Three genre-defining albums, three nostalgic moments, three albums worth celebrating today, and three more grey hairs added to my head. If you grew up the 90’s, these albums are pieces of your childhood, and they rightly deserve a spot in music history. Alanis Morissette, Björk, and Fear Factory each released career-defining albums that have forever cemented their place in the music world, influencing so many artists and still gaining new fans yearly who are discovering these albums for the first time.
As a tribute and “Thank you!” to these fabulous artists who have inspired me throughout the years with their music and lyrics, I’ve decided to dedicate a post to them. Welcome to the 20th Anniversary Celebration for Jagged Little Pill, Post, and Demanufacture. I’ve included the official music videos that have been released from the albums, the full albums from Spotify, as my personal thoughts about each album.
So please enjoy this flashback to 1995, when Alternative Rock was king and we had some of the most kickass music ever. 1995 was one hell of a year for many great albums, and I will eventually be sharing many of my favorites from that year soon.
Jagged Little Pill
“You Oughta Know” official music video
When I first started writing this post it was going to be all about Alanis and Jagged Little Pill, and the word count alone would’ve rivaled my post on Root & Shaw (Shoot) from Person Of Interest as the longest post on this site. But I decided to give everyone – including myself – some breathing room and truncated my original thoughts into the paragraphs that you see below. It doesn’t mean that I might not add a small-ish post with additional thoughts about this album at a later time; the year is still young.
Speaking of Jagged Little Pill, let’s kick off this 20th anniversary post by featuring a song that changed rock music forever when it first hit the radiowaves: “You Oughta Know.” I’m going to take a wild guess and say that about six of the seven billion people that make up this world’s population have heard this song or sung it at least once in a karaoke bar somewhere. An unexpected cold shower of lyrical fury and angry guitars that surprised fans and critics, “You Oughta Know” was a song that spoke to a generation of young women (and men) that had been scorned by many a lover, and this was their anthem. I still remember where I was and what I was doing when I first heard the song on a local alternative rock station in Dayton, Ohio back on July 13, 1995 (i.e. The Day My Life Changed Forever), and the chills that I still get listening to that song shows what incredible staying power it has had since Alanis allowed us into her musical diary. And it’s also a fun song to scream along to.
After “You Oughta Know” was released, the floodgates opened and fans couldn’t get enough of this then-unknown Canadian talent. Outside of her native Canada, most people had no clue who she was…unless you grew up watching Nickelodeon in the early 1980’s and watched a Canadian children’s variety show called You Can’t Do That On Television. While young Alanis was only on a handful of episodes, I still remember watching her on it and not really liking her at all (though I thought she was pretty cute).
Fans of all ages, genders, sexes, etc. ran out to look for Jagged Little Pill. The album was flying off the shelves and it became the biggest-selling debut record of all time – breaking a record that was formally held by Whitney Houston when her self-titled debut was released back in the 1980’s. It seemed like all your friends had the album and always had it on constant replay, burning through their CDs’ and tapes’ and having to replace them.
Out of the three albums featured here, Jagged Little Pill is the most massively successful. Before the Internet Age took over, people still went to record stores to buy albums in droves. One of those records that was purchased by millions and millions of people (33+ million) was JLP. Good luck trying to find any artist that can sell even 1/25th of that number nowadays. Or even hitting the million-sold mark.
What made Jagged Little Pill such an important album in the pop culture lexicon? It spoke to a generation of fans who thought they didn’t have anyone that understood their own anxieties, their love, their pain, and the many emotions they all faced while going through life. There was this young rocker gal who was not afraid to bare her soul & heart to us, and we devoured her music readily, joining her in her musical journey. We made them (the songs) personal to us, sang along to them, and just loved listening to them.
Jagged Little Pill also helped many female artists get noticed, and it was hard not to listen to the radio without hearing a new up-and-coming singer being played after JLP was released. There were barely any women being played on the radio or MTV then, and Alanis’ record helped bring women to the forefront. The influence was so far-reaching that I’m throwing this out there: we are starting to get even more female-driven entertainment like music, movies, TV shows, and so much more, and I think a lot of credit goes to her. Alanis herself refuses to accept that she’s influenced and inspired so many powerful females in the entertainment industry, preferring to be referred to as an influence who just joined an esteemed league of female musicians, but many have acknowledged her as being a glass ceiling breaker and huge influence for them.
There are definitely no filler tracks on JLP. Each track is personal and it’s just damn good music. From the funky opening track “All I Really Want” to the heartbreaking “Mary Jane” and mellow closer “Wake Up,” there’s a song for any fan of any genre. And no – we’re not discussing the non-ironies of “Ironic” – that horse has been put to pasture, sold off for meat, and is now residing in glue bottles. I’m pretty sure I annoyed the hell out of my neighbors by having the album on repeat today, but it’s a yearly tradition for me, and even more-so for this special occasion. My favorite tracks have changed throughout the years, but I think I’ve finally settled on a Top 3 that I really dig.
JLP is a personal record for me for too many reasons to list. It came out at a time in my life when I needed it the most, and it still holds a special place in my heart after all these years. I don’t mean to exaggerate, but this album saved my life, and I will forever be thankful to Alanis for releasing this record. I’m definitely not the only one who has been deeply affected by this record.
