Today’s album was a debut album back in 1996 and reached the uber impressive triple platinum sales status. So odds are you’ve heard at least one song by her, well today you get the whole thing….
Fiona Apple – Tidal
Listen to it here: http://grooveshark.com/#!/playlist/Fiona+Apple+Tidal/76827634
Read about the album here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tidal_%28album%29
Fun Facts: Apple was introduced to the music industry in 1994, when she gave a demo tape containing the songs “Never Is a Promise”, “Not One of Those Times”, and “He Takes a Taxi” to her friend who was the babysitter of music publicist Kathryn Schenker. Schenker then passed the tape along to Sony Music executive Andy Slater. Apple’s contralto voice, piano skills and lyrics captured his attention, and Slater signed her to a record deal.
In 1997, while accepting MTV Video Music Award for “Best New Artist” for her song Sleep to Dream, Apple said: “This world is bullshit, and you shouldn’t model your life on what we think is cool, and what we’re wearing and what we’re saying.” The New Yorker and NYRock characterized her MTV award show speech as ungrateful and “ridiculous”. Apple was unapologetic. “I just had something on my mind and I just said it. And that’s really the foreshadowing of my entire career and my entire life. When I have something to say, I’ll say it,” she said, responding to these criticisms in an article in Rolling Stone in January, 1998.
Fiona Apple – Tidal
I used to be OBSESSED with this album in Highschool. Probably because it came out while I was in highschool and I have emotional problems. It was like she was singing my life, man. I haven’t listened to this since then.
Mood: Awesome! I’m about to dive into a blast from the past!
Well that was an intense flood of bitter angst-filled memories from my past. It’s like dark chocolate filled with daggers. While it’s not something that I would listen to regularly now, I found myself singing along as her weird sort of marble mouth warble carved out her pain.
Least favorite track/tracks:
Overall (1-5 stars): 3.5
(She ranked higher honestly for the throwback factor.)
Fiona Apple-Tidal (9/27) Two good songs. Numerous not good songs. 2 (for the two good songs)
Preconceived Notions-This is one of my curiosity picks. Being 14 in the year of the first Lilith Fair, there was no avoiding the overtly subversive female piano rock of the late 90s for me. The intro to that world was, of course, Tori Amos, but after Tori, I was mostly a Sarah McLachlan fan, preferring the ethereal, dreamlike (or dream inducing to some) sound to the overtly angry chick rock that was most associated with Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill. Fiona Apple always fell somewhere in the middle for me, and I could never decide what to really make of her. I really liked “Criminal” but the video was creepy with her emaciated body slinking around in an atmosphere that was somewhere between a 70s porn and a snuff film (not that those were always mutually exclusive, I’m sure) and she just always, in general, seemed slightly unhinged. But I knew people that were rabid fans, so I thought I’d see what all the fuss was about, granted, it’s about 15 years late, but, eh, it’s not the first time I’m behind the curve.
As Listening: I know that I should be beyond this and mature and not quite so susceptible to emotional manipulation, and trust me, I’ve got a pretty tough internal fight going on as to whether or not I should be rolling my eyes at the diary-esque, faux-poetic ramblings of “Never Is A Promise” but something about the chorus just makes me nostalgic for Dawson’s Creek, probably in a moment when Joey would be walking down the drizzly pier on the verge of tears because she saw D-bag Dawes trying to bag another chick. After all, I was most definitely a faux-poet (well I thought I was legit) journal-keeping teenage girl.
