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The Collection [Limited Edition] ()

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Alanis Morissette had hits after her 1995 blockbuster Jagged Little Pill -- she also hits before it, but those Canadian teen pop hits have been effectively written out of her official biography to no great loss -- but after that album's nearly three-year reign on the charts in the second half of the '90s, she never dominated radio, MTV, and popular consciousness again. She was always a presence, and each of her records received a flurry of attention upon its initial release, with both 1998's Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie and 2002's Under Rug Swept both debuting at number one on the Billboard charts, but once it became clear to her millions of fans that she was pursuing a weirder, introspective direction in the wake of Jagged Little Pill, they started to slowly drift away and Alanis' status faded with it. She still made good music (even if the albums themselves could be uneven), but she stopped having genuine pop hits. Of course, she kind of stopped making pop music, as the sober nature of her first hits album, 2005's The Collection, proves. This generous 18-track collection has the great majority of her charting singles and it's understandably heavy on Jagged Little Pill songs; there are five here, including "Hand in My Pocket," "Ironic," and "You Oughta Know," but not the radio hit "All I Really Want." Most of the remaining big hits are here, including the non-LP "Uninvited" from the City of Angels soundtrack, "Thank U" (here retitled "Thank You"), and "Hands Clean," but there are several charting singles from Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie that were overlooked ("Joining You," "Unsent," and, most regrettably, "So Pure," the liveliest song on the LP), which suggests that Alanis now also sees that album as an awkward growing period between the angst-ridden adolescent of JPL and her self-consciously mature work of the 2000s. In their place are a hodgepodge of non-LP rarities, largely soundtrack contributions, including "Still" from Dogma and a very bad version of Cole Porter's "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)" from De-Lovely; there's also "Sister Blister" from her overlooked 2002 rarities CD/DVD Feast on Scraps, plus a new cover of Seal's "Crazy" that's startlingly close to the original. All these relative rarities dilute The Collection, making it seem something less than either the hits or the best of Alanis Morissette; it doesn't help that they're clustered together in the second part of the compilation, slowing the momentum of the hit-heavy first half quite a bit. Also, the overall tenor of these songs, whether they're hits or rarities, is just a shade too self-serious; the songs crawl along under the weight of the heavy, atmospheric keyboard and guitars, which may give Alanis plenty of space to run wild lyrically but never quite amount to being as catchy or immediate as any of Jagged Little Pill. As a result, The Collection isn't nearly as a satisfying listen as it should have been, even if it functions reasonably well as a sampler of Alanis' biggest and best post-JPL work. It may have more than its fair share of dull patches, but it does have most of the big songs, which should be enough for many fans who have liked various Alanis songs they've heard on the radio since Jagged Little Pill but never bothered following her after the muddled Supposed Former. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi Hide synopsis

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