now was a record deal.

A precedent had been set by Tiffany and Debbie Gibson (and Canada’s Candi), teen girls who could be plucked, primped, and packaged for the pre-teen masses. “It’s very hard to get a record deal, it’s so competitive,” Howe said in the 1991 documentary Alanis: Too Hot! “Unless you have a complete package.” He recruited his One to One partner Reny as well as Frank “Fish” Levin, whose band 8 Seconds routinely crossed paths with One to One on the local bar circuit. Together the trio helped write Morissette’s first Ghettovale track, “Walk Away.” Then they whisked her off to Paris to film the video. Clips of the unreleased demo, which aired in Too Hot!, show an exuberant young woman with ‘80s hair boogieing down the streets of Paris in a leather jacket—the Eiffel Tower popping up intermittently in the background—and grinning widely in a fountain while swaying her hips in a one-piece bathing suit. Howe “wanted to create the image of a hip mysterious international pop princess,” Klovan says. Morissette was 14 at the time. You wouldn’t know it from her preternaturally mature face, but her pubescent body clashed loudly with the words coming out of her mouth: “I’ll walk away and say good bye/If you don’t want me anymore.”

But the package delivered. During a meeting about One to One with John Alexander, Howe showed the music video to the head of A&R at MCA Publishing Canada. With a laugh, Alexander says, “I ended up signing Alanis and not his band.”

*

Ottawa, June 1990. Alanis, 16, licence in hand, car on the brain, has signed her first record deal. She is now using her MCA money to buy a white Volkswagen Cabriolet. There’s a catch, though. She can’t get the vanity plate she wants, her manager won’t let her. “Why not?” she whines. “First of all, you’re 16,” Klovan says, “and you’re Canada’s pop princess.” So when Alanis drives to the studio, her virgin-coloured “Barbie” car displays a generic mix of numbers and letters instead of singing out the one word she wants it to: RAUNCH.

“People are already saying to me, ‘So, you’re the next Tiffany.’ Well, I’m not,” she told the Ottawa Citizen in ‘91. “When it came time to think about an image, all I said is that I didn’t want to be fake.” Alanis presented herself as a bubbly dance poppet with soul, but, in reality, she was just as much of a puppet as Tiffany. “She was kind of following orders,” says MCA’s John Alexander. “We were kind of controlling her career at that point.”

“Kind of” is a favourite among Howe qualifiers. It appears to be an attempt to subvert the notion that he is, as Klovan candidly puts it, “kind of a control freak.” Serge Côté, the keyboardist and arranger on Alanis’ first two albums and something of a protégé to Howe, admits that the producer’s “intense” approach would have been difficult for many musicians to withstand for sustained periods of time. “He knows what he wants and he won’t hold back,” Côté says. At one point Howe’s credit cards were “maxed out” in order to finance the Alanis recordings and Côté recalls him repeatedly saying, “This thing’s gotta work. It’s gotta work.”

The way Howe worked, according to Frank Levin, was to “take chunks of anything, if they sound good and they work well together, you put them together and make a song.” Howe, Levin, Reny, and Alanis had already started consolidating their “chunks” when Côté joined the team. The Ottawa musician admits he was initially surprised by Alanis’ youth. “She was like 15 years old when I met her,” he says. “I was pretty young too, but I was in my 20s at the time and I was thinking, ‘It’s amazing that anybody this young can …’ Anyway.” Howe admitted that Alanis could be overruled in the studio, but so could he. “It was a three-way partnership,” he told the Ottawa Citizen, “everybody had one vote.”

“Even if you feel like you have the capacity to say what you want, it’s different to feel like you have people listening to you and really hearing you. If it’s a young girl wanting something, then it’s adorable and cute, but it doesn’t necessarily have merit.”

From September to December 1990, Alanis, then a grade 11 student at Glebe Collegiate, spent her evenings at Distortion Studios—a computerized 48-track in Howe’s basement—recording Alanis. “What was amazing about her was she was always—always—in a good mood,” says Côté. Frank Levin, who worked on four of the 10 tracks on her debut, doesn’t remember Alanis ever “being in a bad mood” either. Sixteen, always happy—happy at all?—it sounds impossible. And it was. “I was always trying to please everyone,” she told The New York Times in 1996. “And I was not good at saying no. I would think that I was offending somebody.”

