Fiona Apple first found her way to the center of our attention when she was still just a teenager. Her 1996 debut, Tidal, came out at a time when outspoken female singer/songwriters like Alanis Morissette and Tori Amos were hitting their stride and baring their souls to the world in song, but from the beginning, Apple’s always been an entity unto herself — darker, more intense, and more iconoclastic than most of her peers. With her fourth album, The Idler Wheel — her first in seven years – getting set to greet the world on June 19, you might to bone up on Apple’s backstory by looking over a handful of clips from across the years that find Fiona doing what she does best — being Fiona.
1. Little Fiona Finds Her Sound
Those who considered Apple to be a prodigy for releasing her multi-Platinum debut album at the tender age of 18 haven’t seen anything until they’ve gotten a gander at a grade-school Fiona at the keyboard, playing her first-ever composition. Wonder if she was too young to copyright it …
2. The Notorious VMA Speech
The Tidal single “Criminal” earned Apple a Best Female Rock Vocal Performance Grammy, but the adamantly individualistic Fiona’s acceptance speech at the VMA’s for Best New Artist peeved plenty of bizzers by putting a pin in the proceedings, declaring “this world is bullshit” and urging viewers to pursue their own paths instead of following the false gods of media.
3. Apple Meets Elvis
“I Want You” is one of Elvis Costello’s most emotionally explosive songs, but with her ability to invest 100 percent of herself in each performance, Fiona fully inhabits the tune’s whisper-to-a-scream-to-a-whisper dramatic arc onstage, backed by EC himself.
4. Let Fiona Be Your Therapist
Early on, Apple had a reputation as a moody, melancholy bag of nerves, but in this excerpt from a Tower Records in-store performance circa Extraordinary Machine she turns that rep around with some light-hearted but surprisingly sound advice on overcoming anxiety. If she ever abandons music, she might have a future as a shrink.
5. Facing Down Zach Galifianakis
The solemn singer/songwriter responsible for some of the most psychologically searing songs of the last several years, Apple wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice to play straight woman to America’s favorite oddball comic, but Fiona was willing to let Zach Galifianakis riff riotously off of her for a MySpace video, as he started off auspiciously by introducing her as “the lead singer of the Spin Doctors.”