XO (Elliott Smith album)

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Studio album by
ReleasedAugust 25, 1998
Elliott Smith chronology
Figure 8
Singles from XO
  1. "Waltz #2 (XO)"
    Released: September 21, 1998[2]
  2. "Baby Britain"
    Released: April 19, 1999[3]

XO is the fourth studio album by American singer-songwriter Elliott Smith. It was recorded from 1997 to 1998 and released on August 25, 1998 by record label DreamWorks; Smith's first solo album on a major record label. Two singles, "Waltz #2 (XO)" and "Baby Britain", were released.


Early sessions for the album began at Larry Crane's Jackpot Recording Studio after the release of Either/Or in 1997. These sessions would yield early demos of several album tracks, as well as outtakes later released posthumously on New Moon. Work began in earnest on the album in early 1998, after Smith traveled to Los Angeles to work with producers Rob Schnapf and Tom Rothrock. An early working title for the album was Grand Mal.[4]

The title of the first track, "Sweet Adeline", was inspired by Smith’s recollections of his grandmother singing in her glee club, Sweet Adelines International.[5] "Amity" is believed to be named after a friend who can be seen in photographs from Smith's 1997 tour.[6] "Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands" is based on a true story of an intervention that saw Smith check into a rehab facility in Arizona. Smith's original lyrics bear this out further, with references to 'the desert', a 'dream-killing doctor', and a 'twelve-stepping cop'.


XO was released by DreamWorks Records on August 25, 1998. It was Smith's first solo record on a major record label, though he had previously released music on a major label with his band Heatmiser's final album, Mic City Sons (1996).

Singles released from the album were "Waltz #2 (XO)" in the same year[7] and "Baby Britain" the following year.[8]


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[9]
The Baltimore Sun3.5/4 stars[10]
Entertainment WeeklyB[11]
Houston Chronicle4/5 stars[12]
Los Angeles Times4/4 stars[13]
Rolling Stone3/5 stars[16]

XO was well received by critics upon its release. Mark Richardson of Pitchfork wrote, "Smith's songwriting continues to improve, as each of [the album's] fourteen tracks displays his inarguable mastery of the pop song structure more clearly than ever."[15] Robert Christgau of The Village Voice gave the album a one-star honorable mention rating, indicating "a worthy effort consumers attuned to its overriding aesthetic or individual vision may well like". His review described the album's music as "high tune, low affect," citing "Waltz #2 (XO)" and "Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands" as highlights.[19] XO placed at number five on The Village Voice's 1998 end-of-year Pazz & Jop poll.[20]

In its retrospective review, BBC Music wrote, "the budget might have gone up, but Smith's masterful way with an understated melody and melancholic lyric remained firmly intact", calling XO "perhaps the greatest long-player Smith released; if not, it's certainly the equal of the preceding Either/Or. Repeat listens don't dull it in the slightest, every barbed one-liner and exhalation of despair perfectly preserved".[21] Trouser Press called the record "a tastefully commercialized production (completely with horns and strings) that respects Smith's privacy and, in fact, does him a solid service. [...] If the songs are not the most profound or developed of Smith's catalogue, it's still a great record that proves how durable integrity can be."[22]


In 2010, Spin magazine placed XO at number 90 on its list of the 125 best albums in the magazine's lifetime.[23] Pitchfork Media placed the album at number 68 in their list of the greatest albums of the 1990s.[24]

Matthew LeMay has written a book about XO as part of the 33⅓ series of books on albums, released on April 6, 2009 by the Continuum International Publishing Group.

RJD2 sampled "I Didn't Understand" on the song "Ghostwriter" on his album Deadringer. Indie rock band Grandaddy performed "Oh Well, Okay" live in 2012 as a tribute to Smith.[25]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Elliott Smith.

1."Sweet Adeline"3:15
2."Tomorrow Tomorrow"3:07
3."Waltz #2 (XO)"4:40
4."Baby Britain"3:13
6."Independence Day"3:04
7."Bled White"3:22
8."Waltz #1"3:22
10."Oh Well, Okay"2:33
11."Bottle Up and Explode!"2:58
12."A Question Mark"2:41
13."Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands"4:25
14."I Didn't Understand"2:17


  • Elliott Smith – guitar, vocals, piano, bass guitar, drums, organ, mandolin, electric piano, melodica, percussion, string and horn arrangements, production, recording (all tracks except 4 and 9)

