An Apple a day

Alternative singer hits sweet spot with honesty, anger

Over a year ago I discovered Fiona Apple. At first, I was apprehensive when I listened to “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” since it was so chaotic and I had never been exposed to it before. Nevertheless, I continued to go through her discography. The more I listened to her, the more I understood the raw and vulnerable emotions she shared, which have been consistent in all five of her albums over the last two decades.

Her debut album Tidal opens with “Sleep to Dream”, a trip-hop-inspired song that talks about finding the strength to move on from an unhealthy relationship. When I first listened to this song, it was startling to hear something so honest with so many unparalleled emotions. 

A track that follows is “Sullen Girl,” which is an account of Apple’s sexual assault and includes some of her best choice of lyrics: “But he washed me ashore and he took my pearl and he left an empty shell of me”. Apple’s most popular song, “Criminal,” which never seems to be outdated when listening, is notable with its strong, haunting vocals and a wide array of instruments.

Apple’s debut album can only be described as fantastic especially when listeners know that she was a teenager during its production and subsequent release of it.

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 has a notably longer name from a poem that she made as a response to a negative magazine cover story on her.

The album opens with the track “On the Bound,” which has chaotic melodies and is constant throughout.

The track talks about her being pessimistic even when she’s in a happy period of her life, and feels as if she’s being self-destructive.

Some tracks, including  “Paper Bag,” “A Mistake,” and “Fast As You Can,” are some of my favorites. This album is different from Tidal since she embraces all the things that “are wrong with her.” After the release of her sophomore album, Apple took a hiatus from music and came back with “Extraordinary Machine”.

When I first listened to “Extraordinary Machine” about my own feelings, the track that best represented my feeling was “Better Version of Me” which talks about looking back at a weaker version of yourself and wanting to be a better version of yourself.

“Tymps,” which is a song I’ve played countless times and is about consistently going back to the same bad relationship with little to no effect. The whole tracklist is remarkable with brutally honest lyrics and beautiful melodies. Even “Please, Please, Please,” Apple described as her least favorite song.

Then she went on another hiatus, longer than the previous one, before her 4th studio album. The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do like its predecessor has a longer title and is from a poem she wrote herself.

This time she tried something new and started to use new sounds which are amplified in “Werewolf.” When fans hear the faint noise of children playing in a playground, the new sounds work, though it seems a little strange at first. “Periphery” stands out to me because it includes hard-hitting lyrics including “Cause I don’t appreciate people who don’t appreciate all that loving must’ve been lackin’ something if I got bored trying to figure you out you let me down I don’t even like you anymore at all.”

More of her talent is shown in “Hot Knife,” where she compares herself to butter and her romantic partner to a hot knife, which is initially a strange comparison, but exceptional nonetheless.

Nearly eight years passed before there was a new album. Fetch the Bolt Cutters is one of the most critically acclaimed albums of 2020 that intensified her previous approach to music by using new, unfamiliar noises. She mimics dolphin noise in “I Want You to Love Me,” the dog barks in “Fetch the Bolt Cutters,” and so much more.

The track “Shameika” describes encouraging words she received as a child from a fellow classmate after being bullied and told that “she had potential,” which was one of many middle school experiences that shaped her relationship with women.

Later in the album, in the song “Ladies,” Apple talks about women who have been the victims of cheating. Throughout the album, she makes it clear that it is about not letting men pit women against each other, which is beautifully told in her own unique way.

I would be lying if I said that I found Fiona Apple’s music appealing from the beginning, but after listening to every album, every collaboration, every cover that she’s done, and even her albums on vinyl for well over a year. I’ve decided that she’s one of the most talented lyricists I’ve encountered.

Every song she’s done has been deliberately filled with an array of emotions that she seamlessly captures.