It’s jarring to realize that the woman who would later ask her ex-lover if he was thinking about her when he fucked his new girlfriend was at one point too timid to fight for her own vanity plate. But Ottawa Sun reporter and Morissette biographer Paul Cantin thinks her age and inexperience shackled her. “I think she was just surrounded by older people who knew what they were doing and she was a younger person and maybe wasn’t really comfortable asserting herself,” he says. Andrea Warner thinks it was more than that. The writer behind We Oughta Know: How Four Women Ruled the ‘90s and Changed Canadian Music believes Alanis’ silence was the typical response of a young woman surrounded by powerful men. “Even if you feel like you have the capacity to say what you want, it’s different to feel like you have people listening to you and really hearing you,” she says. “If it’s a young girl wanting something, then it’s adorable and cute, but it doesn’t necessarily have merit.”

Alanis was raised in “a chauvinistic, patriarchal environment” in which she felt “14 going on 40,” she told The Guardian in 2008. In the studio it was even worse. She recalls her relationship with one of her “early musical collaborators”55Morissette has never identified him. on “Hands Clean,” the lead single off her fifth album, Under Rug Swept. “I know you sexualize me like a young thing would and I think I like it,” she sings—from his perspective—and, “Ooh don’t go telling everybody/And overlook this supposed crime.” Some listeners interpreted it as a song about “statutory rape or sexual exploitation,” and Morissette told the Times, “It could be categorized as that.” At the time, she was an aspiring musician of 14 or 15 and “no” wasn’t really a choice. “I just feel like there was this illusion that I had to pick between this complex kind of relationship with older men and younger women in the industry, or no music being expressed,” she said. In 2008, The Daily Mirror online reported Morissette was writing a memoir about that period in her life. “It details some of the things I have experienced and the abuse I’ve suffered,” she said. “I was the victim of statutory rape and this book will help me get rid of the feelings of shame.”

Those feelings of shame extended to her body, which didn’t fit the generic pop package. “She tended to have, well, like a lot of typical teenage girls, she’s going through development with her hips and breasts, then when you’re performing on stage it can make you look heavier than you are,” ex-manager Stephan Klovan says. “She even went on Weight Watchers for quite a while.” As if that wasn’t disturbing enough, he adds that Alanis’ weight “became like an obsession” for the male executives around her: “They were like, ‘Either you lose 20 pounds or …’” But Leeds Levy, worldwide head of MCA Publishing in the early ‘90s, says the focus on Alanis’ size came from a place of concern. “We got a little bit nervous,” he says of her weight gain. “I’d never seen anything like that, it was so rapid and I was like: ‘Is everything OK?’” Everything was not OK. In 2005, Morissette confessed to Us Weekly that career pressure had led her to develop an eating disorder between the ages of 14 and 18. “I recall being called to a meeting at the recording studio,” she said, “and the person said, ‘I know I called you to redo vocals, but I actually wanted to talk to you about your weight. You can’t be successful if you’re fat.’”

The theme of female empowerment that permeates Alanis Morissette’s work following her first two albums “finds its origins there, where she was in a sense very young and powerless,” says Karen Fournier, author of The Words and Music of Alanis Morissette, the only critical analysis of the singer’s complete oeuvre. On Jagged Little Pill in particular, Morissette not only expresses her feelings about being controlled by men in the bedroom, but everywhere else as well. “I think it’s about what society expects a female to be like,” Fournier says. “A female is supposed to be demure, she’s not supposed to say the ‘F’-word and she’s not supposed to yell and she’s not supposed to do a whole host of things. A female is supposed to be more like what Alanis was than what Alanis Morissette became.” 

*

Alanis was a pastiche of knock-offs, a poor man’s tapestry of the American chart-toppers that had preceded it. “1991 Alanis is simply trying to break into the music industry,” saysFournier, who notes her debut coincided with the rise of “high energy stuff” like C+C Music Factory and Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. “I think she’s sort of playing into that,” Fournier says. Still, We Oughta Know writer Andrea Warner could hear in “her vocal stylings” where Alanis wanted to go. “She has this sort of really unique Alanis—almost like a bit of a snarl—for her delivery,” she says. “I think already she had such a clear idea of who she was as a person and she didn’t feel that she was able to exert her own agency.” She thinks Alanis actually touched on this with “On My Own,” a rare ballad from the album that includes the following verse:

It may take some time they don’t know how
it feels because they can’t read my mind
They always say I’m too young and they 
feel they should help me
But I can make it all alone out here on my own

