I’m not saying that there is something universally “feminine” about Fiona Apple’s music, or that her songs inherently appeal to any one group of people more than another. But I do think the reason why some women and queer people feel an affinity with her music is that it displays the destabilizing power of “oversharing,” the strangely radical gesture of presenting your mind and your body and your life as it is— which is always going to provide more of a release to the people who’ve been cautioned against sharing those sorts of things in the past. “The thrill of [Apple’s songs],” Nitsuh Abebe wrote after an Austin show, “is just a certain frankness about reality, and the sense of an artist who can cut casually to the core of what life is like.” To me, the sudden triumph of her return exists in the same cultural moment as people sharing photos of gay couples who’ve just been married, or female protesters (hilariously) trolling Rick Perry’s Facebook wall with questions about menstruation to protest his stance on reproductive health. It’s the thrill of voices dismissed as silly or excessive in the past now deriving power from the ordinary details of their everyday lives.
1) This is what I fumbled at writing earlier. You should read it.
2) If this is happening for Fiona Apple, when can it happen for Tori Amos? The comparison’s inaccurate in so many ways, but here’s why I bring it up so often. It wasn’t for me when I was 15 and stubbornly refused to listen to either, afraid that I’d turn into one of those girls who liked Tori and Fiona. I didn’t know who those girls even were or what they thought; I just knew that those two artists were off-limits. Of course, this story only ends one way: I got into Fiona Apple, then Tori Amos, became well and truly one of those girls, and then I found myself in my tenth-grade English class staring at someone’s class presentation on the wall, scrawled with Fiona lyrics and half-heartbreaking even for a stranger, and wondering who I missed knowing.
(One way the comparison’s inaccurate, though: Tori’s music skews fundamentally older. Abnormally Attracted to Sin is about oversharing as it applies to motherhood and middle age: fear of affairs in “Fire to Your Plain,” domestic malaise in “Starling,” suicidal feelings in “Maybe California.” It’s a little like Fever Ray in that regard.)
3) What’s striking, for me, about Fiona Apple’s (over)sharing, though, isn’t her sharing mundane details but how she shares things that reflect poorly on her. The opening lines of “Fast As You Can,” for instance. You don’t say those, ever. Everything you’ll ever read or learn about gender relations tells you not to. Identifying as a “sullen girl.” Making the mistakes in “A Mistake.” In other words, saying “[speeches] you wish I’d swallow” from “To Your Love.” I’m hesitant to follow this line of thought too far, because it’d lead to agreeing with a couple people I really don’t agree with. Nor is it something she pioneered or exemplified, and there’s a real risk of glamorizing/Skins-izing this sort of confession. But it’s something I’ve sought out and still seek out; a resurgence can only be a good thing.