Fiona Apple has had a troubled relationship with the music industry. Some may know her by the explosive speech she gave after accepting her MTV Music Video award in 1997. “This world is bullshit,” she said. “You shouldn’t model your life on what we think is cool, and what we’re wearing and what we’re saying and everything. Go with yourself.” The words are poignant and still painfully relevant almost 20 years later. Apple was nothing short of a prodigy, starting to write music at the age of 8. Her big break came in a very cool way. She gave her tape to a friend who was babysitting for a music publicist. One thing led to another and her debut album “Tidal” came out in 1996, when Apple was just 19.
She is classically trained on the piano, which no doubt caught the attention of the label that signed her. Is is also dazzlingly displayed in all her music, and particularly her first album. Tidal is sombre, honest and has that guileless quality that comes hand in hand with youth. It’s also highly unusual. The chord patterns are unexpected and at times downright discordant. Apple’s voice is also beautifully weird, whilst the words she sings are some of the most intelligent I’ve ever heard. I realise I say this a lot but she is a poet. The images she uses are far sharper than they should be for a 19-year-old. But like I said, she was a prodigy.
Darkness is the one thing that characterises her sound in general. She has clearly battled with a lot and her depictions of sadness are captivating and heartbreakingly relatable. Her second album, “When the pawn…”, is even more musically interesting. The actual name of the album is: “When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He’ll Win the Whole Thing ‘fore He Enters the Ring There’s No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might so When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won’t Matter, Cuz You’ll Know That You’re Right”
Yah, I know. I feel like it’s another big “F U” to the music industry. I’m not gonna conform to your bullshit standards. The name is a lengthy poem, bitch. Deal with it. The album contains such timeless tracks as, “Paper Bag” (if you aren’t blown away by this song feel free to pick a fight with me) (you will not win) and “I Know”. The jazz influences are clear but there is also a strong foundation of alternative rock which drives the energy in the faster songs. Throughout, though, you have Apple’s dramatic vocal line, which could make even the shittest Pitbull song sound soul-stirring.
My ultimate obsession is her most recent album, “The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do”. I mean the name is enough. THE NAME OF THE ALBUM IS A POEM. AGAIN. She is my hero just for that one simple, totally brilliant line. This album is one of those that I can’t pick favourites from. It is outstanding in every possible way. All I will say is that every time I listen to “Valentine”, I cry like a baby. She has managed to capture such pain in her words and meld it seamlessly with stunning accompaniment. She also collaborated with her touring drummer on this album and the percussion is absorbing as a result. Again, wonderfully weird and unexpected. Also addictive.
Apple is the queen of melancholic music. The president, the prime minister, the entire royal court. There is no one better.