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Alanis Morissette

Alanis Nadine Morissette (born June 1, 1974) is a Canadian-American singer-songwriter, record producer and occasional actress. She began her career as a child and recorded two dance-pop albums, Alanis and Now Is the Time, under MCA Records. Her international debut album, the rock-influenced Jagged Little Pill, sold thirty million copies, making it the best-selling debut album of all time by a female artist - though, technically, she had previously released two dance-pop albums in Canada. Morissette took up producing duties for her subsequent albums including Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, Under Rug Swept, and So-Called Chaos; this garnered weaker reviews and lower sales.

Biography

1974–1990: Early life

Alanis Morissette was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, to Alan and Georgia Morissette. The couple had three children: Alanis, her twin brother Wade, and their older brother, Chad.

From 1977 to 1980, the family lived in Lahr (Black Forest), Germany.

In 1986, Morissette entered her first acting role on the children's television show You Can't Do That on Television for five episodes. Using the money she saved from that role, she released an independent single "Fate Stay with Me" with the B-side "Find the Right Man". She appeared onstage with the Orpheus Musical Theatre Society. Morissette attended Glebe Collegiate Institute in Ottawa during her high school years. In New York City Morissette landed a spot on Star Search, a popular American talent competition on which she used her stage name, Alanis Nadine. Morissette flew to Los Angeles to appear on the show, but she lost after one round.

1990– 1993: Alanis and Now Is the Time

In 1990, Morissette signed with MCA Records Canada and was an opening act on rapper Vanilla Ice's tour. Leslie Howe produced and released her full-length debut album, Alanis, in 1991. At the time, Morissette dropped her stage name and was credited simply as Alanis. The dance-pop album, which was only released in Canada, went double platinum, and its first single, "Too Hot", reached the top twenty on the Canadian singles chart. Subsequent singles included "Walk Away", "Feel Your Love" and "Plastic".

In 1992 Morissette was nominated for three Juno Awards: "Single of the Year", "Best Dance Recording" (for "Too Hot"), and "Most Promising Vocalist (Female)", the latter of which she won. In the same year she released Now Is the Time, her second album, which attempted to move away from her debut's dance-pop sound and featured the top forty single "An Emotion Away". The album sold less than half the number of copies that her debut album did, and, with her two-album deal with MCA Canada complete, she was without a major label contract.

1993–1995: Move to Los Angeles

In 1993, Morissette moved from Ottawa to Toronto. Living alone for the first time in her life, she 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, she met producer and songwriter Glen Ballard.

According to Ballard, the connection was "instant" and within thirty minutes of meeting each other, they had begun experimenting with different sounds in Ballard's home studio. Ballard and Morissette penned their first song together, called "The Bottom Line". The turning point in their sessions was the song "Perfect", written and recorded in twenty minutes. Morissette improvised the lyrics on the spot, while Ballard played guitar. The version of the song that appeared on Jagged Little Pill, Morissette's next album, was the only take the pair recorded. Ballard and Morissette recorded the songs on Jagged Little Pill literally as they wrote the tunes. According to Morissette, Ballard was the first collaborator who encouraged her to express her emotions. By the spring of 1995, Morissette had penned a deal with Maverick Records.

She later revealed that during her stay in L.A., a man with a gun confronted and robbed her on a deserted street, although the thief did not take the writing and brainstorming notes in her purse…the scribbling that soon made up Jagged Little Pill. After that happening, Morissette developed an intense and general angst, which she revealed during random daily panic attacks, even on planes. She checked herself into a hospital and attended psychotherapy sessions, but it did not improve her emotional status. As Morissette later revealed in interviews, she focused all her inner problems on the soul-baring lyrics of the album for her own health.

1995–1998: Jagged Little Pill era

Maverick Records released Morissette's first international album, Jagged Little Pill, in 1995. Because expectations for the album were low, Scott Welsh, Morissette's manager and long-time friend, and executives at Maverick expected the album to sell at very best around 250,000 copies. The album debuted at number 118 on the U.S. Billboard 200 album chart.

Things changed quickly when a Los Angeles DJ from an influential radio station began playing "You Oughta Know", the album's first single. The song instantly garnered attention and a subsequent music video went into heavy rotation on MTV and Much Music. The subject of the song, an ex-boyfriend (widely rumored to be Full House actor Dave Coulier), became the most guessed-about antagonist since that of Carly Simon's "You're So Vain". However, it was the hit singles that followed that sent Jagged Little Pill to the top. After "All I Really Want" and "Hand in My Pocket", the fourth U.S. single, "Ironic", became Morissette's biggest hit. "You Learn" and "Head over Feet", the fifth and sixth singles, respectively, kept Jagged Little Pill in the top twenty on the Billboard 200 for over a year.