“It’s entirely about how she feels so isolated and so frustrated in the way people treat her,” says Warner. “They wanted her to be older than she was and they weren’t willing to wait for her to grow up.” In the music videos accompanying Alanis, the teen singer is styled to look about 25, draped in mature outfits and men. Warner notes that Alanis was often paired up with guys who were much older than her (such as Matt LeBlanc, who was around 24 when she was 16), suggesting she was being sold more as a Janet Jackson than a Debbie Gibson. “She’s positioned as a woman who wants to have sex with men,” Warner explains. “Alanis is the album that put her on the map in Canada,” adds Fournier, “but Alanis is also the album that kind of broke her in the sense that she had to grow up quickly.” When she graduated in 1992, Alanis was the only grade 12 student with an entire yearbook page devoted to her under the zinger, “Too hot for ya?”

Around that time the head of MCA Publishing, Leeds Levy, considered hooking her up with a new writer, Glen Ballard, to break her into the American market. Ballard, whom Levy had signed to MCA in the early ‘80s, had produced two Paula Abdul albums (Forever Your Girl and Shut Up and Dance) and was celebrating the success of Wilson Phillips’ eponymous debut. “It just seemed like a logical, from a musical perspective, collaboration,” says Levy. Ballard doesn’t recall if Levy mentioned Alanis to him back then, but it wouldn’t have worked out anyway. “Leslie [Howe] did not want that to happen,” Levy says. “He wanted to control the direction of the record.”

*

Ironically, there is more Alanis on Now is the Time than on Alanis. Still heavy on the generic synth-pop and libidinous lyrics, Alanis’ 1992 sophomore album attempts to dip its tunes into other genres. “The Time of Your Life” rolls into rock and introduces the syllabic splitting—“con-ven-i-ent,” “o-be-di-ent,” “sub-serv-i-ent”—that would later become the singer’s signature, while “Give What You Want” injects some Prince-like funk and Jagged scatting. Karen Fournier also notes the proliferation of “moodier” and “more introspective” music on the album. “Songs like ‘No Apologies’ or ‘Change Is Never a Waste of Time,’” she says, “those songs actually required her to go through the personal hell that she went through in producing Alanis and that she went through in promoting Alanis.”

The physical album itself is also more personal than its predecessor. That introductory note “reads like Alanis’ internal monologue,” says Fournier. It is visually more introverted as well, displaying on the front a photo of Alanis behind dark glasses and a number of other images of her lost in thought, including one portrait taken in the grass that is highly reminiscent of the original cover image for Jagged Little Pill, which Morissette shared on Instagram last July.

But it’s the video for “No Apologies,” a Celine Dion-style power ballad, that really struck Fournier. She considers it the first time Alanis made a clear break from her past. It’s a brooding black and white meditation on a lone Alanis, her hair toned down, her dress a simple floral peasant frock, as she croons the following words in the heart of a drafty loft:

I reach in my heart to see
If your love is alive in me
But now I feel alone
My feelings turn to stone
My heart makes no apologies

“There’s no guy in the video, it’s just her. And she’s talking about herself and she’s ruminating on herself,” Fournier says, “And, yes, it’s not Jagged Little Pill, she’s not pissed off, but I think in a sense you get the self-reflection there and that particular video starts to point where we’re headed.”

And where she was heading was away from Leslie Howe.66Alanis actually briefly joined a rock band, The New York Fries, in the early ‘90s. They performed covers of Blondie and the B-52s. “I love rock music and I felt I couldn’t do everything at once,” she said in You Oughta Know. “The pop sensibility was on the record. The rock guitar part was in the band.” “I had more freedom and I took more chances and did more personal things vocally and lyrically,” Alanis said of her second album. “I just decided to let more of myself be seen on this album.” But her producer was still in the way. “Towards the end of recording that second album, I think she was getting in more and more disagreements with Leslie,” says Côté, who worked with them for eight months. “I think she wanted to write her own lyrics, I think that was a big one. I think she felt trapped a little bit towards the end.” Around this time, Alanis suffered a breakdown and found solace in therapy—and a new voice. “I became almost as addicted to that as I was to music,” she told Cantin, and so she started gravitating towards therapeutic free-form expression.

“Maybe now you can have a license plate with RAUNCH on it.”

