Release date: April 1991
Alanis is the debut album by Alanis Morissette, released only in Canada in April 1991 by MCA Records Canada. Morissette recorded the album with Leslie Howe, who also produced her second album Now Is the Time (1992), and it was certified platinum.
Background and recording
John Alexander, head of A&R for MCA Records Canada, first heard a demo tape from Morissette in 1983, when she was nine years old. He called it "very promising. Her voice was very strong, and it was remarkable that the tape included some original songs written by her at that age." However, he decided not to sign her to a record deal because "from an A&R standpoint, I said, 'What am I going to do with a nine-year-old?'". In 1987 Morissette met entertainment manager Stephan Klovan, and at the 1988 World Figure Skating Championships she recorded a well-received version of "O Canada" with two musicians, one of whom was Leslie Howe of the new wave/synthpop duo One to One. Klovan intended for Howe to work with Morissette so that she could audition on the television show Star Search, but eventually both he and Howe decided to try to secure a record contract for her.
One of the demo recordings Howe and Morissette created with keyboardist Serge Côté in the studio was "Walk Away", for which Howe and Klovan funded an expensive promotional video that was filmed in Paris, France. In 1988 Howe sent the video to Alexander, who later arranged a dinner meeting with Morissette. "I could tell that she was a very focused and passionate 14-year-old girl, who was also very talented", Alexander said. "I felt strongly that we could work together to build her music career." The next day he met Morissette and her parents and told them he wanted to sign her, but MCA Records did not endorse this decision. Leeds Levy, president of MCA Publishing in North America, thought that Morissette had talent and agreed to sign her to a publishing deal as well as help fund a record deal for her. MCA Publishing financed the album through Hot Mustard Records, its new independent label for the development of new artists, and MCA Records distributed it. The album was recorded in Distortion Studios, Ottawa between September and December 1990.
According to Morissette, people from MCA placed "hardcore" pressure on her to lose weight in time for the album's release, leading her to develop anorexia nervosa and bulimia. She recalled returning to the studio to re-record some vocals, only to be told "I actually wanted to talk to you about your weight. You can't be successful if you're fat." During this period, she lived on a diet of carrots, black coffee and Melba toast, and her weight fluctuated between 15 and 20 pounds. She subsequently began therapy, which she called "a long process to un-program my brain. I try to remember, whatever my body is, it's perfect the way it is."
Release and reception
Following the release, the media drew comparisons between Morissette and other teen pop singers at the time such as Debbie Gibson and Tiffany. Its first single, "Too Hot", reached number fourteen on the Canadian singles chart and, in July, peaked within top ten on contemporary hit radio. CBC called the song "Paula Abdul-inspired", and the Arizona Daily Wildcat described it as "cheesy" and "poppy". "Feel Your Love" was released as a single during this period, and the CRIA certified the album gold. Alanis reached number twenty-five on the Canadian album chart, and two other singles were released: "Walk Away", the video for which featured Matt LeBlanc, and "Plastic". At the 1992 Juno Awards "Too Hot" received nominations for "Single of the Year" and "Best Dance Recording" (for the "Hott Shot" remix), and Morissette won the award for "Most Promising Female Vocalist". The album went on to sell over 200,000 copies.