Tag Archives: Fiona Apple

Fiona Apple vs. Rodney King

In a speech similar in tone to her widely-mocked 1997 MTV Video Music Awards acceptance, Fiona Apple told her Grand Rapids audience that she’s been really upset about Rodney King since he died and that she’s been carrying a picture of him. “We really let that guy down.” The speech culminated with Apple declaring July 9 to be “Rodney King Hero Day.” Then she played “Paper Bag.”

Discussing the show with my wife on the ride home, we came to the conclusion that just like 15 years ago, while the delivery of her message was inarticulate, rambly, and painfully awkward, the content her message was right on. She was 100% correct when at age 19 she pointed out that the glossy celebrity world of MTV was bullshit. It was bullshit then and it still is. And last night, she eventually got around to the point of her story: When Rodney King sincerely asked everybody if we can all get along, people just made a joke out of it.

Think about that. In 1992, a guy who never asked to be put in the public spotlight is mocked mercilessly for asking rioters to “stop making it horrible for the older people and the kids.” Five years later, a 19 year old singer stumbles through an attempt to subvert the whole “awards show” rigamarole by telling kids not to model themselves after what celebrities think is cool but to “go with yourself.” And she gets mocked mercilessly for that.

What kind of shit is that?

Yes, she stammers a little and mixes up a couple words and quotes Maya Angelou, but the content of what she was saying was so fucking accurate that the entire world seemed to willfully misunderstand her. If half of the people who had heard that speech had taken her message to heart, the audience for future awards shows would’ve shriveled up. That world is bullshit. Who even tries to deny that anymore?

And again, last night the message of her rant about Rodney King was nearly obfuscated by her inarticulate manner of presenting it. For a person who writes such compelling lyrics, Fiona Apple is apparently pretty terrible at coming up with words off the cuff. Maybe that’s why it takes her seven years between albums!

Learning that she’s a great big stoner has actually made me feel better about her awkward public persona. She’s not stupid or crazy; she’s just super high. Which makes it funny instead of embarrassing. (We’re laughing with you, not at you.) It probably also explains her yoga/frog inspired dance moves.

And anyway, who cares how somebody talks (or dances) when they have a singing voice like that? Getting to see and hear her perform at the beautiful Meijer Gardens was an especially rare treat. And while the sunshine bothered her sensitive eyes (“I’m not really that angry — I’m just squinting.”), it made for a gorgeous setting for her haunting, otherworldly music.

New Fiona Apple video, full album stream

Video: Fiona Apple – “Every Single Night”

“Let’s go to Paris and put an octopus on your head and cover you with snails.” Who pitched the treatment for this video? Then again, why not? The imagery is more playful than disturbing. I’m looking forward to The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, and I’m very excited to see her at Meijer Gardens in July.

Stream: Fiona Apple – “Werewolf”

Stream: Fiona Apple – “Anything We Want”

You can stream the whole album at NPR. It’s out June 19 on Epic Records (Sony).

New songs from Fiona Apple and Liz Phair: Do you believe in third chances?

Two of my favorite artists released songs to the internet last weekend. Fiona Apple posted a song from her upcoming album to Soundcloud, while Liz Phair sent an MP3 to the administrator of her biggest fan site and announced via Twitter that it’s “a stand-alone track, not what new record will sound like at all.”

Soundcloud: Fiona Apple – “Every Single Night”

MP3: Liz Phair – “Avalanche (Stereo Romance)” via Ken Lee’s Mesmerizing

Apple’s official “leak” was clearly part of an established technique for rousing excitement for a new album, which now includes weekly updates to keep us thinking about her.

• January 22: Record label exec unexpectedly tweets “Welcome back Fiona!”
• January 24: Label spokesperson clarifies new album will “absolutely be this year”
• February 14: South By Southwest showcase announced
• February 21: “Mini tour” dates announced
• March 7: Album title announced
• March 14: South By Southwest showcase features new songs
• March 19-27: mini tour
• April 2: Album track list, artwork, release date revealed
• April 9: North American tour dates announced
• April 23: “Every Single Night” posted to Soundcloud

It worked, of course. June 19 can’t come soon enough. But it’s hard not to feel like you’re being played with each step in the process generating new tweets, blog posts, and news items.

Contrast that precisely executed digital marketing roadmap with the seemingly haphazard Liz Phair release. The prevailing narratives tell us Fiona is the uncontrollable artiste, while Liz is the calculating careerist. But Phair used her personal Twitter account to give away a free song for no particular reason. She’s got nothing new to promote. Funstyle came out close to two years ago, and while she’s apparently finished a new video for “And He Slayed Her,” this new song has nothing to do with that.

It would be unfair to fail to point out that Apple is constricted by a major label contract while Phair is free to do whatever she wants with hew new songs. But it’s cool to see an artist taking advantage of that freedom.

John Darnielle on Fiona Apple

John Darnielle says “the new Fiona Apple is a fascinating and unique document” but its release is being held up indefinitely by the label: “Don’t like the major labels? Downloading their releases while refusing to buy them won’t help; to change the situation, you’d have to stop listening to the kind of fuel in which the major labels traffic.”