Under Rug Swept is the fifth studio album by Alanis Morissette. It was released on February 26, 2002 by Maverick Records, and was notable for being the first album of her career that Alanis completely wrote and produced by herself.
Two singles were released from the album – Hands Clean on February 2, 2002 and Precious Illusions on August 5, 2002. Despite an accompanying tour and mostly positive reviews from critics, Under Rug Swept didn’t sell as much as her prior two albums on Maverick had.
- Release date: February 26, 2002
- Recorded: Throughout 2001 at Great Big Music, Dog House Studios, Westlake Battery, Royaltone Studios and Larrabee North
- Genre: Pop rock, alternative rock
- Length: 50:23 (Standard Edition) / 60:17 (Japanese Edition)
- Label: Maverick, Warner Bros.
- Producer: Alanis Morissette
All tracks are written by Alanis Morissette.
01. 21 Things I Want in a Lover – 3:28
02. Narcissus – 3:38
03. Hands Clean – 4:31
04. Flinch – 6:03
05. So Unsexy – 5:08
06. Precious Illusions – 4:11
07. That Particular Time – 4:21
08. A Man – 4:33
09. You Owe Me Nothing in Return – 4:57
10. Surrendering – 4:35
11. Utopia – 4:58
12. Sister Bister – 4:11
13. Sorry to Myself – 5:43
Development & Production
Before recording of the album began, Alanis went to Toronto not knowing whether she was going to write songs herself or with someone else. In the first week of her stay, she had written seven songs alone in a fast and accelerated writing process. As on her previous albums, Morissette took a stream-of-consciousness approach to the songwriting. She wrote the music and lyrics at the same time, spending around twenty minutes or less on each song, and recorded the vocals during the writing process, in one or two takes. She had not planned to produce an album on her own, but let it happen organically.
Production of the album was delayed when Morissette became involved in disputes with executives at Maverick Records after she testified at U.S. Government hearings against artist-unfriendly record contract practices. Because she was accustomed to having the producers on her albums act as her buffer to the outside world during recording, she found it a challenge to handle the situation on her own. Eventually, it became too much for Alanis, and she took negotiations into her own hands, halting her work on the album.
Despite the relatively low sales of Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie and MTV Unplugged compared to those of Jagged Little Pill, Maverick Records considered her a strong commercial asset and were concerned that she would leave because of the disputes and release the album on another label. Complicating matters were reports from Entertainment Weekly that she was threatening to leave Maverick, leading to label founder Madonna intervening and persuading Alanis to stay. During the delay, Morissette brought in outside musicians such as bassists Eric Avery (formerly of Jane’s Addiction) and Flea (of Red Hot Chili Peppers, who had previously played bass on You Oughta Know), Dean DeLeo (guitarist for Stone Temple Pilots) and Me’shell Ndegeocello to play on the album.
During the album’s production, 27 songs were written that were eventually narrowed down to 17. While mixing and producing the album, Alanis would find herself shutting down after the 11th track. Not wanting the album to seem like information overload or cramming the tracks onto a double CD, several tracks were held back for a companion EP to be released later, which would ultimately become Feast on Scaps.
Dring the writing and recording of the album, Alanis noticed a unifying theme emerging of the desire to mend unions and bridge gaps, whether it be between genders, between human beings or between spirits. SWhen she began working on the album, she was at the middle of the beginning of the end of a relationship, and that entering the studio and writing new material would propel her to face some of the truths that were scaring her. As the break-up occurred during production of the album, the tone of the album eventually followed suit.
Surrendering was the last song written and recorded for the album. Though several political songs such as Awakening Americans and Symptoms were written during the making of the album, she decided not to include such material in spite of an online petition lobbying for their release. However, the song Utopia was written in January 2002 as a direct response to the 9/11 attacks, and was previewed on her official website not long after.
Under Rug Swept was also influenced by the extensive travelling Alanis did between recording sessions, particularly her stay at a Navajo reservation.
Release & Reception
As a result of its anticipation, Under Rug Swept was closely guarded before its release. In order for journalists to listen to it, they had to be invited to the headquarters at Maverick Records and listen to the album via a single play copy in a special listening room.
Once it was released, reviews of Under Rug Swept were generally positive. Billboard Magazine described the album as very human, satisfying in its handling of darkness, enlightenment, anger, bittersweet tension, and happiness, and predicted that Under Rug Swept would be one of the year’s best. Q Magazine said the album was some of the most inviting music of Alanis’s career, adding that she had fashioned a lyrical Trojan Horse to be wheeled into unsuspecting homes for months to come.
Unfortunately, other critical appraisals were less favorable. Rolling Stone, in a three-star review, called the music brawny and meticulous, and criticized the lack of private details in the songs. Entertainment Weekly claimed it to have some of the clumsiest lyrics to be heard on a pop record in years, with The Village Voice additionally criticized the lyrics. NME thought the album as a whole was a tedious endeavour.
Under Rug Swept entered the Canadian albums chart at number one with first week sales of 35,000 copies, and the CRIA certified it platinum the following month for shipments of 100,000. In the United States, the album sold 215,000 copies in its first week and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart during a busy sales week following the 2002 Grammy Awards ceremony. It stayed in the top spot for a week. Within a month of release, it had sold 500,000 copies, and the RIAA certified it platinum for shipments of over one million. Under Rug Swept debuted at number one in 12 countries, including Germany, Japan and Australia. It debuted at number two in France and the United Kingdom, where the BPI certified it gold for shipping 100,000 copies.
The album stayed in the top 20 on the Billboard 200 for five weeks and on the chart for 24. Its second single, Precious Illusions, was released to radio in May 2002. It reached number four in Canada, but failed to chart on the US Hot 100 or inside the top 40 in Australia or the UK. Later in 2002, Alanis embarked on a world tour, which did not pick up album sales. In August, she performed at the V2002 festival in England. After the failure of Precious Illusions, Maverick did not commercially release any more singles from the album, although “So Unsexy” was tentatively slated as the third single at one point. Promotional singles were issued internationally – Flinch and So Unsexy in Brazil; 21 Things I Want in a Lover in Latin America; Surrendering in Canada; and Utopia in the United States.
Nonetheless, Under Rug Swept received a Juno Award nomination in the category of Pop Album of the Year. Alanis herself won the Jack Richardson Producer of the Year award for the songs Hands Clean and So Unsexy, and she was nominated in the Artist of the Year category.
According to a Maverick Records press release, Under Rug Swept had sold 3.8 million copies worldwide by February 2004. As of March 2012, the album has sold 1,020,000 copies in the US, less than half the amount sold by Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie by the same date.
- Australia – Platinum (70,000)
- Austria – Gold (10,000)
- Belgium – Gold (25,000)
- Brazil – Platinum (125,000)
- Canada – Platinum (100,000)
- France – Gold (100,000)
- Germany – Gold (150,000)
- Japan – Platinum (200,000)
- Switzerland – Platinum (40,000)
- United Kingdom – Gold (100,000)
- United States – Platinum (1,020,000)
- Music videos were made for both of the album’s singles.
- Alanis embarked on a headlining tour aptly titled the Under Rug Swept Tour in 2001, as well as taking part in the Toward Our Union Mended Tour in 2002.