On May 2001, Madonna had to meet with Alanis and exert pressure on her not to quit Maverick Records over her disappointing sales - and Maverick marketing - of latest album.
2001 Tour, starting in Los Angeles at the El Rey Theatre May 25th and 26th, showcased some new material which was supposed to be included on her next release. Next, she toured overseas, alternating various festival performances with headlining dates at arenas and clubs. Launching June 1st in Germany, the trek encompassed 12 European countries plus a date in her native Canada.
“These are songs I wrote during the last six months — I’m trying them on for size”
said Alanis near the beginning of her set on the first of two sold-out nights at the intimate 800-capacity El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles. The shows mixed in-concert Alanis favorites with an array of new songs. The new material included “21 Things I Want In A Lover”, “Flinch”, “Narcissus”, “A Man”, “Bent 4 U”, “Fear of Bliss”, “Unprodigal Daughter” and “Purgatorying”: the last four song won’t have been included in the next release, "Under Rug Swept". Cheering her on during the two-nights were such folks as Jonathan Brooke, Paula Cole, Mike Einziger of Incubus, Sean (”Will and Grace”) Hayes, k.d. lang, Lisa Marie Presley, Gavin Rossdale, Gwen Stefani and Quentin Tarantino.
On December 11th, Alanis was honored by the Friends of The United Nations with a Global Tolerance Award, in New York City. According to the organization, the critically acclaimed singer, songwriter and musician had being recognized for making outstanding contributions to promote tolerance through the arts in addition to her work on behalf of tolerance in her personal life and activities. The presentation, which coincided with the U.N.’s Human Rights Day, took place at the United Nations Delegates Dining Room with expected attendance by senior U.N. personnel, members of the diplomatic community and key representatives of the private and civil society sectors.
In addition to working on her new album "Under Rug Swept" (planned for an early 2002 release), Alanis kept busy playing various benefits, including the televised John Lennon tribute from New York City (raising funds to support gun control and assist victims of the September 11th attacks); Toronto’s Music Without Borders event (generating money for the United Nations Donor Alert Appeal, aiding refugees of the conflict in Afghanistan); and Seattle’s Groundworks (benefiting the organization Act To Reduce Hunger).
Alanis expressed her hope for a better world when she shared her song “Utopia” "Under Rug Swept" on her website in the wake of the September 11 attacks. In her own words, she
“just wanted to share as much comfort as I possibly could through the context of music”
Entertainment Weekly’s Beth Johnson described “Utopia”, noting:
“Atop a gentle mandolin, calming strings, and angelic harmonies, she softly croons her wish list for a perfect world, a place ‘without guilt, without fear…with room for every emotion‘”.
For "Under Rug Swept", Alanis wrote 30 songs, recorded 25 of them, but only 11 ended on the album.
Written and produced by her in both Canada (writing and demoing) and Los Angeles (subsequent tracking, layering and mixing), the songs were created with her playing both acoustic and electric guitar and keyboards and were written in a very stream-of-consciousness accelerated way. The album’s first single “Hands Clean” was released in mid-January, with a video — shot in Los Angeles by director Francis Lawrence — to follow shortly thereafter. A worldwide concert tour, set to commence in North America, followed the release of the album.
Invited to join her to play on this record — a mix of guitars and keyboards with subtle atmospheric guitar and pedal sounds and percussion/loops — were many gifted musicians, some of whom include Meshell Ndegeocello, Dean DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots) and Eric Avery (formerly of Jane’s Addiction), along with Alanis’ previous bandmates Nick Lashley, Joel Shearer, Chris Chaney and Gary Novak.