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Liz Phair - Whip-Smart.jpg
Studio album by Liz Phair
Released September 20, 1994
Recorded August 1993
Idful Studios, Chicago
February 1994
Compass Point Studios, Nassau
Genre Indie rock
Length 42:02
Label Matador
Producer Liz Phair and Brad Wood
Liz Phair chronology
Exile in Guyville
(1993)Exile in Guyville1993
Singles from Whip-Smart
  1. "Supernova"
    Released: July 23, 1994
  2. "Whip-Smart"
    Released: February 15, 1995
  3. "Jealousy"
    Released: August 8, 1995

Whip-Smart is the second album by American singer-songwriter Liz Phair, released in 1994, the follow-up to Phair's critically well received debut, 1993's Exile In Guyville. Despite not being as critically well received as her previous record, Whip-Smart debuted at #27 on the Billboard 200[1] and ultimately achieved gold status. As of July 2010, it had sold 412,000 copies.[2]

At the time of its release Whip-Smart received generally favorable reviews from music critics, figuring inside end of year lists, including those by the Los Angeles Times and Q Magazine. The album was ranked sixth for its year inside The Village Voice Pazz and Jop Poll.[3] Although obscured by its famous predecessor, the album has gained more recognition with time and is largely considered a key record to Phair's legacy as an artist, along with her other two Matador Records releases and the Girly Sound tapes. In 2003, the German version of Rolling Stone magazine placed the record at 95 on its list of greatest records since Autumn of 1994.[4] In 2014, Rolling Stone named Whip-Smart the 18th greatest album of its year – considered by the magazine the peak of mainstream alternative rock.[5]


After the success of Exile in Guyville, expectations ran high for Liz Phair's sophomore release.[6] Phair's debut album had sold over 200,000 units by the spring of 1994 and was Matador's most successful release so far. The success of Exile in Guyville prompted many major labels to seek a distribution deal with Matador, most saliently Atlantic Records, which would form Phair's next album deal.

As a result, Whip-Smart was one of the most anticipated albums of the year. Danny Goldberg, then-president of Atlantic Records, predicted that the record would "hit gold quickly", and both Rolling Stone and Spin were interested in featuring Phair on their covers.[7]


Phair described Whip-Smart as particularly difficult to make because at the time she didn't have many songs that weren't about the music industry, which displeased her manager.[8] In fact, a substantial number of tracks on the final album (namely, "Chopsticks," "Shane," "Go West," "Whip-Smart," and parts of "Jealousy", previously known as "Thrax") were songs already written in 1991, when Phair recorded under the Girly-Sound moniker.

In total, Whip-Smart took about one month to record. The album was recorded in two distinct sessions: the first in August 1993 in Chicago, and the second in February 1994 in the Bahamas.

Guitarist Casey Rice described the initial sessions at Idful Studios in Chicago as subject to many distractions, such as "the phone ringing, people dropping by the studio, and so on". Phair wanted to move recording to New York City, but due to financial constraints, the band ended up continuing with Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas instead.

The same team that worked on Guyville worked again on what would become Whip-Smart. The album was recorded and mixed by Brad Wood, with the assistance of Casey Rice. Wood characterized the recording process as very much spontaneous, saying that "[Liz would] bring in a song and we'd record the whole thing that day. I'd have to write a drum and bass part right on the spot." There was, however, pressure to improve on the sound of the previous record, to meet the expectations of Phair's newly formed fanbase.

Liz Phair has described Whip-Smart as a chronicle of the beginning, middle and end of a relationship: "a rock fairy tale, from meeting the guy, falling for him, getting him and not getting him, going through the disillusionment period, saying 'Fuck it,' and leaving, coming back to it." Phair also described the sound of the album as more confident and playful -- and less frustrated, tense, and sexual -- than Exile in Guyville.[7]

Phair is credited, along with Matador Records' in-house art designer Mark Ohe, with the album's art and layout. The cover image incorporates a Soviet propaganda poster. [9] The inner liner notes feature a series of Polaroid photographs taken by Phair herself.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3.5/5 stars[6]
Chicago Sun-Times 4/4 stars[10]
Chicago Tribune 3/4 stars[11]
Entertainment Weekly B[12]
Los Angeles Times 4/4 stars[13]
NME 6/10[14]
Q 3/5 stars[15]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[16]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3/5 stars[17]
Spin Alternative Record Guide 9/10[18]

