Hands Clean

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"Hands Clean"
Alanis Morissette - Hands Clean.png
Single by Alanis Morissette
from the album Under Rug Swept
B-side "Fear of Bliss" "Sister Blister" "Awakening Americans" "Unprodigal Daughter" "Symptoms"
Released 8 January 2002 (2002-01-08) (United States)
Format CD single
Recorded 2001
Genre Pop rock
Length 4:31 (album version)
3:50 (radio edit)
Label Maverick
Songwriter(s) Alanis Morissette
Producer(s) Alanis Morissette
Alanis Morissette singles chronology
"King Of Pain"
"Hands Clean"
"Precious Illusions"
"King Of Pain"
"Hands Clean"
"Precious Illusions"

"Hands Clean" is a song recorded by Canadian singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette, for her fifth studio album, Under Rug Swept, which she released in 2002. It was written, composed, and produced by Morissette herself, and released as the album's lead single on 8 February 2002. It is a pop rock song, featuring a shuffling, largely acoustic-rock framework. Lyrically, "Hands Clean" caused controversy, since it is reportedly the singer’s recollection of a forbidden sexual relationship she shared with a much older man when she was approximately 14 years of age.

The song received generally positive reviews from music critics, some of whom immediately chose the track as an album standout compared to some of her previous material. "Hands Clean" did well through the charts. The song peaked at number 23 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The song also peaked at number three on the U.S. Adult Top 40 and topped the charts in New Zealand (Morissette's first number one - and, to date, her last single to appear on the New Zealand charts) and Canada. An accompanying music video was released in 2002 for the single.

Background and release[edit]

After releasing Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, the 1998 follow-up to her 1995 breakthrough album Jagged Little Pill, Alanis Morissette joined MTV for an unplugged album, released in 1999.[1] After that, Morissette stopped either writing or composing for a few months, before developing a new album, through 2000 and 2001.[2] According to Jennifer Vineyeard of MTV News, the album's topic is "love, sex, cruelty - with the added vantage of years spent growing up and getting over the man who vexed her so."[3] When Morissette wrote, composed, and produced Under Rug Swept, which she did all by herself, the singer claimed that she was inspired by many events in her life, such as the break up with her boyfriend, her contract's renegotiation with Maverick, among other issues.[2] I started writing alone, and within the first week I'd written seven songs. So it was all really fast and accelerated, and I think 'Hands Clean' was maybe the 10th song that I wrote and I just wrote it with a guitar in a room.[3] After writing 27 songs for the album,[4] "Hands Clean" was picked to be the first single of the album, being released on 8 February 2002.[5]

Composition and lyrical content[edit]

"Hands Clean," written, composed, and produced entirely by Alanis Morissette, features a shuffling, largely acoustic-rock framework[6] and a "pure-pop" hook.[4] It is written in the key of G major, with a moderate tempo of 96 beats per minute. The introduction follows the chord progression of C–D–G/B–C that repeats throughout the song except for the bridge that is Em-C-G-D two times. Morissette's vocal range spans from the low-note of G4 to the high-note of G6.[7] The narrative voice of the song alternates; the verses are written from the presumed viewpoint of the other person in a relationship, an older man talking to a younger lover ("If it weren't for your maturity none of this would have happened/If you weren't so wise beyond your years I would've been able to control myself" [...] "I know you depend on me like a young thing would to a guardian/I know you sexualize me like a young thing would and I think I like it"), whereas the chorus and bridge represent her own feelings ("We'll fast forward to a few years later/And no one knows except the both of us/And I have honored your request for silence/And you've washed your hands clean of this").[6][8]

Lyrically, "Hands Clean" explores a past relationship and how its effects linger.[6] Jon Pareles of Rolling Stone went farther, writing that the song is about "an apparently matter-of-fact reminiscence of underage sex with a music-business mentor, an affair 'under rug swept.'"[8] However, he commented that the song holds not a hint of Lolita guilt, forbidden passion, or resentment compared to her furious take on the same situation in "Right Through You" on Jagged Little Pill.[8] Website Jam! Music dug deeper, writing that it "tells the story of her attempts to come to grips with an intergenerational affair that started when she was as young as 14,"[9] a statement also made by other critics.[10] In an interview for Q Magazine, Morissette confessed, "The grudge I hold is against myself for having been quiet for so long [...] I've covered his ass for so many years. So now it's almost like ... I wanted to liberate myself from not beating myself up any longer. It's almost irrespective of his involvement now; it's more about me and my relationship with my own past."[9]

In a track-by-track commentary on her album, Morissette further commented about the track:

Critical reception[edit]

