Sophomore albums from Alanis Morissette and Jewel
With Wall Street going bonkers, here’s a prediction you can bank on. In November, two pop stars will sell heaps of albums. And days later, the press will accuse them of failure.
The stars are Alanis Morissette and Jewel, and their only commercial mistake is success — too much of it. Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill and Jewel’s Pieces of You shook the record biz by moving 16 million and 8 million copies, respectively. But as Boston, M.C. Hammer, and Hootie & the Blowfish once learned, a record-breaking debut can create impossibly high expectations for that sophomore album. ”What if Alanis Morissette and Jewel come out and sell 150,000 the first week?” offers Val Azzoli, cochairman and CEO of the Atlantic Group, Jewel’s label. ”What happens if Alanis Morissette sells 300,000? I mean, that’s fantastic! But people are gonna say, ‘I don’t know, that’s a long way to 15 million.”’
There’s a catch-22 to market domination. ”If Alanis makes her debut album, part two, and Jewel makes her debut album, part two, they’re going to catch s— for making the same album twice,” explains RCA exec Bruce Flohr. ”But if they take musical chances, people say, ‘Well, it’s not as good as the last one.”’
So what do the new discs sound like? Handlers are reluctant to reveal much beyond the barest facts. ”The album is called Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie,” says Morissette’s independent publicist. ”Here are some song titles: ‘Front Row.’ ‘Baba.’ ‘Thank U’ — and that’s with the letter U.” Gee, thanks. (This we do know: It comes out Nov. 3, 1998. Glen Ballard, who concocted much of Jagged Little Pill, coproduced it. ”Uninvited,” the hit single from City of Angels, is not on it.) ”Well, let’s go deeper here,” the flack goes on. ”I did ask the manager if I can describe any of the music, and he said he’s not ready to go that far yet.” Translation: It’ll take a subpoena from Ken Starr to get Team Alanis to talk.
As for Jewel, her new still-untitled album was produced by erstwhile Madonna collaborator Patrick Leonard, it’s due Nov. 17, 1998, and it’s not an ”inspirational” Christmas album, as some wags have speculated. Neither is it a batch of leftover old songs: Atlantic executives vehemently deny published reports that they scrapped a full Jewel album that was ready for release in the spring of ’97. ”There never was a second record that was trashed,” insists Atlantic’s executive vice president and general manager Ron Shapiro. ”She recorded about 70 percent of an album and abandoned it, so it wasn’t even finished.” Going into a Santa Monica studio over the last several months to cut her new album, Jewel opted to focus primarily on fresher, more recent tunes, instead of those from that lost session.
Either way, nobody’s expecting to repeat that first round of hysteria. ”We went through it with Hootie,” says Azzoli, ”and I’ve said the same thing to Jewel: ‘Listen, I’m in this for the long haul. You’re going to sell 7 million the first time, and 2 million the second, and 2 million the third. Now we have a career. Now you’re a bona fide star.”’ Or, as Bob Dylan once put it, ”she knows there’s no success like failure, and failure’s no success at all.”