Additional personnel

  • Rob Schnapf – guitar ("Baby Britain"), production, recording (all tracks except 4 and 9)
  • Paul Pulvirenti - drums on "Baby Britain"
  • Tom Rothrock – drum programming ("Independence Day"), production, recording (all tracks except 4 and 9)
  • Joey Waronker – drums ("Bled White", "Bottle Up and Explode!")
  • Jon Brionvibraphone and Chamberlin ("Waltz #1", "Bottle Up and Explode!", "Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands")
  • Shelly Berg – string and horn arrangements
  • Tom Halm – string and horn arrangements
  • Bruce Eskovitz – bass saxophone, baritone saxophone on "A Question Mark", flute on "Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands"
  • R. James Atkinson – French horn on "Oh Well, Okay"
  • Roy Poper – trumpet on "Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands"
  • Farhad Behroozi – strings
  • Henry Ferber – strings
  • Jerrod Goodman – strings
  • Pamela DeAlmeida – strings
  • Peter Hatch – strings
  • Raymond Tischer II – strings
  • Russel Cantor – strings
  • Waldemar DeAlmeida – strings


  • Alex Sanderson – engineering assistance
  • Doug Boehm – engineering assistance
  • Richard Barron – engineering assistance
  • Stephen Marcussen – mastering
  • Larry Crane – recording (tracks 4 and 9)
  • Johnson and Wolverton – sleeve artwork
  • Eric Matthies – sleeve photography



Chart (1998) Peak
Swedish Albums Chart 41[26]
US Billboard 200 104[27]
Chart (1999) Peak
Australian ARIA Charts 46[28]


Year Single Peak positions
1998 "Waltz #2 (XO)" 52[8]
1999 "Baby Britain" 55[8]


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[29] Silver 60,000^
United States (RIAA)[31] none 400,000[30]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ "Elliott Smith - XO (CD, Album) at Discogs". Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  2. ^ "Waltz 2 (XO) by Elliott Smith". Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  3. ^ "Baby Britain by Elliott Smith". Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  4. ^ LeMay 2009, pp. 13–14.
  5. ^ "Sweet Adeline | Biography – Page 2". Sweet Adeline. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  6. ^ Nugent, Benjamin (2004). Elliott Smith and the Big Nothing. Da Capo Press. p. 111. ISBN 0-306-81393-9.
  7. ^ Flick, Larry, ed. (August 22, 1998). "Reviews & Previews". Billboard: 16. Retrieved July 23, 2013.
  8. ^ a b c "Elliott Smith | Artists | Official Charts". Official Charts Company. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  9. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "XO – Elliott Smith". AllMusic. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  10. ^ Considine, J. D. (September 3, 1998). "Elliott Smith: XO (Dreamworks 50048)". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved November 18, 2018.
  11. ^ Browne, David (August 31, 1998). "XO". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 2, 2016.
  12. ^ Sullivan, James (August 23, 1998). "An Outsider's Sweet Lament". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved March 2, 2016.
  13. ^ Hilburn, Robert (August 24, 1998). "'XO' Is Superbly Soft, With a Nicely Gritty Edge". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 2, 2016.
  14. ^ Segal, Victoria (August 19, 1998). "Elliott Smith – XO". NME. Archived from the original on October 14, 2000. Retrieved March 2, 2016.
  15. ^ a b Richardson, Mark. "Elliott Smith: XO". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on October 14, 1999. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  16. ^ Sheffield, Rob (August 12, 1998). "XO". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  17. ^ Barnes, Mike (October 1998). "Elliott Smith: XO". Select (100): 72.
  18. ^ Wolk, Douglas (September 1998). "Elliott Smith: XO". Spin. 14 (9): 180–82. Retrieved March 2, 2016.
  19. ^ Christgau, Robert (2000). "Elliott Smith: XO". Christgau's Consumer Guide: Albums of the '90s. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-24560-2. Retrieved February 22, 2017.
  20. ^ "The 1998 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice. March 2, 1999. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  21. ^ Diver, Mike. "BBC – Music – Review of Elliott Smith – XO". BBC Music. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  22. ^ Azerrad, Michael; Robbins, Ira. "TrouserPress.com :: Heatmiser". Trouser Press. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  23. ^ "125 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years | Spin | Best of Spin | Spin Era". Spin. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  24. ^ "Staff Lists: Top 100 Albums of the 1990s | Features | Pitchfork". Pitchfork. November 17, 2003. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  25. ^ "Grandaddy – Oh Well, Okay (Live @ Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, 04.09.12) – YouTube". YouTube. September 4, 2012. Retrieved June 22, 2013.
  26. ^ "swedishcharts.com – Elliott Smith – XO". Swedishcharts.com. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  27. ^ "XO – Elliott Smith : Awards : AllMusic". AllMusic. AllRovi. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  28. ^ "australian-charts.com – Elliott Smith – XO". Australian-charts.com. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  29. ^ "British album certifications – Elliott Smith – Xo". British Phonographic Industry. Select albums in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type Xo in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  30. ^ "Elliott Smith - Biography". Amoeba. Retrieved 7 August 2018.
  31. ^ "American album certifications – Elliott Smith – Xo". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]