Alanis Nadine Morissette was born on June 1, 1974 in Toronto, Canada. Her name is the feminine version of her father’s name, Alan.
Morissette took to music at an early age, and was playing the piano by age six and writing songs by age nine. When she was ten, she took part in “You Can’t Do That on Television,” a children’s variety show on the TV network Nickelodeon.
After leaving the show’s cast, Morissette was signed to MCA Canada at the age of fourteen and, in 1991, she released her debut album, Alanis (1991). It sold 100,000 copies and earned her a Juno Award in 1992, for Most Promising Female Vocalist of the Year. The dance-pop album also saw comparisons being drawn between Morissette and other female pop singers at the time like Debbie Gibson, Madonna and Paula Abdul.
Her second album, Now is The Time (1992), was a ballad driven album that was slightly less successful than its predecessor. She left MCA soon after, and relocated to Toronto. In 1994, Morissette moved to Los Angeles, where she met songwriter-producer Glen Ballard, who had previously worked with Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand and David Hasselhoff.
In spite of her dance-pop beginnings, Ballard and Morissette were determined to pursue an edgier, more ‘alternative’ approach. This resulted in Jagged Little Pill (1995), released on Madonna’s Maverick Records.
Jagged Little Pill struck a malodorous chord that resonated with the mainstream CD-buying public that was wallowing in the last throes of grunge, which welcomed an inward-looking, introspective, self-obsessive type of music that was both angry and cathartic.
The lead single, “You Oughta Know,” typified this attitude perfectly - a bitter, harsh song about an unfaithful lover and his cowardice; an anthem for the millions of jilted people who could identify with her .
With bassist Flea and guitarist Dave Navarro (both in Red Hot Chili Peppers at the time), as well as Taylor Hawkins (later drummer for the Foo Fighters) as her backing band on “You Oughta Know,” it was a combination that could not fail.
But the massive hit on that album was “Ironic,” a song that perhaps spawned a million discussions on the lyrics of the song and the meaning of the word ‘irony’. Comedians and philosophers and linguists alike have pointed out that the events in her song could be seen as coincidental, karmic, bittersweet, cruel or just plain unlucky. (Was it ironic that “Ironic” contained no traces of irony?) Pedantry aside, it was not hard to respond, at least with a wry smile, to lyrics like “It’s like rain on your wedding day/It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid” and say, “yep, I’ve had one of those days.”
The album was a massive success, selling more than fifteen million copies in the US alone (ten million in the UK and Europe). It won four Grammys for Album of the Year, Best Rock Song and Best Female Vocal Performance for “You Oughta Know” and Best Rock Album.
She then embarked on an 18 month world tour that culminated in Jagged Little Pill, Live (1997), which won the 1998 Grammy for Best Long Form Music Video.
After the tour, Morissette headed to India for six weeks, “the goddess trip,” she calls it. She briefly volunteered at Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity hospital, and also hiked in the Himalayas. She also traveled to Cuba as part of an exchange group (a group that included Leonardo DiCaprio), and it was there she fell in love with actor Dash Mihok (The Thin Red Line ).
In 1998, Morissette was a guest vocalist on Ringo Starr’s album Vertical Man (1998), and on The Dave Matthews Band’s Before These Crowded Streets (1998). She also recorded the immensely popular song “Uninvited” for the City of Angels’ (1998) soundtrack.
Later that year, her follow-up album - Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (1998) - was released to critical acclaim but commercial disappointment. The anger and rawness of Jagged Little Pill was gone. Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie eschewed traditional song structures and lyrical formation, making it difficult for radio audiences to get to grips with.
The profanities and vitriol were dispensed with, and nowhere is this more evident than on the album’s lead single “Thank U” - the lyrics “thank you India” directly referencing her self-discovery trip to the East and her achievement of inner peace. From angry young woman to tranquil hippie, Morissette’s musical, and indeed personal, direction took another 90 degree turn.
In 1999, the new transcendent Morissette played God in Kevin Smith’s Dogma (1999), also starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. The film, a humorous indictment of organized religion and especially Catholicism, saw Morissette play a non-speaking, slightly playful and very Zen personification of a loving God.
This wasn’t her only acting venture as she appeared in an episode of Sex and the City in 2000, and reprised her role as God in Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back in 2002. The same year she appeared in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Morissette then appeared in a few episodes of Nip/Tuck in 2006 before playing the regular character Dr. Audra Kitson in Weeds between 2009 and 2010. She last starred in an episode of Up All Night in 2012.
In 2002, Morissette released her fifth studio album, Under Rug Swept (2002), which featured the hits “Hands Clean” and “So Unsexy,” which found the singer-songwriter taking the production reins and delivering arguably her most accomplished album. She was also the sole songwriter and producer for the first time. Later in 2002, she released a DVD called Feast on Scraps (2002), which was a DVD of live concert and backstage documentary footage, and a CD containing eight previously unreleased songs from the Under Rug Swept recording sessions.
In 2004, So-Called Chaos was released, her sixth studio album. In So-Called Chaos, Morissette “revisits her old themes of verbose insecurity, self-discovery, and empowerment, but “allows her music to stagnate under a pop sheen that . . . recycles the techno touches and Middle Eastern flourishes of earlier efforts but this time weds them to the weakest songwriting of her career.” The public seemed to agree, and it was Morissette’s lowest selling album.
In 2005, Morissette released an acoustic version of “Jagged Little Pill”to commemorate the album’s tenth anniversary. In the autumn of 2005, she opened for the Rolling Stones on tour, and also released a greatest hits album, Alanis Morissette: The Collection (2005). She contributed the song “Wunderkind” to the soundtrack of the film The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (2005).
In 2007, she recorded a tongue-in-cheek cover of the raunchy and provocative Black Eyed Peas’ song “My Humps,” which she reworked into a piano driven, mournful number. In 2008, she released Flavors of Entanglement (2008), where she collaborated with producer Guy Sigsworth (Madonna and Bjork).
Flavors of Entanglement was called a “classic breakup record” by Allmusic.com, referring to Morissette’s high publicity split with actor Ryan Reynolds and his subsequent defection to actress and bona fide bombshell Scarlett Johansson.
Morissette had met Reynolds at Drew Barrymore’s birthday party in 2002 and they announced their engagement in February 2004 before splitting in 2007. Now, her love life is firmly on track as Morissette married rapper Mario ‘MC Soulway’ Treadway in May 2010. Their first child, Ever Imrie Morissette-Treadway, was born in December 2010.
In April 2010, she marked her return to music by releasing the song “I Remain” for the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time soundtrack. Then in October 2011, she posted a picture of herself returning to the music studio to record her next album, Havoc and Bright Lights (2012).
Havoc and Bright Lights, her first album in four years, presents a generally mellower Morissette. However, that's not to say her music now lacks potency. Two decades into her recording career, she knows how to craft a catchy pop-rock song, though having Guy Sigsworth (Madonna, Britney Spears) as her co-writer must help.