The Alanis Morissette Album From the ’90s America Needs Now


Alanis Morissette in 1999.

Jeremy Bembaron/Sygma, via Getty Images

Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill,” which just had its 22nd anniversary, is not only one of the landmark albums of the ’90s; it has proved evergreen even as time has left other albums of similar aesthetic and acclaim behind. A musical based on the album — which has been in the works since 2013 — is slated to open at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass., in May 2018, with an eye toward Broadway.

The musical that pulls from pop culture is having a moment. Of course, “Hamilton” stands out, but there are other examples: A musical based on the 1991 novel “American Psycho” made its Broadway debut in 2016, along with a musical scored by the pop star Sara Bareilles and based on the 2007 film “Waitress.” The pop-culture musical feels like it is reaching a peak of popularity as a vehicle for both cultural commentary and emotional escape, and so adapting “Jagged Little Pill” into a musical feels smart, though its execution remains up in the air.

Too often, “Jagged Little Pill” is discussed only in terms of its bitterness and aggression – something that, I imagine, wouldn’t be so common if the album had been recorded by a man. The album was acclaimed upon its release — and remains so today — but even the most glowing praise still reduced Ms. Morissette’s work to its harshest emotions, and labeled them surprising. This flattening out of the album’s story does something that is still all too common: It reduces a woman’s emotions to the ones that are easiest for men to dismiss. In 2017, too many Americans still react with confusion and alarm to a woman who steers a conversation on her own terms. During Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of…

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