Released in August 1992, Now Is the Time wasn’t as celebrated as Alanis’ debut, but it did go gold (50,000 copies). “Some people say it was a flop,” says MCA Publishing’s Leeds Levy, “but it was hardly a flop.” Richard Palmese, head of MCA Records in the U.S. at the time, said via email that he discussed releasing Alanis’ albums south of the border but ultimately decided not to “since they were not seen as commercially viable for the U.S. market.” Music was changing. Nirvana’s Nevermind was creeping up the charts and Alanis was losing her taste for teen spirit. In the liner notes of her last pop album, she wrote Howe what seemed like a goodbye: “Thanks for sharing your talent and friendship and for giving me the freedom to grow.” 

*

Sometime in the early ‘90s, Alanis travelled to New York. While she was there she stayed with MCA’s John Alexander and one night she knocked on his bedroom door. He remembers their conversation because, in the history of Alanis Morissette, it was the Declaration of Independence—the moment she took control of her own career:

Alanis: You know, I don’t think I’m going to have a career doing this kind of dance stuff and other people writing for me.
Alexander: What do you want to do?
Alanis: I want to write what Alanis feels and what Alanis thinks.

It was Scott Welch who officially enabled her to reclaim her last name and her career. A Los Angeles manager who had helped Paula Abdul trade in her pom-poms for a pop career, Welch was put forward by one of Alexander’s staff as a possible new manager for Morissette (“I had taken her kind of as far as I could,” Klovan says). Welch announced their partnership in the spring of ’93. “Welch saw great promise, but believed Alanis needed to wipe the slate clean,” Cantin wrote. “That meant leaving the first two albums behind, and starting fresh with new song-writing partners in a new city.”

Morissette moved to Los Angeles with MCA at her heels. According to Glen Ballard, Kurt Denny at MCA Music Publishing introduced him to the Canadian singer in 1994. Four years after Leeds Levy had decided they were the ideal match, Morissette and Ballard finally proved him right. The duo wrote Jagged Little Pill in a frenzy, the launch pad being “Perfect.” Written in only 20 minutes, according to Cantin, it was reportedly one of the first songs (the other was “You Oughta Know”) they played for Maverick Records, the company that would eventually release the album. It starts with the following verse:

Sometimes is never quite enough
If you’re flawless, then you’ll win my love
Don’t forget to win first place
Don’t forget to keep that smile on your face

The perfectionism she had first mentioned in the introduction to Now Is the Time had resurfaced. It was the thread connecting her past and her future—Jagged Little Pill needed “Perfect” to exist but “Perfect” needed Alanis and Now Is the Time to exist. “It took these two records to explore all of her pent up feelings of being under the gun and under the microscope and under all these pressures of all these different men manipulating her,” says Andrea Warner. Adds Fournier: “I don’t think Jagged Little Pill could’ve happened without the pressure cooker she was in when she was producing those first two albums.”

Though she eventually signed with Maverick (now Warner Music Group), Morissette’s old record company MCA was offered the chance to release her third album first. “We blew it!” Richard Palmese, then-president of MCA, said via email. “You win some but this was clearly a loss, a big loss.” It was a loss for Howe too. Morissette was contractually obligated to give the Canadian producer three more albums. But she wanted out. So Howe let her go for a price. Morissette confirmed to Cantin that Howe agreed to let her sign with Maverick in exchange for an undisclosed percentage of Jagged Little Pill’s revenue. Howe wouldn’t confirm the transaction to Cantin but, according to Côté, he said the split was “difficult.” In public, however, Howe insinuated their parting was mutual. “It was time to move on,” he told the Ottawa Citizen. “I have my own career to think about and she was anxious to work with other writers and to continue to grow.”

Following the Maverick deal, Howe moved to Los Angeles and opened a music studio, according to Frank Levin. Levin says he left the city around 2005, when home studios started taking over. Howe is now based in Atlanta, Georgia, where he runs his own company, Illumisoft Lighting, which sells “stand-alone optical film lens systems,” a product he invented. “I think that’s how he considers himself now—an inventor,” Levin says. The career change is not a huge surprise, considering, per Côté, Howe was always kind of a techie, fixing tape decks and wiring studios: “He seems to be, I don’t want to say off the grid, but he seems to be enjoying the simplicity of life.” 