My Top 3 Jagged Little Pill Tracks:
2) “Wake Up”
3) “Mary Jane”
“Hand in My Pocket” official music video
“Ironic” official music video
“You Learn” official music video
“Head Over Feet” official music video
“Army of Me” official music video
The eclectic and groundbreaking artist of the three, Björk’s music has captivated audience and critics for years with its musical unpredictability, vocal vulnerability, and the eccentric persona of the artist herself. Björk is truly an artist that defined the 1990’s with her unique mix of trip hop, electronica, alternative, and pop, and Post is a kickass example of what makes Björk an artist worth listening to, while throwing in big band, industrial, and other genres that turn the album into a mad scientist’s ultimate mixtape.
Her third release, Post became a critical & commercial darling upon release, and what really helped push it out to the masses were her massively creative videos that garnered heavy rotation on MTV (back when they played tons of great music videos). Alternative music was at the top of the music world at the time, so you could expect to see a ton of great artists and bands throughout the day, and especially on 120 Minutes – MTV’s alternative music video show. The most recognizable and eclectic video from Post was the perfectly choreographed and smile-inducing “It’s Oh So Quiet,” a frenetic song that tons of people loved. Try to find someone who doesn’t like it or have never heard of it – you won’t find too many people. Or…at least in my generation and the previous one. Directed by Spike Jonze and filled with a fun cast of characters, you can’t help but find yourself singing & dancing along to the video.
Though I don’t have as much to say about Björk as I do Alanis or Fear Factory, it doesn’t mean that her music hasn’t touched, affected, or inspired me. Because of her uniqueness and her willingness to paint out the lines when it comes to her music, Björk is an artist to be admired for not playing by the rules. I find that inspiring. Want to color outside the lines and make art that moves you, regardless of what people say? Do it! Be quirky, be creative, be imaginative, be you. Don’t be hindered by the opinions of others. Sit back, listen, and enjoy the music that you crave. Better yet – throw some Björk into your mix. ‘Cause we all need some Björk in our lives.
My Top 3 Post Tracks:
1) “Army Of Me”
“It’s Oh So Quiet” official music video
“Isobel” official music video
“Possibly Maybe” official music video
“I Miss You” official music video
“Hyperballad” official music video
“Replica” – the only official music video from the album
If the character Samantha “Root” Groves from Person Of Interest had to choose a favorite band, Fear Factory would probably be at the top of her list. Or bottom – their music takes on technology in all its forms, creating a “Man vs. Machine” narrative that started with their debut record, Soul Of A New Machine, and continues on with their upcoming release, Genexus – which talks about “Man & Machine” evolving into one. Maybe she might dig them after all…
A sophomore release that gained critical acclaim & commercial success when it was released, Fear Factory’s Demanufacture is definitely the heaviest album out of the three. Fear Factory gained new fans with this record, which saw them take a huge departure from the sounds of their first album, Soul Of A New Machine. Where SOANM was raw, brutal, and filled with death metal riffs & drumming, deep growls & clean vocals from lead singer Burton C. Bell, and harsh industrial soundscapes, FF took a different approach with Demanufacture. The death metal riffs were replaced with cyber groovy metal riffs, the drumming became tighter and more complex, the bass became more distorted, and Bell’s vocals were cleaner yet still packed a punch on the growls. FF’s signature sound was established with this album and is still quite evident in all of their album releases since (though some albums departed from the sound, though it was still there).
The album is seen as a groundbreaking, genre-defying effort for many reasons, bringing in both metal & non-metal fans into the fold. It is also considered an album so ahead of its time that many bands tried and failed to copy their formula, with little to no success. I can still throw it on to this day and still be taken aback by how amazing the music still sounds after all these years, and I have never bored of it either. It is one of the few albums that has no bad or “filler” tracks – each song has a place in the tracklisting for a reason. It’s an album that still sounds as amazing as it did when it was released on this day.
I got into FF in late-‘98 around the time Obsolete (my other favorite FF album) was released, but I bought Demanufacture the following year and was blown away by the production and heaviness of the record. Definitely a classic metal album that deserves all the kudos it’s received.
My Top 3 Demanufacture Tracks:
1) “Zero Signal” (samples Terminator 2: Judgment Day)
2) “Pisschrist” (samples Terminator 2: Judgment Day)
3) “Body Hammer”
For many fans, their first exposure to Fear Factory’s music and Demanufacture came from the movie Mortal Kombat. Yep, based on the video game. The song “Zero Signal” is famously heard in a badass fight sequence between Scorpion and Johnny Cage as they first square off in the middle of a forest and then make it into a hell dimension of some sort. While they square off, “Zero Signal” is the soundtrack to the mayhem as Scorpion shoots his infamous “spears” at Johnny Cage, who successfully dodges them.
“Zero Signal” is also my favorite Fear Factory for three reasons:
a) the emotional & tight vocal work from Burton C. Bell
b) the music crushes, including the insane drumming work of Raymond Herrera
c) the lyrics hold very deep meaning to me. Example: “I am down on my knees, praying beyond belief, the silence deafens my ears, and welds the shackles onto my fears.”
The song has also been featured in other soundtracks and was also featured on the soundtrack to the popular & controversial PC game Carmageddon. The instrumental version of “Zero Signal” was featured on the game’s soundtrack along with the instrumental versions of the title track and “Body Hammer” (two other badass tracks). As gamers plowed down innocent civilians as they raced through a variety of tracks, Fear Factory’s music could be heard pounding through the speakers. Well – the better to drown out the screams of people as you run them over. [insert head shaking]