While choosing the song as a highlight from Under Rug Swept, Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic compared its lyrics to her earlier hit "You Oughta Know," also noting that "this would all seem calculated, an attempt to regain her chart status, if Morissette wasn't so unabashedly earnest, seemingly unembarrassed by her confessions."[12] Stephen Thompson from The A.V. Club praised the track for being "a breezy new single" and "infectious enough to surpass the direst moment of 'Under Rug Swept.'"[13] David Browne of Entertainment Weekly wrote that the song "could even be seen as a sequel to 'You Oughta Know,'"[14] while Nikki Tranter of Popmatters compared the lyrical content on the song to her previous songs "Plastic" and "Jealous," from her first album, Alanis.[15] Larry Flick of Billboard Magazine noted that the track show[s] Morissette proudly wearing her affection for concise, pure-pop hooks,"[4] while Mark Blake of Q called it "one of the album's peaks."[16] Kitty Empire of NME wrote a mixed review to the track, although calling it "a tolerable enough tune, mind, for those who think their chocolate craving says something poignant about their inner selves."[17]

Chart performance[edit]

"Hands Clean" was a commercial success in many territories, reaching the top-ten in over six countries, while also reaching the top-twenty in seven others. In the United States, the song debuted at number 65 on the week of 8 February 2002,[18] moving to number 49 the following week.[18] The song cracked the top-forty in its third week, climbing to number 39[19] and peaked five weeks later at number 23,[19] due to an increase in radio play.[20] In other Billboard component charts, the song managed to reach number 19 on the Mainstream Top 40 and number 3 on the Adult Top 40. In Canada, "Hands Clean" became her sixth number-one single.[21] In the United Kingdom, the song managed to debut at number twelve, becoming her highest since "Thank U" (1998) as well as her last top-twenty single on the UK charts.[22]

In Australia, "Hands Clean" debuted and peaked at number 9, on 8 February 2002. It became her highest charting single there since "Ironic" in 1996, and her last to reach the top ten.[23] In New Zealand, the song experienced more success, debuting at number 48, but peaking at number one ten weeks later. It became Morissette's most successful single and first number-one hit,[24] while also receiving gold certification by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ). The song also experienced commercial success in some European countries, such as Italy, where it reached number 3,[25] Norway, peaking at number 7,[26] and Switzerland, reaching number 5.[27]

Music video[edit]

Background and synopsis[edit]

Francis Lawrence directed the music video for "Hands Clean." It was televised and broadcast for the single's worldwide release.

The video begins with Alanis sitting in a sushi bar when she spies a man (played by Chris Sarandon) as he enters. She takes a moment to reflect upon her time with him, which, from the look on her face, was not so good. We see Alanis's memories played out on a television screen, and so the process begins, recorded for public viewing and re-viewing. We see her writing about the relationship, guitar in hand, creating a song which she then records and takes to a record producer (played by Ian Gomez), who presses it as a CD. She is soon posing for the CD sleeve photograph and shooting a video, which is played all over the world, just as the CD is being shipped across oceans, in order to be put on display at hip record stores, where it is snapped up by many eager hands, including a girl in a beanie (played by Masiela Lusha). At the video's conclusion, set a year after its beginning, Morissette again sees her former boyfriend enter the same sushi bar. Through her song, and the process of it becoming a hit and then a memory, she has come to terms with her past relationship. On seeing the ex this second time, she is able to move on: before departing the restaurant, she picks up a napkin and wipes her hands clean.


The video was generally praised for being short and simple. It has received 9.5 million views on YouTube by May 2017.[28]

Track listing[edit]

Australian CD 1 / UK CD 1
  1. "Hands Clean" (album version) – 4:29
  2. "Fear of Bliss" (non-LP track) – 4:36
  3. "Sister Blister" (non-LP track) – 4:10
Australian CD 2 / EU maxi-single
  1. "Hands Clean" – 4:29
  2. "Awakening Americans" – 4:25
  3. "Unprodigal Daughter" – 4:09
  4. "Symptoms" – 4:15
  1. "Hands Clean" – 4:29
  2. "Unprodigal Daughter" – 4:09
  3. "Symptoms" – 4:15
US CD single
  1. "Hands Clean" – 4:29
  2. "Awakening Americans" – 4:25
  3. "Symptoms" – 4:15

Official versions[edit]

  • "Hands Clean" (album version) – 4:29
  • "Hands Clean" (acoustic version) – 4:08
  • "Hands Clean" (radio edit) – 3:50
  • "Hands Clean" (sound check)

The album version has a repeat of the chorus before an instrumental solo plays until the end, while the radio edit only plays the chorus once at the end before the instrumental solo.


Chart (2002) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[23] 9
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[29] 12
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[30] 40
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[31] 38
Brazil (ABPD)[32] 5
Canada (Nielsen SoundScan)[21] 1
Europe (Eurochart Hot 100) 19
France (SNEP)[33] 66
Germany (Media Control)[34] 18
Ireland (IRMA)[35] 13
Italy (FIMI)[25] 3
Netherlands (MegaCharts)[36] 15
New Zealand (RIANZ)[24] 1
Norway (VG-Lista)[26] 7
Portugal (Portuguese Singles Chart)[37] 4
Romania (Airplay Top 100)[38] 99
Spain (AFYVE)[39] 14
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[40] 32
Switzerland (Hitparade)[27] 5
United Kingdom (The Official Chart Company)[22] 12
US Billboard Hot 100[21] 23
US Billboard Mainstream Top 40[21] 19
US Billboard Adult Top 40[21] 3