The Child Is Gone-I’m not sure if it’s actually in the foundations of the music, or in the way she’s intoning, but something about this song had me thinking that at any moment she was going to follow into “cause tonight, is the nigh, and we’re feeling alright” from Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love For You”
Well, there’s not a lot to grasp on to. You either like her deal, or you don’t. The production is pretty basic, and she never wanders far from the path she’s either designated for herself or has been designated for her. Still, I found some stuff I liked more than I thought I would. For me, Fiona always had a “spoiled brat” sense about her, and I guess, I can’t relinquish that assumption after listening to the album. Sold on her heroin-chic image, especially in the “Criminal” video, I think I also lumped her in with the group of people who don’t just consider themselves “musicians” or “filmmakers” but ARTISTS, like Vincent Gallo, who I will wholeheartedly declare as my go-to example of over-indulged, overrated creative types who should have to get a manual labor job, before unleashing their artistic endeavors on the world. Fiona has some talent, but thinks she has more than might actually be true. A lot of the lyrics read like the portions of a teenage diary where the pages have been cut and pasted to make it all sound more interesting and the musical side of things never goes too daring. In fact, Shadowboxer an Criminal sound far too similar for my liking and should have, at least been spread out further on the album if one wasn’t going to be cut. But like I said, the album goes down pretty easily and I can definitely see how in my moodier adolescence I might have fallen victim to at least a couple of re-plays of this album in a closed-door bedroom while writing an angst-filled entry, but I can’t see a ton of regular folks picking up this album on the fly, just because. The appeal is certainly niche, as is designated by the ingénue stare coming at you from the album packaging. I still feel like Criminal is a strong track and like it when it randomly comes on the radio after 8 months and saying to myself “I haven’t heard this in forever”, but I also think that’s partially because it’s a tempo-change and one of the more interesting arrangements on the album. This has been a really long-winded way of saying “eh, it’s ok, I’ll still take Tori Amos’ “Under the Pink” or Sarah McLachlan’s “Surfacing” over this”
Favorite: Criminal/Never Is A Promise
Least Favorite: All of the rest are listenable, but Shadowboxer seems like it was a leftover thought
Preconceived Notions: In 1996 I was attending college – g’damn…anyway, as part of a music program I was inundated with just about every influence you can think of…in both the classroom and the dormroom. I somehow had avoided major exposure to Fiona Apple, when “Criminal” broke…but eventually listened to part of the album one night at a party when someone prefaced it with a Tori Amos comparison. That comparison, I reflect now, I think turned me off more than the actual music - I mean, I don’t love Tori Amos – but I respect her, and after hearing Fiona I thought the comparison was a terrible stretch and that lack of credibility had me largely apathetic to Fiona. Oh sure, I’ve heard criminal a ton since then – and pushed it aside as a gimmicky pop song, but I never thought I’d ever get to go deeper on a Fiona album. And then RC happened….
After Listening: I’m still debating whether Fiona can sing….and I’m leaning more on the “no” side of that debate. Some songs on this record are cartoonishly out of key, and you just know that if that’s a style decision it’s not even her style. The motif of this record is puzzling as well, does she want to be a rock/pop idol…or a lounge act? (cf First Taste which has some sort of bizarre “Copacabana” rhythm on it) Normally, it wouldn’t matter to me….but you can sense on a lot of this that Fiona is mimicking genres rather than exploring them, and this sort of shallow experiment with no overall cohesion only lends an unpleasant transparency to any vibe put out there. There are some points when I want to just go with it and see the song for what it is…but it’s at those times when her voice comes in as a distraction. Creatively the construction of songs on this album are all very similar as well – you get either drawn out piano basic jazz styles, or basic rock/pop arrangements that are geared at setting an emotional background. They do a reasonable job most of the time, but they aren’t doing anything interesting enough to stand on their own, and perhaps that’s why there’s precious little musical exploration – or more aptly an extended section without her voice. As a result the album never really breathes and any promising directions are confounded and quickly absorbed into a confusing or weak background role.
Favorite: Carrion – One of the few tracks where for lack of a better term – “Fiona shuts up for a damn second”…it’s not long mine you, and there’s nothing mindblowing about the lyrics. The music here however is among the best on the album, the fusion of jazz and pop works here because there actually seem to be parts that ebb and flow together. The funny thing is that Fiona’s voice sounds best in an interesting and diverse ensemble, and yet most of the album seems intent on stripping everything down to showcase her – maddening.
Least Favorite: Shadowboxer – What? Is this for real? This is what I was referencing when I assert that she can’t really sing in key. Damn parts of this sounds like a Peter Brady going through puberty, and other parts are this odd jazz parody…that is neither jazz nor in key. The music doesn’t make it salvageable either…just a basic rolling piano line which you can never really get into, b/c your ears are being assaulted with bad vocals.
Overall 2.1 I gave this album some extra credit b/c I think Fiona, thinks this a heartfelt, dark, jazzy record…and heck, if you can sell yourself on something you’re halfway there right? I can only imagine that one of the reasons that this album sold so much, and has whatever critical acclaim it does – is because on one hand this is as “jazz” oriented as many people are willing to go, and on the other critics were just happy to see someone selling massive amounts of albums “attempting” to do something deeper than pop. But the truth is, Fiona’s “jazz” style singing is (at least on this album) nothing more than a result of a basic inability to stay in key, combined with a very limited vocal range. When she’s not overtly distracting with her brand of crooning, she’s just very flat and boring- which makes sense as I believe everything was constructed to showcase her voice…and without that being a hero, the rest of it is like a smoky air. But not even legitimately gritty smoky air….it’s the type you might see on a film noir spoof in a modern day sitcom fresh from a fog machine you can rent for your next Halloween party. As it’s her debut perhaps she has other records worth checking out…but this, this is not one of them…no matter what your nostalgia or vague memory of “Criminal” would tell you.