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Alanis Excels On Her Own
Billboard, 1/19/2002, Vol. 114 Issue 3, p1

thanks to Jeffrey Kee for submitting this article

Maverick Artist's 'Under Rug Swept' Marks 'New Plateau'

In the final frame of the clever video for the new Alanis Morissette single, "Hands Clean," a loose retelling of her rise to stardom, she sits alone-serene, comfortable, and completely confident.

After years of collaboration and working under the guidance of others, the artist has taken full control of her creative destiny, as evidenced by her third Maverick opus, Under Rug Swept (Feb. 26).

The sterling collection, which she wrote and produced alone, is her first full-length effort without producer/writer Glenn Ballard, with whom she crafted the influential, mega-selling Jagged Little Pill (1995) and Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (1998). She's previously tested the solo waters with several soundtrack contributions, most notably the 1999 rock-radio smash "Still" from Dogma. It's an evolution that Morissette says was always part of her overall creative plan.

"It was just a matter of when it would happen organically," she explains. "In truth, I didn't know that this would be the album I did alone."

Last year, she took off to Toronto to do some writing without any expectations. "I wound up writing 11 songs in 12 days. That was my signal that it was time to see where I could go on my own."

Morissette juggled the tasks of writing, producing, and performing by compartmentalizing and rarely cross-connecting each area. "That kept things from becoming overwhelming," she says, adding that the process quickly became "one of the most exhilarating of my life as an artist."

The end result is a well-crafted collection that lands somewhere on the stylistic scale between the dark, often angry tension of Jagged Little Pill and the richly textured poetry of Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. Etched with radio accessibility, Under Rug Swept manages by turns to be warmly inviting and emotionally challenging. Tracks like"Hands Clean," "Precious Illusions," and "So Unsexy" show Morissette proudly wearing her affection for concise, pure-pop hooks, while more expansive, introspective interludes like "Flinch" and "That Particular Time" are highly skilled, bravura turns-both in terms of lyrical content and performance.

The set is further enhanced by guest appearances by Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, Dean DeLeo of Stone Temple Pilots, former Jane's Addiction bassist Eric Avery, and Me'shell N'degéocello. But Morissette says she's most excited by the musicians who make up her backing band-Nick Lashley, Joel Shearer, Chris Chaney, and Gary Novak.

"I'm enjoying a collective infatuation with them," she says with a smile. "Our chemistry is perfect. We're going to have the most amazing time together when we go out on the road."

All of these ingredients add up to a recording that Maverick GM Fred Croshal believes will further affirm Morissette's role as one of rock's premiere artists.

"It's an incredible musical journey," he says. "It would be wrong to call it 'her best,' since that signifies a peak. Alanis is an artist who is always growing and reaching new heights. This album marks an impressive new plateau for her."

Under Rug Swept is also proving to be among the most-anticipated releases of the new year at retail.

"It's certainly our most requested pre-release," says James Lonten, manager of a Borders Books & Music store in New York City. "The timing for it is perfect. Alanis has immeasurable goodwill. People want to buy a great record by her, and this is an undeniably great record. I hear at least four hit singles on it."

If initial interest in "Hands Clean" is an accurate indication, Morissette will soon have at least one formidable hit on her hands. A leak of the song on a German Web site, Junkradio, forced Maverick to push its Jan. 21 radio shipment up to Jan. 8.

"Programmers started trying to get the track on the air via that site, which set our plan into hyper-drive," Croshal says. "It was a little stressful, but it's ultimately a good thing when radio pursues a record as aggressively as they did 'Hands Clean.' It bodes extremely well for the single's future."

The label will strive to ensure the positive potential of the single and album with an extensive marketing plan that will keep the artist (who is managed by Scott Welsh at Atlas/Third Rail Management in Los Angeles) in perpetual motion throughout much of this year.

Shortly before the release of Under Rug Swept, the 27-year-old Morissette will do a 10-city promotional tour of major-market radio stations. She's also preparing for a pair of in-store signings/performances the week of Feb. 25. (The in-store locations and dates were still to be confirmed at press time.)

That same week, the artist will appear on Good Morning America, The Rosie O'Donnell Show, Late Night With David Letterman, Last Call With Carson Daly, and the premiere episode of the new Bravo series Musicians. Also planned is a slew of specialty programming on MTV and VH1. Both networks are set to begin airing the clip for "Hands Clean," which was directed by Francis Lawrence.

The Internet will play a sizable role in the marketing of Under Rug Swept, as Morissette has linked with America Online for a listening party and has been named the server's artist of the month for February.

Additionally, Croshal reports that "every possible other entity on the Web is jumping on this project," as a series of online pre-order campaigns are in progress.

The final link to the label's strategy is a tour, which will be booked by Rob Light of the Creative Artists Agency in L.A. Details of the trek are still undetermined, though Morissette is likely to hit the road in the spring. Prior to that, she will head to Europe in March for a string of personal appearances and performances.

The high volume of work is appealing to the artist, who says that she's"excited to get back into circulation and share these new songs with as many people as possible."

When the pressure of the day gets too much, Morissette says she's learned "when to say 'no' and take a step back. It's not a matter of wielding power; it's a matter of understanding your limits and controlling the quality of your life."

This is a fairly new philosophy for a woman who admits that she's previously felt the external pressure around her to do well. "Now, it doesn't bother me. The older I get, the less expectation I have about things like doing well in a numeric sense."

When it comes to the potential success of her latest recording, Morissette says, "I care, but I don't give a shit-if that makes any sense. I care about sharing my music; it's what I'm on earth to do. But I can't get lost in worrying about numbers and that kind of thing. That's the part that I don't really give a shit about. This record will do what it needs to do. I won't feel any more or less valid as an artist based on how many copies it sells."

Morissette adds she's more interested in her feeling remarkably prolific right now. In fact, she wrote 27 songs for Under Rug Swept, several of which will turn up as European B-sides. Most of them, however, will comprise an EP that Maverick will issue worldwide later this year.

"I just could not face the idea of letting all of these songs go," she says, smiling again. "They're all precious to me. It's just a matter of finding the right framework in which to share them with the world."

Morissette notes that her creative energy will not wane once she winds down on this project.

"I'll begin writing my next album sooner than anyone might expect. I'm feeling exceptionally motivated. And I find that I have a lot to say. For me, the interesting part of the journey will be seeing how my ideas and thoughts will formulate. I'm realizing more and more that there are so many ways of expression. Making music as I am right now is just one way of doing it. I still have so many new mountains to climb."