The first track, "21 Things I Want in a Lover", features Morissette listing the qualities she looks for in a partner. "There's a part of this song where I'm joking, but there's a whole part of this song where I'm dead serious", she said. "Because the palm sweating, heart palpitating beginnings of a relationship often result in a huge amount of incompatibility, so the concept of compatibility is so much more important to me as I get older." "Narcissus" describes, as Morissette puts it, "that dichotomy of loving someone and really wanting it to work and wanting to bridge the gap and bridge the chasm and, yet at the same time, being totally repulsed by the qualities that are being presented and the pain that comes from it." She said the intention of writing "Hands Clean" was "to get to a place where I could be as truthful and as honest as I possibly could be about certain relationships in my past ... oftentimes I feel by not speaking the truth, by being silent, there's an element of an untruth in that ... [it] sometimes can feel just as horrible as a lie to me."
"Flinch", the fourth track, was written about an experience Morissette had during which she almost ran into a man who had a profound effect on her: "I was surprised at how many years had past but still I was responding to the situation as though I had been spending time with him two minutes earlier ... I do believe that I will be able to get to a point where hearing his name or even running into him or hearing from him won't trigger me as much as it did and still does." With "So Unsexy", Morissette said she was "really trying to get into the underbelly of some of my insecurities and why little tiny things that are innocuous and inconsequential are translated in my own mind as to be taken so personally ... as long as I have my own back, it's not as scary and it's not as horrifying." In "Precious Illusions" she discusses "the difference between really being alive and really embracing the reason why I'm here on this earth versus my just being asleep and sleep walking and accepting the status quo and accepting somewhat of a suffering mentality to being here. It really is my responsibility to distinguish the difference between the two and choose which one I want."
Track seven on the album, "That Particular Time", documents a breakup and "the three distinct chapters in the relationship" Morissette was going through. "[Love] took many different forms, and I was beating myself up for a long time for being in a relationship that just didn't feel right", she said. "But then I realized that it was a very loving act for me to stick it out for a minute or two to really kind of see whether there was something worth continuing to explore in a romantic way." She said of "A Man", which is written from a male point-of-view as a response to "Narcissus", "For once I try to feel a bit of empathy and to imagine how it feels being a man in these confusing times ... I try to react as an honourable man to the vibes of erroneous machos who are damaging the image of my sex. "You Owe Me Nothing in Return" is, in Morissette's words, "about the real definition of what love is ... wanting for someone that you love what they want for themselves. And at the same time not sacrificing my own life and my thoughts and my own beliefs. Supporting someone in their choices and at the same time being able to express what mine are, even if they differ, is the ultimate healthy, loving interaction."
The tenth and penultimate track, "Surrendering", was the last song Morissette wrote for the album. According to her, it is "about the gratitude that I feel for someone tapping into the courage that it takes to allow themselves to be loved and to drop the defenses and fears ... And how thrilling it is for me to be able to be let in that kind of way ... It's a very peaceful, joyful song". Morissette considers "Utopia" a summary of the feminine and masculine elements in the relationship chronicled in the album: "For me, it's like they're sitting together in the same car and are finally driving down the same road in the same direction and there's a meeting of both worlds." She said that when she wrote it, she knew it would be the last track.
Morissette wrote several political songs such as "Awakening Americans" and "Symptoms" during the making of the album, but she decided not to include such material in spite of an online petition lobbying for their release. Morissette said she doesn't "resonate" with overtly political songs because they are "removed too much" from her personal experiences: "I love sitting up at two in the morning talking religion, but when it comes to my songs, it's just rambling, soapbox, obnoxious", she said. ("Awakening Americans" and "Symptoms" were released as B-sides.)
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. As she put it, she had to go through lawyers to "have a dialogue with people" and take extended period of time to "have one little thing figured out". Because she was accustomed to having the producers on her albums act as "the buffer to the outside world" during recording, she found it a challenge to handle the situation on her own. "I was trying to be isolated enough to tap into my artistry while keeping people at bay who don't know fuck all about nurturance", she said. Eventually, it became "too much" for Morissette and she took negotiations into her own hands, which meant she had to halt her work on the album: "I had to be willing to throw the record away and not ever release it."
Despite the relatively low sales of Morissette's previous two albums, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie and MTV Unplugged (1999), compared to those of her international debut album, Jagged Little Pill (1995), 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. For a time Morissette was threatening to leave Maverick (according to Entertainment Weekly), until label founder Madonna intervened and persuaded her to stay. During the delay, Morissette brought in musicians such as bassists Eric Avery (formerly of Jane's Addiction) and Flea (of Red Hot Chili Peppers), Dean DeLeo (guitarist for Stone Temple Pilots) and Me'shell Ndegeocello to play on the album. After this period, in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, she previewed the track "Utopia" on her website.
