Bittersweet Pill

Alanis Morissette has jumped from kiddie crushes to adult angst

Morissette's break came after she moved to Los Angeles in 1994, where she continued writing through MCA and latched onto collaborator Glen Ballard, a producer/writer who had worked with Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones. The pair hunkered down in Ballard's studio and cranked out the 13 songs that would end up on the album.

The final piece of the puzzle came in the form of L.A.'s Maverick Records, the fledgling label set up by Madonna. Maverick took notice of the wide range of stuff on the Morissette/Ballard demos, didn't give a hoot about her sugary past and in no time offered her a contract.

The rest has been a shock to just about everyone involved. Nobody -- Morissette, Ballard, Maverick -- figured she'd get this big this fast. With its combination of primal-scream therapy, Morissette's vocal range and catchy, not-quite-bordering-on-cliche guitar-rock arrangements, Jagged Little Pill is arguably one of the more diverse debuts to come out of the current pack of alt-rock divas. And it's made quite a splash, with the CD going gold within two months of its release and "You Oughta Know" on the verge of saturation on MTV and radio.

"Look at it," says Abbey Konowitzh, Maverick's general manager. "Eight weeks ago, she was a complete unknown in this country. You're always surprised when any artist moves really quickly, but this kind of immediacy is rare."

More than that, her hit tune has even been used as a therapeutic tool. One night a few weeks back on Love Phones, the syndicated New York-based sex-talk show carried locally on KZFX/107.5 FM, resident sex therapist and psychologist Dr. Judy and host Jagger were listening to a female caller cry into the phone about a guy who had dumped her. Jagger hauled out "You Oughta Know," played a couple of verses and told the caller to get tough. "Now you go tell that guy to fuck off," he said.

But Morissette says she's not ready to be anyone's love doctor. "I guess I've always been somewhat of an advice giver, I mean I've always been the kind of person you could talk to until five in the morning," she says. "But as for me being given this whole new responsibility for other people's troubles, well, I don't agree with it. That's way too much pressure for one person. Just because someone writes music that people relate to doesn't mean they're a god, when they have enough problems being in charge of themselves, at best."

Another of Morissette's beefs, at least at the outset of her North American tour, was the moshing at her shows. "I mean, I didn't know what to do. I thought, 'What are these people doing, this record is not about moshing,'" she says. "But I get it now: if this is the way people want to get rid of their stress, then let them do it their way."

Don't expect Morissette to end up in the pit any time soon, though. That's one leap she's not prepared to take. Relationships -- at least in the immediate future -- are another. "With all these years that maybe I've been intellectually ahead of myself, well, I'll tell you, I have an emotional part of me that has to do some catching up," she says. "I still have things to learn."

For now, support from her parents is enough. "I can tell you exactly what my father told me over the phone when he called me up after he first heard the record," she says. "He said, 'So, Alanis, you're expressing some emotion. That's good.'"

Alanis Morissette performs at 8 p.m. Sunday, August 27 at Numbers, 300 Westheimer. Loud Lucy opens. The show is sold out. For info, call 526-6551.

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