A Not-So-Bitter Pill

It's easy to say Alanis Morissette wouldn't be where she is today without the success of Jagged Little Pill. After all, it remains the best-selling debut album in world history, with more than 30 million units sold. Those kinds of numbers guarantee an artist can record albums indefinitely for the rest of her life, no matter how far her sales plummet, as they have done for Morissette.

Pill was such an inexplicable success, a Zeitgeist moment no one anticipated, that the rest of the singer-songwriter's career will forever be defined by the moment in time when every female with musical ambitions wanted to be Alanis. Getting over that — figuring out how to manage her life and her relationships in the wake of it — is pretty much how her latest album, Flavors of Entanglement, arose.

"The irony of my being in the public eye, with such fierceness in the moments that I [was], is that I actually am uncomfortable being in the public eye," says Morissette, now 34 years old. "It's not my preference to be out there in that way."

Pill's success ultimately required what Morissette calls her "recovery," in which she embraced the "rock bottom" she says her life spiraled toward. Flavors of Entanglement is a chronicle of this experience, including some "serious disassemblings" in her personal life — most notably her engagement to and breakup with actor Ryan Reynolds (who just married Scarlett Johansson).

"The best news of all for me was that there is a bottom — because I used to think that emotions were bottomless and if I didn't calibrate it, I would be eaten whole," she says. "I realize the only thing there is bottomlessness to is joy."

The new album is also the product of Morissette taking her first real break in years. "I had not stopped for any length of time, in the way that I did over the last two and a half or so years," she says. "I basically was tending to my personal life, just wanting to kind of shake my tree, so to speak. I was traveling a lot. I went to Fiji, spent some time in Big Sur. I went to the Maldives, did a little bit of charity work here and there, gutted my house and refurbished the whole thing from the ground up, and just basically lived the life that I would then later comment on [in Flavors]."

Morissette is back now, finally at peace with her celebrity. She will probably always exist in the shadow of Jagged Little Pill, and she accepts that. But the ensuing nearly decade and a half of transformation, to the delight of her still-numerous fans, defines her more than any brief moment in time.

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Cole Haddon