Essential Alanis Morissette: The Top 10 Best Tracks

From her dance-pop beginnings, to her angry-rock makeover and the mellow, analytical pop star of now, we countdown Alanis Morissette's best songs

Supplied publicity photo, 2012
   Alanis Morissette Supplied publicity photo, 2012

From her dance-pop beginnings, to her angry-rock makeover, to the mellow, analytical pop star of now, Ottawa-born Alanis Morissette has sold a remarkable 60 million albums worldwide in her 21-year recording career so far. We countdown her best songs in advance of the release of her eighth studio album Havoc and Bright Lights.

10. “Too Hot”
from 1991’s Alanis


You knew this was going to be on the list, right? Every Canadian remembers Morissette’s true debut single. This guilty pop pleasure may be a minor embarrassment for her now, but it really shouldn’t be. After all, the song was an establishing top 20 hit and even got nominated for Single Of The Year at the 1992 Junos — and she won that year for Most Promising Female Vocalist, too. (Well, okay, maybe that very-90s video is just a little embarrassing now.)

9. “No Pressure Over Cappuccino”
from 1999’s MTV Unplugged


One of the first songs Morissette wrote following the Jagged Little Pill sessions, “No Pressure Over Cappuccino” was performed regularly during that album’s supporting tour, and eventually a live version was released on her MTV Unplugged album. This empathetic ballad about a prescient outsider — reportedly about her twin brother Wade — remains one of her most personal and insightful songs.

8. “You Learn”
from 1995’s Jagged Little Pill


Live your life, make mistakes, and learn from them. A simple message to be sure, but it’s one that resonated with millions when it became a radio anthem back in 1996 while she was riding the peak of Jagged Little Pill‘s blockbuster success.

7. “Hands Clean”
from 2002’s Under Rug Swept


Oh sure, “Hands Clean” may sound all sunny-like, but embedded in the lyrics are the details of a creepy older man initiating an affair with an underage girl. The verses tell the man’s story, and the girl replies in the chorus. Appropriately, the way Morissette sings “Ooooooh, this could get messy” sounds like “Ewwwww, this could get messy.” It’s supposedly autobiographical, too. Either way, it was a rightful hit, topping the Canadian singles charts — her last #1 there to date.

6. “Unsent”
from 1998’s Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie


If Jagged Little Pill was about connecting with the world through raw emotion, 1998’s Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie was like the therapy that followed, set to music. Probably only Alanis and her analyst really got that insular record, but “Unsent” was one of the stand-outs. Unconventionally structured, “Unsent” has no chorus, and instead strings together a series of verses, each featuring unsent letters to past loves and describing the lessons learned from each relationship. It’s touching and a successful pop experiment that stands alongside her strongest singles.

5. “Uninvited”
from 1997’s City of Angels soundtrack


Everyone was eager to hear what Morissette would come up with after Jagged Little Pill, and “Uninvited” was the unexpected answer. Instead of a big sing-along single, “Uninvited” was a morose, slow-building ballad whose climax isn’t a hooky chorus, but instead a surging symphonic-rock instrumental. Non-commercial and unusual, “Uninvited” still topped the radio airplay charts even though no video or physical single was released.

4. “Thank U”
from 1998’s Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie


A pulsating hip-hop kick beat helps move along this grateful ode to life experience, with a special thanks to India. Oh, and also terror, disillusionment, frailty, consequence, and a double-thanks to silence.

3. “Hand In My Pocket”
from 1995’s Jagged Little Pill


If Generation X had an anthem, “Hand In My Pocket” comes close to an official one. To paraphrase: they’re poor but kind, sane but overwhelmed, and free but focused, yeeaahh! To this day, it’s a no-brainer to hear why this easy-going track hit all the right zeitgeist marks at the time, and helped Morissette crossover to the top of the pop charts.

2. “Ironic”
from 1995’s Jagged Little Pill


Linguists please go away, like, forever. Yes, we know not every lyric contains a true example of irony — but other than to start a water cooler discussion, nobody really cared. Ironic, don’t you think?

1. “You Oughta Know”
from 1995’s Jagged Little Pill


There’s a reason why four of Morissette’s top 10 tracks are from Jagged Little Pill and specifically why this one is tops. “You Oughta Know” was a legacy breakthrough for both Morissette and women in music. Before “You Oughta Know,” radio programmers were reluctant to feature women on rock-oriented playlists, but afterwards that was no longer the case. The seething anger of “Know” still resonates today. Interestingly, due to initial resistance to Morissette’s radical transformation from teen-pop to rock, this was the only song from Jagged Little Pill to chart below the Top 10 in Canada.

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