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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Fiona Apple’s new album is a raw look into her past

There have been countless reviews praising Fiona Apple’s newest album, Fetch The Bolt Cutters, and this is going to be another one, because yes… it is that good. But also because this album makes us reflect on Fiona Apple’s past relationship with the music industry, a relationship that merits some examination. 

Released after an eight year music hiatus, Fetch The Bolt Cutters is an album by a liberated woman who is able to reflect on and engage with her past. Fiona Apple covers many themes in this album, including past love, friendship and her relationship with her own mental health — but the overarching feeling that this album recalls is one of release. 

With heavy and raw percussion undertones and single take tracks that were recorded on Garageband in Apple’s house, this album is curated and focused without sacrificing its authenticity. And authenticity is something that Fiona Apple has spent her entire music career trying to preserve in the face of the increasingly manufactured music industry. 

Ever since her first album came out in 1996, Fiona Apple has struggled with the pressures and criticisms of the music industry. Even though she has never shied away from radical honesty, her earlier years were punctuated by harsh condemnations from the press, accusing her of being a “loose cannon” or downplaying her talent by calling her “Sony’s answer to Alanis Morissett”

Most of the early criticism towards Apple began after her infamous MTV awards acceptance speech, where she criticized the influence that the music industry and celebrity culture has, stating that “you shouldn’t model your life about what you think that we think is cool and what we’re wearing and what we’re saying and everything”. 

After the speech, Apple released a statement on her website stating “all of those people who didn’t give a fuck who I was, or what I thought, were now all at once just appeasing me, and not because of my talent, but instead because of the fact that somehow, with the help of my record company, and my makeup artist, my stylist and my press, I had successfully created the illusion that I was perfect and pretty and rich, and therefore living a higher quality of life”.  

As the years went by and she released more critically successful albums, Fiona Apple managed to shuck most of the early negative criticisms of her. She is mostly known now as a relatively unproblematic, reclusive figure in the background of the pop culture collective. 

Fiona Apple at Damrosch Park Aug 8, 2015.

The fact that so much of this album comes from Apple’s reflection on her controversial past is interesting. The authorities in the music industry, publications such as Pitchfork, Metacritic and Rolling Stone have all given this album rave reviews, an album that defies all the conventions of the music industry that they created. 

The same publications that published articles such as “Fiona Apple’s Bad, Bad Girl Moments”, which highlighted a series of her "outbursts" and "breakdowns," are now praising her extreme sensitivity and honesty on Fetch The Bolt Cutters

While all of this praise is deserved, it is interesting that this album — which is so intensely focused on Apple’s refusal to shut up in the face of criticism — is the one that garners the most critically positive reception. However, if Fiona Apple has shown us anything through her latest album, it’s that she probably doesn't care. 

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Raynee Hamilton is an Arts editor for The Daily Cardinal. To read more of her work, click here.

Sadona Thompson is a staff writer for The Daily Cardinal. To read more of her work click here

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