According to the RIAA, Jagged Little Pill is the best-selling debut album of all time by a female artist, with over fourteen million copies sold in the U.S. As of 2005, it had sold thirty million worldwide. In Ireland, when the album Under Rug Swept was released in 2002, Jagged Little Pill re-entered the album chart on February 21 at number seventy-two and reached nineteen on March 7. It took nine weeks for it to depart the chart again.

Morissette was attacked for collaborating with producer and supposed image-maker Ballard, although she was responsible for all of Jagged Little Pill's lyrics and much of the album's music, and such a collaboration was not uncommon for many solo artists at the time. Her early albums also proved a hindrance for her respectability, particularly in her native country. The album was nominated for six Grammy Awards in 1996, and Morissette won "Best Female Rock Vocal Performance" and "Best Rock Song" for "You Oughta Know", and "Best Rock Album" and "Album of the Year" for Jagged Little Pill (she lost "Best New Artist" and "Song of the Year"). Later that year, Morissette embarked on an eighteen-month world tour in support of Jagged Little Pill, beginning in small clubs and ending in large venues. "Ironic" was nominated for two Grammy Awards in 1997: "Record of the Year" and "Best Music Video, Short Form". The video Jagged Little Pill, Live, which chronicled the bulk of the tour, won a 1998 Grammy Award for "Best Music Video, Long Form".

During the tour, Morissette became disillusioned with the music industry and declared being tired of constant travelling, quick and superficial relationships and parties full of drugs – subjects which made her think of ditching her own career. She started practicing Iyengar Yoga for balancing, and after the last December 1996 show in Hawaii, Morissette headed to India with her mother, two aunts and two girlfriends for six weeks.

1998–2001: Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie and Unplugged

Morissette recorded the song "Uninvited" for the soundtrack to the 1998 film City of Angels. The track was never commercially released as a single, but it nevertheless received widespread radio airplay in the U.S. At the 1999 Grammy Awards, it won in the categories of "Best Rock Song" and "Best Female Rock Vocal Performance" and was nominated for "Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture". Later in 1998, Morissette released Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, on which she again collaborated with Ballard. Fans and critics alike were unprepared for Morissette's new songwriting approach; most of the tracks, including "Would Not Come" and "Unsent", challenged traditional song formulas, including one-chord drone melodies and Morissette singing over letter-like prose texts, some songs lacking choruses or taking a long time to reach them.

The album sold well. Privately, the label hoped for a million copies upon initial release, but it sold about half of that. Nevertheless, the album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart with first-week sales of 470,000 copies, at the time a record for the most albums sold in a single week by a female artist. 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. After twenty-eight weeks it had left the Billboard 200 with sales of 2.6 million, a huge decline from Jagged Little Pill. Worldwide, the album sold about seven million copies. However, it received positive reviews, including a four-star review from Rolling Stone. "Thank U", the album's only hit single, and "So Pure" were nominated for the 2000 Grammy Awards for "Best Female Pop Vocal Performance" and "Best Female Rock Vocal Performance", respectively. The "Thank U" music video, which featured Morissette nude, generated mild controversy.

In 1999 Morissette released the live acoustic album Alanis Unplugged, which was recorded during her appearance on the television show MTV Unplugged. The album included three new songs, including one she wrote with her main guitar player, Nick Lashley, called "No Pressure over Cappuccino". She contributed vocals to the songs "Don't Drink the Water" and "Spoon" on the Dave Matthews Band album Before These Crowded Streets, as well as "Mercy" and "Innocence", two tracks from Jonathan Elias's project The Prayer Cycle. That same year, Morissette released a live version of her song "Are You Still Mad" on the charity album Live in the X Lounge II.

Morissette delved into acting again, for the first time since her childhood role on You Can't Do That on Television, appearing as God in the Kevin Smith film Dogma. Smith, a 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 dialogue and only an appearance 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.

2002–2003: Under Rug Swept era

After a four year absence, Morissette released her third international studio album Under Rug Swept on February 25, 2002. For the first time in her recording career, Morissette took on the role of sole writer and producer. Her band, comprising Joel Shearer, Nick Lashley, Chris Chaney, Gary Novak, played the majority of the instruments. Shortly after recording, Morissette hired an entirely new band comprising Jason Orme, Zac Rae, David Levita, and Blair Sinta, who have been with her since. The album produced the hit single "Hands Clean" and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 215,000 in the first week. Under Rug Swept eventually sold a million copies in the U.S. alone, but only "Hands Clean" received any substantial radio airplay. Morissette won a Juno Award for "Producer of the Year".

The CD/DVD combination package, Feast on Scraps, which included live concert footage and eight previously unreleased songs from the Under Rug Swept recording sessions, was released in December. The album was nominated for a Juno Award for "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 was innocent.

