Sunday, April 19, 2020

Kat's Korner: Fiona says free yourself

Kat:  A lot of music gets dumped on Americans every year.  Most of it isn't even musically amusing.  Little of it will ever qualify as art.  That's why a true artist releasing new music will always qualify as news and Fiona Apple is a true artist.

Fiona, WIKIPEDIA tells you, was born to, "Fiona Apple was born Fiona Apple McAfee-Maggart on September 13, 1977 in New York City to singer Diane McAfee and actor Brandon Maggart, who met when both were cast in the Broadway musical Applause.[5][6] Her father is from Tennessee, and through him, Apple has Melungeon ancestry.[7]"

That's the world we live in.

It's a world few people ever notice.

Maybe your'e one of them?

Brandon's not a major actor.  He's certainly not more important than Diane McAfee.  So why is it that WIKIPEDIA has an entry for Fiona's father but not for her mother?

Did you notice that?  Because that's the world we live in and that's the sexist world that WIKIPEDIA has always encouraged.

Brandon has a Tony nomination for what's essentially a supporting performance in a musical -- and he lost to a TV actor best known for playing a supporting role on the TV show BENSON.  In terms of that play, APPLAUSE, what he's really known for is telling Diane McAfee that she was fired from the musical.  Diane would be fired in Baltimore, before the play hit Broadway.

That wasn't Diane only theater credit.  Off-Broadway, she appeared in BELLA and the 1962 revival of ANYTHING GOES.  On Broadway, she appeared in FLORA THE RED MENACE, IT'S A BIRD, IT'S A PLANE . . . IT'S SUPERMAN, and the 1968 revival of WEST SIDE STORY.  After being fired from the Broadway production, Diane then spent ten months playing the same role (Eve -- APPLAUSE is a musical based on Bette Davis' classic film ALL ABOUT EVE) on the bus-and-truck tour of APPLAUSE.

In 1996, Fiona emerged with her debut album TIDAL.  And the response?  'Feminist' Janeane Garofalo mocking her.  32-year-old famous-as-she'd-ever-be Janeane Garofalo mocking a 19-year-old
newcomer?  I guess Janeane didn't have time that day to go to a playground and beat up on a child, so she focused on Fiona.

And let's be clear that when Janeane aped Tonya Harding, she didn't just mock and trash Fiona once.  Two months after she starting trashing Fiona, she released a recording -- a 'comic' recording -- of Fiona's MTV speech because, well, she's that hateful.

A 19-year-old newcomer and 'feminist' Janeane shows her 'support' by trashing Fiona repeatedly.

A lot of people trashed and mocked Fiona.  In the end, they don't matter.  Fiona's refuge has always been her art.

Very few artists today can claim to have multiple great albums.  If we're lucky, we get one incredible album from a band or individual artist and then a lot of mediocre.  Gone, for most, are the days of Joni Mitchell, Prince, the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, etc -- the days when artists topped one peak album with another one.

Fiona's one of the few who can claim a list of classic albums: TIDAL, WHEN THE PAWN . . ., EXTRAORDINARY MACHINE, and the raw and scaled back THE IDLER WHEEL.  Now she can add FETCH THE BOLT CUTTERS to the list.


That album dropped Friday and it's everything anyone could want in an album -- an album that finds her musing -- often in a staccato manner (both in her vocals and in her piano work) -- across thirteen tracks.

She loves percussion on this album.

And it works and then some.  As do the lyrics.  On the title track, she offers:

I've been thinking about when I was trying to be your friend 
I thought it was then, but it wasn't, it wasn't genuine 
I was just so furious, but I couldn't show you 
'Cause I know you and I know what you can do 
And I don't want a war with you, I won't afford it 
You get sore, even when you win
And you maim when you're on offense 
But you kill when you're on defense 
And you've got them all convinced 
That you're the means and the end 
All the VIPs and PYTs and wannabes 
Afraid of not being your friend
And I've always been too smart for that 
But you know what? 
My heart was not 
I took it like a kid, you see 
The cool kids voted to get rid of me 
I'm ashamed of what it did to me 
What I let get done 
It stole my fun, it stole my fun 
Fetch the bolt cutters, I've been in here too long 
Fetch the bolt cutters, I've been in here too long 
Fetch the bolt cutters, I've been in here too long 
Fetch the bolt cutters

We all need to break free -- that's the theme, that's the concept.

That's especially true of the woman in "For Her."  It's probably the most staccato song on the album -- Fiona's vocal licks digging in deep on quick, short bursts, coming off more like drums.

Look at how feathered his cocks are
See how seamless his frocks are
Look at his paper-beating over that rockstar
Look at how long she walks and how far
Was she lost? or
Maybe she was not for travelling in the stock car, anymore
Maybe she spent her formative years
Dealing with his contentious fears
And endless jeers and her endless tears
And maybe she's got tired of watching him

The drums kick in:

Sniff white off a starlet's breast
Treating his wife like less than a guest
Getting his girl to clean up his mess
Never showing weakness unless it's a ward's season!
It's the season of the ward
And she's trying to cut the cord
She's tired of planting her knees on the cold, hard floor of facts
Trying to act like the other girl acts

Back to staccato vocals and finger snaps or hand claps:

And you strike me a been exact
But you know that you never really go to the mat
You tie everything all pretty in the second act
When you know that it didn't go exactly like that!

You arrive and drive by, like a sauced up bat
Like you know you should know but you don't know where it's at
Like you know you should know but you don't know where it's at
Like you know you should know but you don't know where it's at

After that, the real drums kick in as she repeats the last four lines:

You arrive and drive by, like a sauced up bat
Like you know you should know but you don't know where it's at!
You arrive and drive by, like a sauced up bat
Like you know you should know but you don't know where it's at!

The song continues in that vein until coming to a close with a harmonic choir as the song slowly fades out.

Each track on the album already feels like a well loved classic.  Take "Ladies."

Or "Rack Of His."

Break free, Fiona argues in song after song.  Liberation is freedom and it is a struggle in this world  that, as Fiona noted in her 1997 MTV moment, is "bulls**t."  You're better free from it than living by its rules.

In "Newspaper" (love the timpani on the song, by the way), she sings to a woman:

And it's a shame, because you and I didn't get a witness
We're the only ones who know
We were cursed, the moment that he kissed us
From then on, it was his big show

I grew concerned, when I saw him start to covet you
When I learned what he did, I felt close to you
In my own way, I fell in love with you
But he's made me a ghost to you
I watch him let go of your hand, I wanna stand between you
But it's not what I'm supposed to do
I watch him walk over, talk over you, be mean to you

And it makes me feel close to you
It makes me feel close to you
It makes me feel close to you
It's not what it's supposed to do
It makes me feel close to you

He's made a ghost of you -- that's what the world we live in does.  It does it to women, it does it to certain races, it does it to the LGBTQ community, it does it to those who advocate for true political transformation.  And it's done it to Fiona's own mother.  Art has saved Fiona thus far.  Maybe her new album can save you too?