It’s hard to explain exactly how massive ‘Jagged Little Pill’ was to someone who wasn’t alive in 1995, so frankly you shouldn’t bother. It will be boring for them, and unfulfilling for you, but as we speak there are people born after ’95 finding copies of this CD in Salvos and Vinnies and whatever hip new op shops have popped up recently, and considering this album sold 33 million copies during the period when it was all CDs, all the time, it’s fairly safe to assume copies will be finding their way into collections for many years to come, with the largest spike coming shortly after the 2021 Time article “Why CDs are groovy again.” (Spoiler: ‘Groovy’ comes back into style, too.)
‘Jagged Little Pill’ was a whirlwind of emotion and anger and Flea-bass, and all the things that hit hard at a certain age and mood and a few other ones. It was grunge but folk but Lilith Fair. It’s a feminist album, but it’s also a very teenage album as well. It was vicious, and sad, and if you hear it when you are 11 or 12, it seems adult in a way you don’t understand, but know you oughta (know). There are swear words, sure, but it also sounds similar to the songs that flood oldies FM – you could picture some of these tracks slipping between Carole King and Paul Simon in playlists and your parents probably tolerated it if not downright enjoyed it. You could not deny the craft. 33 million copies suggests it hit all the demographics fairly hard in the way that Really Great Albums tend to. Alanis turned 21 the week it was released.
‘Head Over Feet’ is the most happy song on the album, which is to say it’s the only happy song on the album – an openly-embarrassed love tune in which she doesn’t trust the feeling a bit. Falling in love (probably) is outside of our control, which is understandably an issue for some. In fact the first four words of the song are “I had no choice” and it continues down this spiral. She has been won over “in spite of me” – blaming her feelings squarely on him. “I couldn’t help it, it’s all your fault” she protests. She doesn’t trust it a bit.
She is suspicious of his motives, only because they seem so pure. “You treat me like I’m a princess, and I’m not used to liking that”. Note: she doesn’t specifically say she does like it, just that she isn’t used to it. “You ask how my day was” she marvels, as if he built a log cabin for her or something.
Of course, the minute she accepts this love might be good for her, she bemoans herself for taking this long to discover this: “What took me so long? I’ve never felt this healthy before. I’ve never wanted something rational. I am aware now.”