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Love Letter To A Record: Montana Sharp On Alanis Morissette’s ‘Jagged Little Pill’

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this Love Letter To A Record series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Montana Sharp – Alanis Morissette, ‘Jagged Little Pill’ (1995)

I’m 15 years old and in Year 10 at high school. It’s been an angsty and angry year for me; probably the culmination of teenage hormones and the coming-of-age realisation that I no longer relate to the people around me anymore. I don’t know exactly how I stumbled across Morissette’s ‘You Oughta Know’, but when I did, it was a musical and psychological awakening. There was an almost feral quality to her vocals and her lyricism that I had never heard before. The intensity of her anger, so primal yet so poetic, made me feel seen and validated in an environment that felt claustrophobically artificial.

Flash forward four years later and I’m studying songwriting at Monash. I no longer listen to music for catharsis, I listen to it for analysis. Chasing curiosity, I downloaded the entire Alanis Morissette discography, but it’s Jagged Little Pill that grabbed me and has since informed every artistic decision as a songwriter and vocalist.

I’ve listened to these songs every day for the past six years, and I’ve never tired of it.

Each song feels like it was written for the woman exactly like me; ever-frustrated, introspective, sensitive, cerebral, quirky, and probably a little over-dramatic. As heard in songs like ‘All I Really Want’ and ‘Wake Up’, the lyrics are deceptively conversational and auto-biographical, but subtly speak to much larger issues with a cheeky tongue in cheek attitude that I adore so much.

Morisette’s young vocals on this album are strong, intentional, nimble and expansive – but they are not perfect. You can tell they aren’t tuned, and they kept in some “flaws” like vocal breaks and little strains, but that’s what makes the music so beautifully vulnerable within her cloud of pointed anger.

I’m so grateful for this album for giving female songwriters like me the strength and permission to write honestly and unashamedly. The human experience can feel heightened and intense for a lot of people, and it’s hugely cathartic to have great albums like these to soundtrack those realities. Jagged Little Pill is a safe space for me, a refreshing reminder within a society that tends to label anger or sadness as “negative” that no feeling is unwelcome or abnormal.

Morisette’s music always reminds me that good songwriting serves to comfort the artist and validate the audience – this is a lesson I try to incorporate into my own music. This record has been the soundtrack to my youth and I am forever thankful that Alanis was brave enough to vocalise how complex and layered being a young woman can be.

Watch the video for Montana Sharp’s latest, ‘Power’, here.

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