2004: So-Called Chaos era

Morissette released her fourth international studio album, So-Called Chaos, in May 2004. She wrote the songs on her own again and co-produced the album with Tim Thorney and John Shanks. Selling over 115,000 copies in its first week of U.S. release, the album debuted at number five on the Billboard 200 chart to generally mixed critical reviews. The album's lead single, "Everything", achieved major success on Adult Top 40 radio but failed to reach the top forty on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. Because executives at Maverick Records wanted to avoid a censor "bleep" in the first line of the song, the radio and music video versions of the single include the word "nightmare" instead of "asshole"; several verses from the album version were also edited out. Two other singles, "Out Is Through" and "Eight Easy Steps", fared worse commercially than "Everything", although a dance mix of "Eight Easy Steps" was a top ten hit on U.S. Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart.

In June 2004, Morissette announced her engagement to actor and fellow Canadian Ryan Reynolds. During that time, she also gave an interview to British newspaper The Mirror in which she declared having had homosexual flings in the past, having dated a man thirty years her senior at age fourteen and, in a brief way, her experiences with drugs. In the article she says: "My addictions were work and food. I smoked pot once in a while, but I'm too much of a control freak to be a drug person." She expanded her own acting credentials with the July release of the Cole Porter biographical film De-Lovely, in which she performed the song "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)" and had a brief role as an anonymous stage performer. Morissette hosted the 2004 Juno Awards and embarked on a successful U.S. summer tour with long-time friends and fellow Canadians, the Barenaked Ladies.

2005: Jagged Little Pill Acoustic and The Collection

In February 2005, Morissette became a naturalized citizen of the United States while still maintaining her Canadian citizenship. Morissette refers to herself as a Canadian–American. That same month, 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.

To commemorate the tenth anniversary of Jagged Little Pill, Morissette released a studio acoustic version in June 2005 entitled Jagged Little Pill Acoustic. The album was exclusively released through Starbucks' Hear Music retail concept through their coffee shops for a six-week run, much like Ray Charles' successful album Genius Loves Company. This move caused much controversy, with companies such as HMV in Canada removing their entire Morissette catalog for the duration of the deal in protest. The version that went into wide release included enhanced features not included on the Starbucks release version. Jagged Little Pill Acoustic sold about 330,000 copies in the U.S. and one million worldwide; its first single was "Hand in My Pocket". The accompanying tour ran for two months in the summer of 2005, with Morissette playing small, intimate theatre venues. During this period, Morissette was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.

Morissette released the greatest hits album Alanis Morissette: The Collection in late 2005, with a cover of the 1991 Seal song "Crazy" as the first single. The song reached the top ten on the Billboard Adult Top 40 chart. A limited edition of The Collection features a DVD including a documentary with videos of two unreleased songs from Morissette's 1996 Can't Not Tour: "King of Intimation" and "Can't Not" (the latter appeared in a reworked version on Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie). The DVD also includes a ninety-second clip of the unreleased video for the single "Joining You". Morissette contributed a song entitled "Wunderkind" to the soundtrack of the film The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and it was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for "Best Original Song".

2006–present

In April MTV.com reported that Morissette would reprise her role in The Exonerated in London from May 23 through the May 28. In July 2006 People magazine reported that Morissette split from fiancé Ryan Reynolds, but neither party confirmed this report. Later that month, a source said that they were indeed together, and Contact Music reported that their split was a "rumor". Morissette and Reynolds were pictured holding hands in Los Angeles, sinking rumors about their supposed break-up.

Rolling Stone reported in January 2006 that Morissette was in between "intense" writing sessions for her upcoming 2007 studio album, which was to be co-produced by Mike Elizondo, and that she was going to spend 2006 working on a memoir. She said of her book, "it will be all the wisdom I've accrued in the thirty-one years of my life (...) A lot about relationships, fame, travel, body-image issues, spirit — with a lot of self-deprecating humor peppered throughout, 'cause I just can't help it." More recently, she has been delving back into acting, guest starring in an episode of Lifetime's Lovespring International and three episodes of FX's Nip/Tuck, playing a lesbian. In October 2006 Morissette said in an interview with TV Guide that she was going to start writing new material over the next few weeks, saying "I usually fill two journals for each record and at the present, I have seven journals full. I have a lot within me ready to burst out."

In February 2007 Morissette and Ryan Reynolds mutually decided to end their engagement.

Trivia

  • Taylor Hawkins, currently the drummer of the Foo Fighters, was the touring drummer for Alanis' backing band, Sexual Chocolate.
  • Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers plays bass on the track "You Oughta Know", along with then-bandmate Dave Navarro on guitar.
  • Me'shell Ndegeocello, (bassplayer) played bass on the tracks "You Owe Me Nothing In Return" and "So Unsexy" on the album Under Rug Swept.