Critical reception was generally favorable. Richie Unterberger of Allmusic states that "if there are flaws in this generally first-rate follow-up, they mostly arise in comparison with Guyville, a record of such unexpected impact that most anything Phair could have done may have been found lacking" and that "there's no question that Phair is a major songwriter and artist, but this album is more a solidification of her talents than a breakthrough statement."[6]

Whip-Smart debuted at #27 on the Billboard 200 and spent 17 weeks on the charts.[1] The lead single "Supernova" received somewhat heavy rotation on radio stations and the music video was aired on MTV. The song went on to hit #6 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart and #78 on the Billboard Hot 100. In fact, "Supernova" introduced Phair to a new audience and still remains one of her most recognizable songs. In 1995, it was nominated for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance in the 37th Annual Grammy Awards.[19]

Phair was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone on the week Whip-Smart was released, and by 1994 and 1995, she made a frequent number of television appearances, including the Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and MTV's 120 Minutes.

However, despite its early success, Whip-Smart quickly departed the charts. Even though the second single and title track "Whip-Smart" was also successful, it failed to capture the same amount of attention of "Supernova", and by the time the third single "Jealousy" was released, the interest in the album was much smaller. Besides this, Phair canceled her tour shortly after the album was released, causing Atlantic's legal department to send her several letters demanding her to tour or risk defaulting on her contract.[20] Phair stated, "Basically they wanted me to be public, I wanted to be private. All these people wanted me to be really big and I felt like this tiny pea in the center of all this chaos. I didn't want this success. I kept thinking this is wrong. Why do all these people want it so much more than I do?"[7]

According to a Billboard article, Whip-Smart has sold 412,000 copies in the US based on SoundScan sales, and is certified gold by the RIAA. As of July 2003, the album had sold 600,000 globally, making it her most commercially successful album.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Liz Phair, except where noted.

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Chopsticks"   2:05
2. "Supernova"   2:48
3. "Support System"   2:58
4. "X-Ray Man"   2:13
5. "Shane"   4:12
6. "Nashville"   4:42
7. "Go West"   3:17
8. "Cinco de Mayo"   2:43
9. "Dogs of L.A."   2:21
10. "Whip-Smart" Phair, Malcolm McLaren 4:18
11. "Jealousy"   3:37
12. "Crater Lake"   2:06
13. "Alice Springs"   1:50
14. "May Queen"   2:42




Year Chart Position
1994 Billboard 200 27


Year Single Chart Position
1994 "Supernova" Modern Rock Tracks 6
1994 "Supernova" Billboard Hot 100 78
1995 "Whip-Smart" Modern Rock Tracks 24


Organization Level
RIAA – U.S. Gold


  1. ^ a b "Whip-Smart - Liz Phair". Billboard.com. Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  2. ^ "Ask Billboard: Kylie 'Fever'". Billboard. 2010-07-16. Retrieved 2012-02-17. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ [3]
  6. ^ a b c Unterberger, Richie. "Whip-Smart – Liz Phair". AllMusic. Retrieved September 24, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c "Whip-Smart Is The Best-Selling LP By An Artist Of The Matador Records". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 2009-10-27. Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  8. ^ "Liz Phair interview". YouTube. 2006-01-07. Retrieved 2012-09-15. 
  9. ^ ""We, soviet children, follow Lenin's way"". Sovmusic.ru. Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  10. ^ DeRogatis, Jim (September 11, 1994). "Liz Phair Makes 'Whip-Smart' Musical Memories". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved May 28, 2016. (Subscription required (help)). 
  11. ^ Kot, Greg (September 15, 1994). "Snappy Sequel". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 24, 2012. 
  12. ^ Browne, David (September 23, 1994). "Whip-Smart". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 24, 2012. 
  13. ^ Ali, Lorraine (September 18, 1994). "The Second Time Just Gets Better". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 24, 2012. 
  14. ^ "Liz Phair: Whip-Smart". NME: 48. October 1, 1994. 
  15. ^ "Liz Phair: Whip-Smart". Q (99): 139. December 1994. 
  16. ^ O'Dair, Barbara (September 22, 1994). "Whip-Smart". Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 24, 2012. 
  17. ^ Kot, Greg (2004). "Liz Phair". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian. The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster. pp. 633–34. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 
  18. ^ Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig, eds. (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. ISBN 0-679-75574-8. 
  19. ^ "Grammy Awards: Best Rock Vocal Performance - Female". Rock On The Net. Retrieved 2012-09-15. 
  20. ^ "Mesmerizing - Liz Phair Remembers Whip-Smart plus the current state of Liz (September 20th, 2011)". Mesmerizingtoo.com. Retrieved 2012-09-15.