During the making of the album, Morissette wrote twenty-seven songs, which she eventually narrowed down to seventeen. When she was mixing and producing the album, every time she reached the eleventh track she, as she put it, "would shut down. My brain would shut off and I just felt like it was information overload ... I didn't want to overwhelm myself or anyone else in the process of trying to cram them all onto the double CD. She planned for several of the excluded songs to be released as single B-sides or on a separate EP to be released after the album; eight of them were released on a CD/DVD package, Feast on Scraps, released in late 2002. "I just could not face the idea of letting all of these songs go", she had said. "They're all precious to me. It's just a matter of finding the right framework in which to share them with the world."
Other critical appraisals were less favorable. Rolling Stone, in a three-star review, wrote "The music is brawny and meticulous ... [but] Under Rug Swept just about drowns in psychobabble. While the tone of the songs, and the grain of Morissette's voice, promise intimacy, there's hardly a private detail anywhere. Entertainment Weekly said "the album's garbled title is also preparation for some of the clumsiest lyrics to be heard on a pop record in years ... The songs are riddled with such overwritten Psych 101 ruminations. The Village Voice criticised the lyrics, saying "Much like even non-football fans used to be mesmerized by [[Howard Cosell|[Howard] Cosell]]'s genius for never using two words when 23 would do, you don't have to be a love-damaged 17-year-old girl to find Under Rug Swept's dense verbiage a trip. Words tumble forth and arrange themselves kaleidoscopically into all sorts of unusual categories ... I'm just not sure that pop music should come out of a thesaurus. NME called it "a tedious album" with "overwrought folk-rock like 'Surrendering' and 'Hands Clean' destined for a thousand organic juice bars. Lyrically, it's often hilarious ... This record moves way beyond armchair psychology — in fact, there are armchairs that have a cannier grasp of the mind.
Under Rug Swept received a Juno Award nomination in the category of "Pop Album of the Year", which it lost to Avril Lavigne's Let Go. Morissette 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. (For more information, see Juno Awards of 2003.)
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 U.S. the album sold 215,000 copies in its first week, debuting 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 twelve 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 twenty on the Billboard 200 for five weeks and on the chart for twenty-four. A second single, "Precious Illusions", was released to radio in May 2002 and reached number four in Canada, but it failed to chart on the U.S. Hot 100 or inside the top forty in Australia or the UK. Later in 2002 Morissette 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 U.S. "Flinch" reached the top forty on the Brazilian singles chart, but "21 Things I Want in a Lover" did not.
As of September 2008 the album had sold 1,017,000 copies in the U.S., half the amount sold by Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie by the same date. According to a Maverick Records press release, Under Rug Swept had sold three million copies worldwide by February 2004.
1 These two tracks are bonus downloads available from underrugswept.com through a registration program on the album's original U.S. release.
2 This track is also featured on her follow-up CD/DVD package Feast on Scraps.
|Canada Albums Chart||1|
|Australia Albums Chart||1|
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|Ireland Albums Chart||1|
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|Japan Oricon Albums Chart||1|
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|U.S. Billboard 200||1|
|France Albums Chart||2|
|Israel Albums Chart||2|
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|Belgium Albums Chart||3|
|Poland Albums Chart||3|
|Sweden Albums Chart||3|
|New Zealand Albums Chart||11|
|CAN||U.S. Hot 100||U.S. Hot 100 Airplay||U.S. Modern Rock||U.S. Adult Top 40||U.S. Top 40/Pop||UK||AUS|
|"Hands Clean"||New Zealand Top 50 Singles||1|
|Tokio Hot 100||1|
|World Chart Show (airplay)||1|
|Brasil Top 100 Singles||2|
|Italy Top 50 Singles||3|
|Switzerland Top 100 Singles||5|
|Netherland Mega Top 100 Singles||15|
|Germany Top 100 Singles||18|
|Sweden Top 60 Singles||32|
|Belgium Top 50 Singles||40|
|France Top 100 Singles||66|
|"Precious Illusions"||Canada Top 50 Singles||4|
|World Chart Show (airplay)||18|
|Italy Top 50 Singles||21|
|Australia Top 100 Singles||41|
|UK Top 75 Singles||53|
|Germany Top 100 Singles||77|
|Netherland Mega Top 100 Singles||79|
|Switzerland Top 100 Singles||95|
|U.S. Billboard Adult Top 40||16|
|"Flinch"||Brasil Top 100 Singles||26|
|"21 Things I Want in a Lover"||Brasil Top 100 Singles||48|