Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Alanis Morissette: Under Rug Swept

On Clem Snide's "Moment In The Sun," singer Eef Barzelay chronicles pop stars' self-obsession ("When it's my moment in the sun / oh, how beautiful I'll be") on his way to the laceratingly sarcastic closer, "Every hero walks alone / thinking of more things to confess." The song was specifically written about preening songbird Jewel, but that last line seems custom-made for Alanis Morissette, who has built a career out of fussily revealing the embarrassing depths of her neurotic bitterness. That formula has never been applied so brazenly as on "Hands Clean," a breezy new single on which Morissette alludes to a scandalous relationship with a childhood Svengali. ("I have honored your request for silence," indeed.) The song is so typically unambiguous—Morissette has never been one to shroud her thoughts in metaphor—that it leaves little to think about beyond the audacity of her opportunism. Still, at least "Hands Clean" is infectious enough to surpass the direst moment of Under Rug Swept, her second studio album removed from 1995's godzillion-selling Jagged Little Pill. That distinction is reserved for the poisonous "Narcissus," in which Morissette viciously dresses down a lover who possesses the gall to avoid talking about their relationship; the song makes it hard not to side with poor Narcissus and imagine the hectoring screeds he must have endured. The biggest problem with Morissette has long been the way she misrepresents her music as empowerment, pretending to seize control when she's merely wallowing in self-righteous victimization, lashing out before retreating into shallow self-pity. To its credit, Under Rug Swept sheds heavy-handed producer Glen Ballard and the thudding portent he applied to 1998's lumbering Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, and the album benefits from its decreased emphasis on Morissette's glass-cutting melismatics. But her personal revelations too often ring false and crass, and nothing undermines a confession like calculation.


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