Alanis Nadine Morissette was born June 1st 1974, to French-Canadian and Hungarian parents. Raised in Ottawa, Canada, she was a part of the same music industry that made both Shania Twain and Celine Dion famous. Quite ironically, she was a teeny-pop Britney-esque artist before she released her angst-fest (and depressed teenage girl fest) United States debut album, Jagged Little Pill.
A young talent and ingenue, Alanis began playing piano at the age of 6, and songwriting at the age of 9. For several years she starred in the kid's series You Can't Do That On Television . At 11 she released a pop single, "Stay With Me".
While her work on the show had given Alanis a foothold in the music industry, it was a meeting with music executive Steven Klovan in 1987 that really gave Alanis her big break. Klovan launched Alanis' pop music career, even landing her performances on Star Search and singing the national anthem in sports arenas around the world. At 14, Alanis signed to MCA Canada.
Known simply as Alanis, Miss Morissette's first album in 1991 was a hit; she enjoyed the success of contemporaries like Debbie Gibson and Tiffany. She was a platinum album earning artist in high school! However, the failure of her second album (Now is the Time), she re-evaluated her priorities and realized that she was not being true to herself or the music she wanted to create. After hooking up with songwriter/producer Glen Ballard (who changed her image from poofy hair to angsty stares) Alanis was reborn. Madonna's label, Maverick Records, liked the demo tape and signed her on. The result, Jagged Little Pill, sold over 16 million copies and put songs like "You Oughta Know" and "Ironic" into the hearts and minds of broken-hearted women everywhere. Critics would say that Alanis was either too glum or too pampered to experience the angst that she sang about, but in real life and interviews friends and family report that she is a very intelligent and warm person. And overall, the critics reveled in Alanis' unique sound and growly voice- she picked up Grammys for Album of the Year, Best Female Vocal Performance, and Best Rock Album, out of a total of six Grammy nominations. Alanis had arrived, but in her words, she still felt "spiritually unfulfilled".
Alanis would try to reach this supposed fulfillment through her years-long hiatus in India, a trip that she thought would bring her enlightenment. Instead, she found that the supposed "religious" areas of India and New Delhi were really corrupt- forcing her to reexamine her own spirituality and realize that self-growth does not always involve moving halfway across the world. Alanis sang about many of her experiences in her second alternative album, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, which didn't do as well as Jagged Little Pill and came out a full four years after Pill did. However, Alanis is taking it in stride, finding the perfect love of her life (finally!), performing in The Vagina Monologues, playing God in the Kevin Smith film Dogma, and promoting the release of her promising new third album, tentatively titled Under Rug Swept.
Personally, I like Alanis' style because she follows an important writing adage- that is, be true to yourself (cliché, I know) and keep the individuality in your work. An Alanis song is immediately distinguishable from say, a Britney Spears lyrical masterpiece or any other young female artist out there; Alanis' work is really a journal of her own life. I'd rather hear about one person's emotional feelings, turbulent as they may be, than a trite, over-generalized song that couldn't be picked out of a pop lineup. Even if you dislike her work, the inherent talent involved is apparent. While I struggle to remember the words to the Backstreet Boys corn-u-crapia that I listened to in junior high, Alanis' distinctive voice still haunts me from the fourth grade, when I assuaged my little grade-school heartbreaks with my Walkman and her CD (the first one I bought, mind you). I think that's a statement about her power as an artist and a really cool human being (or maybe my own nostalgia.