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Alanis Morissette’s seminal 1995 record Jagged Little Pill has long been praised for being a perfect artistic representation of post-breakup feminist rage. So it makes sense that people freaked out when they recently found out that JLP: The Musical is officially becoming a thing.
And Jagged Little Pill deserves all the love that it gets. Women aren’t often given permission to be loud, angry, and bitter, and the fact that Alanis went ahead and did it anyway on the mid-90s album sent the message that everyone can.
Which is why turning JLP into a musical is a stroke of genius. Characters in musicals often wear their hearts on their sleeves (they kind of have to, to get the audience to understand what they’re feeling), so it’s easy to imagine someone like Wicked’s Elphaba or Hamilton’s Eliza belting out Alanis’ passionate, fury-filled, vulnerable tunes.
But JLP isn’t just about anger. Sure, “You Oughta Know” is the perfect song to listen to right after you get your heart broken. But the top-selling Canadian album is chock-full of songs that cover a whole range of emotions, from loneliness and confusion to hopefulness and delight. No matter what situation you’re in or what feeling you’re experiencing JLP’s got you covered.
So to prepare you for the upcoming Alanis musical, we present a theatre-inspired guide to what Jagged Little Pill songs to listen to when you’re feeling sad, happy, angry, or all of the above.
People suck—we know it, you know it, and Alanis knows it. Whether it’s a romantic relationship or a platonic one, knowing what you want and not being able to get it can be super aggravating.
If you’re in need of someone to validate your aggravation, we recommend listening to “All I Really Want” and “Wake Up.” The former is more about constant miscommunication while the latter is more of a rant about someone who, no matter what, is never completely satisfied. And either tune would make an excellent “I Want” song—take note, Broadway producers.
Alanis is unquestionably upset throughout much of Jagged Little Pill—and based on the way she describes a lot of her past relationships, she definitely has good reason to be. But while she sometimes expresses her negative feelings by complaining about someone else’s bad behaviour, at other times she expresses those feelings by describing how that bad behaviour affected her. Like Fantine and Sandy before her, Alanis was hurting bad—and she wasn’t afraid to admit it.
If you’re in the same boat and need a (metaphorical) shoulder to cry on, listen to “Perfect,” “Your House,” or (of course) “You Oughta Know.” “You Oughta Know” segues into “Your House” at the very end of Jagged Little Pill and perfectly juxtaposes the angry, table-flipping-kind-of-hurt with the despairing, crying-in-the-shower-kind-of-hurt that inevitably follows.
Most musical theatre characters go through long periods of confusion or uncertainty, but they usually get over those periods pretty quickly and recover just in time for a big finale group number. Real people aren’t always so lucky.
In “Forgiven,” Alanis sings about her Catholic upbringing and acknowledges the temptation to turn to religion for “something to cling to,” but the idea of seeking answers from any and every source you can find is something you can probably relate to even if you’re not religious. And “Mary Jane” is the perfect song to listen to when you’re at a crossroads in your life and need a sense of guidance or comfort.
Musicals are so chock full of epic ballads that it’s sometimes easy to forget about some of the more cheerful, upbeat tunes that are out there. The same thing can be said for Jagged Little Pill. Don’t get us wrong—Alanis knows how horrible the world (and the people that inhabit it) can be. But she also knows that they’re sometimes sort of awesome.
“Hand in My Pocket” and “Head Over Feet” are both about the metaphorical light at the end of the tunnel. Even if you feel completely and utterly hopeless, listening to “Hand in My Pocket” will remind you that there’s a good side to every seemingly horrible situation and listening to “Head Over Feet” will remind you that there is, indeed, life after love.
After experiencing two to three hours of never-ending pain and sorrow, musical theatre characters almost always come out on top, stronger than when they first started their melodic journey.
Alanis goes through a similar journey throughout Jagged Little Pill. In “You Learn” (Track 7) Alanis acknowledges that experiencing hardship can strengthen one’s character and advises her loyal listeners to take risks even if they don’t always pay off. And in “Not the Doctor” (Track 11) Alanis harnesses her newfound wisdom and confidence to tell off someone who had clearly been taking advantage of her. You, too, can harness Alanis’ wisdom by listening to one or both of these songs.