In 1996, no junkie was hotter than Fiona Apple. The haunted stare on her pale, strung out visage was enough to beckon the yearning of many thin boys too afraid to do their own heroin. Too bad she wasn’t actually a junkie. Still, the image of the broken girl is forever hers, which is what you get for making the creepiest album out of the entire Lilith Fair set.
Listening to Fiona Apple’s debut, self-titled album makes me feel excessively tired. Apple’s pipes belt out melodies like a sleep-deprived streetwalker. Her narrative lyricism rang off like diaristic rants, which is excusable since she was not yet 20 when she made the album. For a lesser talent, and I’ve met many, this would have spelled doom, doom to be yet another child of divorce writing shit poetry in between dreaming about meeting their first of many gay boyfriends at Sarah Lawrence. Fiona Apple was able to offset that doom by being a provocative songstress.
Apple drenches her balladry and boy-breaking with lush piano arrangements which run the gamut of aggressive and horny (“Criminal“) to pensive and sullen (“Shadowboxer,” “Sullen Girl,” etc.) to prozacked and jaunty (“The First Taste”). She can swing her vocals from unsettling to wistful very easily. She comes off as both wise beyond her years and profoundly disturbed and free of moral constraints – though not necessarily a bad thing depending on your preference. In time, Fiona Apple became characterized – and I can’t blame them on some accounts – as the ultimate angry chick, the kind who is too uncool to be riot grrrl. It’s a shame, too. Though she has only gone to release two more albums since, she has matured significantly. She is not the angst princess she once was, doing whatever it was she did on MTV that made people cringe. Rather, she’s taken what worked on Tidal and packed on the substance, making her the one to go to when you want sweet, but uncertain atmospheres.
Tori Amos – Under The Pink
Aimee Mann – Bachelor No. 2
Liz Phair – Exile In Guyville