Skip to content

The influences of Alanis Morissette: beyond Jagged Little Pill

In the nineties, Alanis Morissette condensed a bomb of influences that helped shape the current panorama of women in rock:

alanis morissette influencias women in rock

The massive album was her third, Jagged Little Pill (1995), which propelled her to stardom. Some of her direct influences were her closest antecedents, such as The Cranberries, Liz Phair and Tori Amos, but also other singers from previous generations such as Joni Mitchell, Sinead O’Connor and Kate Bush.

As a result of such a hit album, Alanis Morissette influenced alternative rockers like Paramore’s Hayley Williams, Evanescence’s Amy Lee, and Avril Lavigne. Also pop singers like Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson and Florence + The Machine are indebted to the author of classic songs such as You Oughta Know, Hand in my Pocket and other classic hits.

Which artists influenced Alanis Morissette

The landscape in which of Alanis Morissette rose to fame, in the mid-nineties, was dominated by an alternative rock (more precisely, Grunge) that was really in crisis. Anyway, the main influences of Alanis were not so much the heroic bands of the time like Nirvana or Pearl Jam, but the ones that had a “softer” sound. The Cranberries is perhaps the most direct reference we can find: great vocal melodies, sometimes strident guitars, sometimes not so much. Dolores O’Riordan’s band set the context in which Alanis Morissette became one of the most recognizable female rock stars.

This is “a must” reference: As a direct and immediate antecedent to the “Alanis explosion” we have Liz Phair with Exile in Guyvile (1993). With a more low-sounding sound, Liz Phair’s proposal was guitar-driven and simple rock, with smart lyrics and the necessary dose of pop. Exile in Guyvile was a minor hit that tested the ground for the massive album that Morissette would drop two years later.

Another major influence is Alanis Morissette’s favorite guitarist and singer: Jeff Buckley. From its characteristic vocal inflections to the intimate nature of its songs, he is referred to throughout all the Canadian singer’s discography. Although the sound references are there, it is not so much that Alanis tries to imitate artists like Jeff Buckley (or also Bjork), but rather points to their lyrical styles “subconscious”, that is, free from reason.

Going further back in time, the influences of Alanis Morissette can be found in some women who were a reference for popular music of their time. The first one I’ll mention is Sinead O’Connor, who Alanis is a huge fan of. Regarding this Irish singer, we are talking about an excellent voice, a determined woman with character. Legend has it, Madonna encouraged Alanis Morissette to draw primarily from Sinead O’Connor’s early career. The result? You Oughta Know and millions of sales.

Another singer who has influenced Alanis Morissette is Kate Bush. With a remarkable originality and voice, it is a strong previous reference. It is in fact something very personal: little more than Alanis decided to be a singer when she listened to Kate Bush.

Last but not least: Listening to Joni Mitchell -For example Coyote, opening of her album Hejira (1976) -, the link is evident: that kind of recited or commented song resembles Alanis Morissette tracks like Front Row or All I Really Want. With intimate and confessional lyrics accompanied by a guitar, Joni Mitchell is a must for Alanis. Still, it should be noted that on the contrary, Joni does not like Alanis very much.

Which artists were influenced by Alanis Morissette?

Suddenly the female singers began to find more spaces on the radios. If before Alanis Morissette the radio programs did not want to play her songs because they already had Sinead O’Connor or Tori Amos, now she slammed her way through. After Jagged Little Pill a whole new breed of singers, like Tracy Bonham, Meredith Brooks and Michelle Branch, found more air time on the radio. Other singers, like Sheryl Crow, saw their sales skyrocket.

Kelly Clarkson, with her successful album Breakaway (2004), takes several of the elements that made Jagged Little Pill the classic that it is: strident guitars, elements of alternative rock with lyrics about heartbreak, fury and introspection.

Pop was one of the great benefited genres. For example, Taylor Swift, who had the pleasure of singing a duet with Alanis Morissette, has her as a reference that fueled the spark of her predecessors. And of course, how the most current “heartbreak pop artist” could not have been inspired by the author of You Oughta Know. Katy Perry also says that Alanis “inspired her to speak my truth.” In other words, Alanis Morissette became in the mid-nineties a catalyst within an industry primarily dominated by male artists. Although Alanis was not the one who led the way, she was the one who slammed the door upon entering: here I am.

And the list of Morissette’s fans continues: Florence Welch from Florence + The Machine spoke of Alanis as one of her heroines as a young woman. Well, if we speak in a confessional tone, we can speak of exorcising ghosts by talking about them, making them public.

Who puts it clearly is the singer of Paramore, Hayley Williams: Alanis was a defining moment for women in rock. Well, nobody expected this explosion, especially coming from a teenage pop singer as Alanis was at the beginning of her career. But there it was. And also as Hayley Williams tells, that great hit was absorbed by the industry of the time.

Within the context of the late nineties and early 2000s, Evanescence knew how to channel a sound reminiscent of Nu Metal. In addition to the clear references to Korn and his fellow Linkin Park, it is hard to think that Amy Lee’s band would achieve such success with their 2003 debut Fallen without the background of Alanis Morissette’s third album. Even Alanis songs like Baba or Would Not Come (from Alanis next record, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, 1998) sound like songs that Evanescence could play.

Finally, we will mention Avril Lavigne, who had her career peak in the early 2000s with her album Let Go and her single Complicated, she commented that Jagged Little Pill is indeed her favorite album. They both do it: a kind of rock and pop by way of everyday occurrences, observations of every day and notes from an intimate diary.

More content on women in music