What If Alanis Stayed Pop?

what if alanis stayed pop image

Nicholas Friesen @Nicholastronaut April 6, 2016

Ottawa-born Alanis Nadine Morissette released her debut record 25 years ago today, the out-of-print dance pop classic Alanis, at age 15. A performer since age nine, Morissette had appeared on You Can’t Do That On Television and demoed tunes with Rich Dodson of The Stampeders before most of us outgrew our Scooby-Doo underoos. At 18 she moved to Toronto and then onto Los Angeles, working with producer Glen Ballard to co-write and produce 1995’s Jagged Little Pill, a Grammy winner for Best Rock Album and Album of the Year. But what if Ballard and Morissette never crossed paths? What if she went country, then indie, all while focusing on her acting career?


April 6, 1991 – MCA releases Alanis exclusively in Canada, co-written by Morissette and co-producer Leslie Howe. Single “Too Hot” reaches the top 20 of the RPM singles chart, while follow up singles “Walk Away” and “Feel Your Love” hit the top 40.

Summer, 1992 – Alanis tours as the opener for Vanilla Ice and is banned from “looking him in the eye.”

March 29, 1992 – Morissette is nominated for three 1992 JUNO Awards, winning Most Promising Female Vocalist of the Year.

August, 1992 – Morissette’s second album, Now is the Time, is released only in Canada. The ballad-heavy disc sells barely half of what her debut did.

September 13, 1993 – Straight to video Canadian film Anything for Love (released as Just One of the Girls for its American television airing) is released, starring Corey Haim and Nicole Eggert. The film features Morissette performing “Feel Your Love” (featuring Haim on keyboards) during a high school talent show.

Autumn, 1994 – Feeling jaded by the music world, Alanis returns to acting, landing a part as Digger on the CBC series The Odyssey, where she befriends actor Ryan Reynolds, who plays Macro. The two begin dating.

Summer, 1995 – Morissette is cast in David Cronenberg’s Crash as Catherine, but is re-cast at the last minute for being “too young” and is replaced by Deborah Kara Unger. Reynolds encourages Morissette to return to music while attending a Shania Twain concert.

December, 1995 – Morissette joins producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange at Vancouver’s Little Mountain Sound studio to begin recording Wake Up!, her third LP. The sessions mix pop (“You Learn”), country (“Ironic”), ballads (“Head Over Feet”) and acoustic sounds (“Perfect”), but the overall tone is country, which results in record deals with Polygram and Mercury.

April, 1996 – The first single from Wake Up!, “You Should Know Better,” is released to country/pop radio with an accompanying video. It does moderately well, reaching the Top 10 in Canada and Top 20 in the US.

Autumn, 1996 – Morissette opens for Shania Twain on a series of tour dates. The second single from Wake Up!, “Head Over Feet” is released but does not chart.

November, 1996 – In an interview with Chart Magazine, she talks about how attempting to “go country” was “a drastic and ill-informed mistake” against her “general interest in pop,” and that she only did it at the request of management.

February, 1997 – Alanis begins writing songs for her new record, collaborating with Our Lady Peace’s Raine Maida and singer Amanda Marshall.

Summer, 1997 – Morissette plays several dates of the Lilith Fair tour on the third, smaller “Village” stage. Her solo acoustic performances are noted as “decent” in a Spin Magazine review.

March, 1998 – Alanis enters the studio with pop producer Max Martin to record three tracks, including “Uninvited,” “Thanks” and “U R So Pure.” The poppy tracks aren’t what her label is expecting, but are enough to be released as an EP (fleshed out by an acoustic take of “You Learn”). A new album is rush ordered by the label for a summer release.

June, 1998 – Ryan Reynolds is cast as Berg on Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place and moves to Los Angeles full time. Morissette follows, but doesn’t move in with Reynolds right away, instead opting to share an apartment with her twin brother Wade.

July, 1998 – Morissette’s Supposedly Pure CD is released to mixed reviews. The pop-heavy disc, featuring a lean 10 tracks, fails to produce a hit single in “Unsent” and a tour opening for Third Eye Blind is less than successful.

