It was 20 years ago today…July 1996

Fiona Apple: Tidal

When Fiona Apple burst onto the musical landscape in 1996, it was as a pianist singing confessional songs in a sultry and inviting voice. Her videos reaffirmed that image, giving her an appeal far beyond contemporary jazz. The image didn’t come without a price however. Apple became identified more for her image than for her talent. Released July 23, 1996, Tidal stands as a monument to what songwriting prowess, an ear for musical composition, and an inviting voice can accomplish beyond expectations. Songs from this album received mainstream acclaim and success, despite being a decidedly un-pop friendly sound.

Shadowboxer”, the first single from the album, tells the tale of a woman who used to be in love with a man, but has wisened to his ways. She realizes that he is using her for sex, but won’t commit and she begins to suspect that she is only being kept around as his own private form of entertainment. Learning to fear him, she begins to plot her way out of the relationship, waiting for an unguarded moment or an opening.

The very next track, “Criminal” flips the story of “Shadowboxer” on its ear. This time, the narrator of the song knows she’s done wrong after chosing to sleep with another man, and feels the need for being redeemed by him. As repentant as she is, she feels that her role in the situation had been that of the devil on her own shoulder, and now she feels as if she needs the angel to tell her what to do. The video for the single was shot in the style of Calvin Klein ads that were popular at the time, depicting scantily clad people in skimpy clothing. The images played well with the theme of the song, with her being the seductress who had led another into temptation.

Never is a Promise” is one of three tracks Fiona Apple put on the demo tape that got her signed to a label. It tells the story of her as a 16 year old, upon hearing that the man with whom she had lost her virginity, was taking an interest in another woman. Her ex-lover tries to smoothe things over by saying that he understands her hurt, but she knows that there is now way he can understand. She determines never again to trust him…and never is a promise. By the time this song was released for radio play, I was already deeply hooked into what Fiona Apple had to offer as a musician, as a songwriter, and as a going concern in the world of alternative and pop radio.

Before the release of her second album, Apple would cover the Beatles classic “Across the Universe” for the Pleasantville soundtrack. A music video was released for the song, using the diner of the movie as the setting.

In the years to come, Fiona Apple would shy away from pomoting herself as an artist. She has as of July 2016, released four albums and a few one off singles. Her album Extraordinary Machine was finished for some time, but the studio wanted popier, so she finally consented to re-writes. I have a few of the original tracks, the local alternative radio station emailed them to their newsgorup at the time, and continue to hope that the album as originally intended will one day see official release.

In 2011, Apple released a cover of “Every Day” on one of the Buddy Holly tribute albums released in honor of what would have been his 75th birthday. 2012 saw the release of the track “Dull Tool” to accompany the movie This is 40. 2013 featured Fiona Apple covering “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory for an ad for Chipotle.

Ever one for collaborating when she feels both partners in the collaboration have something to offer, Fiona Apple appears in the 2016 Andrew Bird track titled “Left Handed Kisses”, a track which looks to feature prominently in my top 50 songs of 2016.


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