*

Alanis Morissette’s first hometown gig for Jagged Little Pill was held in the spring of 1995 at Zaphod Beeblebrox, a hole in the wall next to Bare Fax Gentlemen’s Club in Ottawa’s Byward Market.77Ten years later The Rolling Stones would shoot “Streets of Love” in the same tight spot. Ex-manager Stephan Klovan, who hadn’t seen Morissette in a year, was shocked. The young woman he had always “prettied up” now looked “dirty and grungy,” her bouffant curls wilted into a greasy mane, her face as naked as the women next door. This wasn’t the sort of classy establishment he had prepped her for. When Klovan and Morissette finally spoke, he said, “Maybe now you can have a license plate with RAUNCH on it.”

The same way Klovan had sniffed out the low notes foreshadowing Alanis’ transformation, Jagged Little Pill didn’t quite surprise her old colleagues. “I said, ‘You know what? This is what Alanis asked me to let her do, express herself,’ and that’s what she was doing,” John Alexander recalls. According to Cantin, Leslie Howe, for whom Morissette played some demos over the phone, said he was “proud” of her new work. Meanwhile, Frank Levin didn’t know she had it in her. “When Jagged Little Pill came out I kind of saw what she was really about,” he says. “I could see the stuff that we had done before was not really her, it was just kind of our version of her at that time.” But Côté wondered where the “bubblingly, jokingly always laughing” teen had gone. “When she did Jagged Little Pill I didn’t see that,” Côté says. “But I know what she was doing. She was basically building her new image so she had to stay within those parameters.”

Before Jagged Little Pill came to America, no one in the U.S. had heard of Alanis and Morissette wanted to keep it that way. “I didn’t want to release those records anywhere,” she told Cantin. “I wanted to release my third record as my first record anywhere else.” Ross Reynolds, head of MCA Canada at the time, confirms that MCA and Warner Bros. removed Alanis and Now Is the Time from circulation around the time Jagged Little Pill arrived in June 1995. “Alanis was very concerned that Jagged Little Pill was such a departure from her first two albums that she didn’t want to cause any confusion,” he says. (Steve Waxman, director of publicity at Warner Canada now and then, does not recall the albums being taken off shelves.) The labels wanted to promote Morissette as a new artist “and they didn’t want that kind of dance history involved in it,” John Alexander says.88Jagged Little Pill was played for some Canadian critics without identifying Alanis Morissette as the singer. Universal Music Canada, which now owns both albums, confirms they are no longer in print.99Karen Fournier had to pay $150 for a second-hand version of Now Is the Time on Amazon.

Both Spin and Rolling Stone ran cover stories in February 1995 that played off Morissette’s embarrassment. The piece inSpin claimed she felt “shame when referring to” the albums despite the fact that she told the magazine she wasn’t “scared” people might hear them. “I never did any Playboy centerfolds.1010Fournier thought this was a dig at Debbie Gibson and Tiffany, but they didn’t pose for the magazine until several years later. There’s nothing I regret,” she said. “Maybe people will just understand my lyrics now a little bit more if they hear those records.” Morissette was more candid with Rolling Stone. “There was an element of me not being who I really was at the time,” she said. “It was because I wasn’t prepared to open up that way. The focus for me then was entertaining people as opposed to sharing any revelations I had at the time.”

In Canada, Morissette reverted to a tone of reverence around her pop albums. “In many ways, it went exactly where I wanted it to go,” she told the Toronto Star about her first album. “And the second record, the one I did just before this, to me was an evolution as a writer. Even though it wasn’t accepted by the people as well, I liked it better for what it represented in my life.” In Canadian journalist Paul Cantin’s biography, she said, “I am as proud of that step between the first and second record as I am from the second to the third record.”

But only 10 years ago, Morissette excluded the albums from her anthology, The Collection. “I could have included songs from when I was a teenager, but it was right around when I was 19 and Jagged Little Pill where I first felt writing was a channeled experience,” she said in the album’s press release. “That has a lot to do with where I was then, with having met Glen Ballard, with my moving from Canada and moving away from any preconceived notions of how songs ‘should’ be written.” But the songs have endured. Debbie Bello, who has been overseeing the fan page AlanisMorissette.info for almost a decade, says the majority of people who frequent the site know about Morissette’s first two albums. Many even have copies, though they don’t think much of them.

“Too Hot” recently resurfaced as part of Morissette’s concert repertoire. If you’ve ever heard someone request her 1991 hit at one of her gigs, chances are that person is an “info-er.” “It’s almost an AlanisMorissette.info thing where we always request to hear her play ‘Too Hot’ when we have the opportunity,” Bello said via email, “Any true fan of any artist will have their hands on all of the artist’s work.”

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