End of year chart[edit]

End of year chart (2002) Position
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[41] 95


  1. ^ "Alanis Morissette | Biography | Allmusic". Allmusic. Retrieved 30 July 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Sullivan, Kate (March 2002). "Well-Rounded Little Pill". Spin. SPIN Media LLC. 18 (3): 88. ISSN 0886-3032. Retrieved July 30, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Vineyeard, Jennifer. "Alanis Morissette: The Silence is Over". MTV News. Archived from the original on 9 August 2014. Retrieved 30 July 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c "Alanis Excels On Her Own". Billboard. February 08, 2002. Retrieved 31 July 2014.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. ^ "Hands Clean - Alanis Morissette | Allmusic". Allmusic. Retrieved 31 July 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c "'Under Rug Swept:' A Track Listing". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 114 (3): 89. 08 February 2002. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 24 August 2014.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  7. ^ "Alanis Morissette "Hands Clean" Guitar Tab - Download & Print". MusicNotes.com. Retrieved 24 August 2014. 
  8. ^ a b c Pareles, Jon (08 February 2002). "Alanis Morissette: Under Rug Swept: Music Reviews: Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. RealNetworks, Inc. Archived from the original on 2 May 2009. Retrieved 24 August 2014.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  9. ^ a b "Alanis comes clean on teen affair". Jam! Canoe. 7 December 2004. Retrieved 24 August 2014. 
  10. ^ "Alanis Morissette - Under Rug Swept - Plugged In". Plugged In. Archived from the original on 26 August 2014. Retrieved 24 August 2014. 
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  12. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas (08 February 2002). "Under Rug Swept - Alanis Morissette | Allmusic". Allmusic. Retrieved 24 August 2014.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  13. ^ Thompson, Stephen (08 February 2002). "Alanis Morissette: Under Rug Swept: Music Review: The A.V. Club". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 24 August 2014.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  14. ^ Browne, David (08 February 2002). "Under Rug Swept | Music Reviews and News | EW.com". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 24 August 2014.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  15. ^ Tranter, Nikki (14 May 2002). "Alanis Morissette: Under Rug Swept: PopMatters". PopMatters. PopMatters Media, Inc. Retrieved 24 August 2014. 
  16. ^ Blake, Mark. "Q4music.com - Alanis Morissette: Under Rug Swept". Q. Archived from the original on 1 November 2004. Retrieved 24 August 2014. 
  17. ^ Empire, Kitty (12 September 2005). "NME Reviews - Morissette, Alanis : Hands Clean | NME.COM". NME. Retrieved 24 August 2014. 
  18. ^ a b "Billboard Hot 100". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 114 (6): 67. 8 February 2002. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 24 August 2014. 
  19. ^ a b "Billboard Hot 100". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 114 (7): 75. 8 February 2002. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 24 August 2014.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "hot100top40" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  20. ^ "Grammy Surge Pushes 'O Brother' To The Top". Billboard. 14 March 2002. Retrieved 24 August 2014. 
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  23. ^ a b "Alanis Morissette - Hands Clean". Australian Recording Industry Association. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2012-08-21. 
  24. ^ a b "Alanis Morissette - Hands Clean". Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2012-08-21. 
  25. ^ a b "Alanis Morissette - Hands Clean". Federation of the Italian Music Industry. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2012-08-21. 
  26. ^ a b "Alanis Morissette - Hands Clean". Verdens Gang. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2012-08-21. 
  27. ^ a b "Alanis Morissette - Hands Clean". Media Control. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2012-08-21. 
  28. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dH289KxkGw&ob=av3e
  29. ^ "Alanis Morissette - Hands Clean" (in German). IFPI Austria. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2012-08-21. 
  30. ^ "Alanis Morissette - Hands Clean" (in Dutch). Ultratop. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2012-08-21. 
  31. ^ "Alanis Morissette - Hands Clean" (in French). Ultratop. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2012-08-21. 
  32. ^ "Brazil" (PDF). ABPD. October 6, 2001. Retrieved April 1, 2014. 
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  34. ^ "Alanis Morissette German Charts" (in German). Media Control. musicline.de. Retrieved 2012-08-21. 
  35. ^ "Top 50 Singles, Week Ending 23 February 2002". Irish Recorded Music Association. Chart-Track. Retrieved 2012-08-21. 
  36. ^ "Alanis Morissette - Hands Clean" (in Dutch). MegaCharts. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2012-08-21. 
  37. ^ "Top40-charts.com". Retrieved November 24, 2015. 
  38. ^ "Archiva Romanian Top 100". Archived from the original on 17 December 2004. Retrieved 2012-08-21. 
  39. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 8480486392. 
  40. ^ "Alanis Morissette - Hands Clean". Swedish Recording Industry Association. Hung Medien. Retrieved 2012-08-21. 
  41. ^ "Billboard Top 100 - 2002". Archived from the original on 7 January 2014. Retrieved 2013-11-15. 

External links[edit]