June, 2000 – At the encouragement of Reynolds, Morissette returns to acting. The Sex and the City episode “Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl…” airs, featuring Morissette as Carrie Bradshaw’s first “girl kiss.” The singer meets future Stars vocalist Torquil Campell while making the episode and the two become lifelong friends.

August, 2000 – Morissette co-writes several songs for Stars’ debut record, Nightsongs.

December, 2000 – Alanis appears on MTV Cribs with her brother, Wade. The two have such chemistry together that MTV offers them their own reality show, Morissette On It, which premieres the following spring. The show’s depiction of the Morissette twin’s daily yoga practice is largely responsible for 2001’s mainstream yoga movement.

March, 2001 – Director Kevin Smith, a fan of all Canadian culture, contacts Morissette about using her song “Too Hot” during a scene in his new film, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. During the phone call (which lasts four hours) Smith convinces her to also appear in the film as Chrissy, a member of the C.L.I.T.

October, 2001 – Morissette joins Stars’ Amy Millan at an impromptu Broken Social Scene jam, which turns out to be a show. She winds up performing with the band that night and becomes part of the band’s initial “core” line up.

April, 2002 – While accompanying Reynolds at the Van Wilder premiere, Morissette is asked on the red carpet who she is by Entertainment Tonight. She famously flips the bird and says she’s “Shania fucking Twain.”

October, 2002 – Morissette contributes vocals to Broken Social Scene’s You Forgot It In People, specifically the tracks “Lovers Spit” and “Almost Crimes.” The record is released to near universal acclaim. Pitchfork notes that the inclusion of Morissette in the line up is “curious but crucial.”

January, 2003 – Morissette begins writing songs with Brendan Canning for her new album, much of which is documented for her reality show. Canning unwittingly becomes a star in his own right, and leaves Broken Social Scene in May of that year to record the debut Cookie Duster LP.

June, 2003 – Morissette’s latest LP, the ambient/acoustic 21 Things I Want in a Lover, is released through Arts & Crafts in Canada and Maverick in the US. It is a massive indie success and goes on to make many year end lists. No singles are released from the record and Morissette doesn’t do any press. She breaks her contract and leaves her reality show, which Wade continues to star in. MTV changes the name to It Was All a Morissette Up and cancels it six episodes later.

July, 2004 – Alanis performs unadvertised solo acoustic shows around Toronto, Montreal and Calgary. The shows are videotaped by filmmaker Bruce McDonald.

December, 2003 – The singer’s first live album/DVD, Feast on Scraps, is released just in time for Christmas independently through her website. Including footage of the solo acoustic shows and deleted material from her reality show, the collection is a modest hit, and sells out immediately.

April, 2004 – Photos of Ryan Reynolds are published showing he and his Blade: Trinity co-star Jessica Biel locking lips.

November, 2004 – Photos emerge of Morissette working at Toronto charity DAREarts. She does not act or make music for some time.

June, 2006 – The singer’s memoir, In Pill Form, is released. It focuses on pop, label woes, yoga, acting, and her relationship with Reynolds. Her ex responds to the depiction of him on The Late Late Show with Alan Ruck by noting that he was “going through a lot of fame stuff” when they were dating.

June, 2009 – Morissette takes time out from her day job to record her next album, Dylan Is A Man Who Gave Things To The Shredder But The Shredder Didn’t Want The Things So The Things Were Shredded Elsewhere. Released through Arts & Crafts, the record is a modest hit. A video is released for the second single, “Maybe Maybe (Uh Huh)” and features Torquill Campbell lip-syncing to the song while doing an interpretive dance dressed as a chicken. It is noted as an early viral video.

April, 2010 – Morissette does a small Canadian club tour, choosing to perform acoustic renditions of many of her early dance pop hits, as opposed to the songs on the new record.

July, 2011 – Morissette is hired as the temporary host of CBC Radio 2 Drive after host Rich Terfry is reported missing while on tour as Buck 65 in Germany. She remains the host to this day.

March, 2014 – Broken Social Scene announces its break up, intending to perform one final show. Morissette turns down the invitation, stating that she is “done with music.”

June, 2015 – Morissette hosts a retrospective of the television show Degrassi on CTV.

April, 2016 – Morissette celebrates the 25th anniversary of the release of her debut record by announcing a concert tour, during which she will perform Alanis in its entirety. Tickets sell out almost immediately.