Sunday, January 18, 2009

Anatomy of An Underrated Album

It's not included on the popular indie music website Pitchfork, nor is it included in the more mainstream music publication Spin. What should be considered one of the greatest albums of all-time, Fiona Apple's Tidal wasn't even invited to the party of essential recordings of the 90's from these two journalistic entities. And, while music is certainly a subjective topic, I personally feel that this album's greatness has been negated by outside forces beyond its control.

As Tidal made its way to record stores in 1996, the record executives at Sony were busy trying to sell this album on two radio-friendly singles - "Criminal" and "Sleep To Dream" - that never really fit the more jazzier/bluesy vibe that is the true strength of this album. And, as is the case with most female artists, they pushed "Criminal" by selling her sexuality instead of her artistry via the now infamous Mark Romanek directed video...

Fiona Apple - Criminal (Official Music Video) - Click here for more home videos
...and it worked. The marketing of "Criminal" made Tidal a commercial success, but it overshadowed the beautifully poetic lyrics of a vulnerable teenager who had seemingly lived a lifetime of pain. Fiona Apple was not a manufactured pop star - she was an artist. An artist, I might add, who as a child, was raped on her way home from school which surfaces in her songwriting throughout the album.

The second incident that took attention away from her talent was a speech she gave during the MTV music awards in 1997. She simply said that the world was bullshit and you shouldn't model yourself after celebrities. With the negative backlash that followed, you would have thought she uttered a racial slur. And it had an immediate impact on how she would be perceived. In his review of Apple's brilliant follow up album When The Pawn..., Pitchfork music critic, Chip Chanko, had this to say:
Fiona Apple is playing on my computer. And actually, I wasn't going to review it. I was just listening to it-- and enjoying it. ...Wait. Fiona Apple? Two years ago I hated her. Actually, up till a month ago I hated her. I thought she was just an annoying girl who'd been offered the microphone way too many times to voice conclusions she had spent her whole life (read: not that long) coming to. Why was this pretentious girl so famous? Why did they keep handing her the mic to quote Maya Angelou? Why did I keep watching her? The music on her first album failed to interest me. I thought it rambled. It drooped and moped. It dragged itself into bed and went to sleep. Ah, that actually sounds nice right now. It put me to sleep. In a bad way. The songs seemed to ramble on with a synthetic soul that spoke of a young girl admiring and trying to duplicate the styles of days past.

Whether you like Tidal or not is irrelevant. The real issue at hand is that of allowing outside forces to cloud your judgement on this album or any other album for that matter. Nonetheless, in this writer's humble opinion, Tidal is a masterpiece from a young girl writing with the pen of an old soul and I highly encourage you to listen to the otherwise "unfamiliar" songs on this album.


Jenny said...

OK, I have to admit that I haven't paid much attention to her.

BUT I love her voice.

AND I love what she said about the world is bullshit and celebrities.

Don't get me started on these celebrities.


I guess I need to fucking pay attention.

And I hope I get to see Merle live again someday.

PopCultureJihad said...

Another cd I will have to send you. Aaaand, I might see Merle live again pretty soon. He's coming to Austin.