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Fiona Apple – Tidal

15 09 2011

Listened: Tuesday July 5

I don’t think I had listened to Tidal since high school, but perhaps I did sometimes in early college. I was shocked how much I enjoy it now. I remember enjoying it at the time, but her image (waify, arty, vaguely insane) was so antithetic to mine that I never could quite let go and become a fan. I never bought any of her followup albums.

Now that all that is behind us, I can concentrate on the content of the album more. Never is a Promise is the obvious standout. The music sounds a little bit 90s to me (strings and the particular sound of the piano), but still engaging, and the lyrics and vocals are top notch. Shadowboxer and Sleep to Dream are other favorites.

Criminal is a brilliant song, but it still calls to mind the ubiquitous, somewhat scandalous video, which these days probably wouldn’t make people bat much of an eye. Watching it now, with the benefit of the years I have lived since then, I cringe a little at her skeletal body and the face that makes her look much so younger than she was (at the time I wasn’t that bothered by it, other than to note that she clearly was not “my people”). The well-crafted skeeze and sleaze of the vibe probably makes even some of the more lecherous viewers feel dirty. I do think it’s a brilliant video due to it both disturbing and intriguing me at the same time, but even though at the time she thought she was taking control of  the inevitable exploitation of herself by deciding to make it, I think she too probably has some regrets about it. I don’t think consciously exploiting oneself really works that well.

What appeals to me so much about the album is how well it expresses that fact that the singer/songwriter isn’t just a pretty face and voice, the instability that lies underneath seeps out, which makes it interesting, and it doesn’t seem forced or pitiable (the Criminal video notwithstanding). Given how many pitiable, trying-too-hard, or uninteresting pop stars there are these days, it’s notable.

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