Fiona Apple: When The Pawn…

Song: “I Know

Oh, Fiona. You tragic, tiny, crazy-ass, beautiful girl. I downloaded your new album months ago, willing to go into that whole “Free Fiona” mess because I had to hear your bondaged work. And when it was, ultimately, disappointing — all plinky and boopy, suspiciously sounding like Jon Brion fed it through the Jon Brion 2000 Generator — I tried to imagine what kind of music I’d make once I survived the one-two punch of PT Anderson and David Blaine. I sympathized. I made excuses. I sang along. “Not About Love” is a beautiful song.

But I’m happy to hear this wasn’t what you wanted us to hear, either. And I’m happy to find out there’s a new mix of those songs, soon available to purchase. (What is that on the cover? Teeth in a pea pod?)

When someone loves Fiona, their face changes when they talk about her. I’ve noticed that. It’s as if everyone who loves her songs feels like they read her diary, and they’re protective of her. Maybe because she sings like the crazy side, the secret cutter who lives inside of all of us. Her songs are like the poems that flutter to the floor, never intended to be seen by anyone else. Fury and fear and the perfect turn of phrase to kick someone to the curb mixed with heartbreaking tender confessions of bare, honest truth. She’s tiny, but powerful. She seems vacant, but her lyrics are so sharp (In “To Your Love,” she sings “My derring-do allows me to dance the rigadoon /Around you / But by the time I’m close to you, I lose / My desideratum and now you…”) you know she’s either acting this crazy, or someone this gifted has to be crazy in order to survive her life. You can’t make this kind of music and not need to take two years to live on a mattress in your fancy Venice apartment because you are so miserable with your talent.

It’s funny. If she was a friend of mine, and this tortured, I’d be so sick of her. I normally can’t stand the talented victim. But because I don’t know her, and because I only get to hear her words and songs when she’s able to release them, with years apart and growth and life changing both her skill and my ability to listen to the songs as how they were intended — because, let’s face it, there’s nothing better than “Criminal” or “Shadowboxer” when you’re twenty, “Limp” or “Get Gone” when you’re twenty-five, and I have faith that there’s one on Extraordinary Machine that will be the song I need to hear when I’ve got to get out, get in my car and drive and sing really loudly, pretending my voice can do what hers can, that cathartic feeling of a song getting into the rhythm of you, letting you release all the bullshit inside.

“This world is bullshit,” sweet, ridiculous Fiona shouted at us years ago because we gave her an award. How could you not fall in love with someone like that? Watching Fiona is like looking at your teenage side getting to live its own, full life. If the tortured person you keep hidden inside of you got to be a superstar, isn’t this the life you would want for her? Lots of heavy makeup, crying fits in New York music halls, an internet movement to hear from you, men holding their chests with unexplainable affection for you, and thousands of people just waiting for you to open your mouth and sing again?

Fiona has wings! Fiona has wings!

I’m just lucky these albums didn’t come out until I was mostly grown-up. If I had these when I was in high school, there would be boys who wouldn’t have known what to do with me when I showed up on their doorsteps, covered in tears, begging them to let me in so they can hear just one love song.

Comments (