When Fiona Apple walked on stage, I leaned over and whispered to Anthony, "She looks like a meth addict!" Because it's true. Fiona Apple does, unfortunately, look like a meth addict--her long, stringy hair, gaunt face, and impossibly thin frame make her look like she should be on a poster with an 800 number on it. But she's also one of the most enigmatic and experimental artists I've ever seen, and while her show last night was raw and angry and at times left me wondering if I should be praying for her soul, I enjoyed it.
And how could I not enjoy it? From the time I was 15 and picked up her debut album Tidal, listening to it lying morosely on my bed in typical 15-year-old fashion, I've been a fan. Tidal, in fact, has only gotten better with time. As I've aged, I've found new nuances and truths in it, which is surprising since Apple was only 18 when she recorded it. While I've never been as devoted to any of her subsequent albums as much as Tidal, I've owned them and listened to them often. Certain tracks seem to come back to me like musical homing pigeons--their insights striking fresh chords each time.
I think what appeals to me most about Apple and her music (and probably what appeals to most of her female fans), in addition to her totally original songwriting, is her unflinching Angry Young Woman vibe. As someone who struggles with anger, I totally get where she's coming from. I think we all need music for those times when we hurt, when we want to claw someone's face off, when we want to flip the world the bird. For some that might mean death metal. For me, it has meant Fiona Apple. She's certainly got enough vitriol to go around, and from some self-evident sources: her brutal rape as a child, her complicated relationships with acrimonious ends. So watching her last night, I could feel myself letting off some angry steam with her.
The thing I believe about anger, though, is that it's not meant to be a permanent state. While I resonate with Fiona Apple and will probably always enjoy her music, I have to say that I left the theater last night with some questions. Like how long can you stay angry? How long should you? If you keep if up for years at a time, won't it eventually start to make you look like a meth addict? (Or maybe Apple actually is on drugs, I don't know. The only words she spoke from the stage were a weird diatribe against her record label and the unusual fashion tip of using bra padding to cover up her open-toed shoes.) If Fiona's niche is the Angry Young Woman genre, what happens when she's not so young anymore? Is she still going to be on stage writhing and banging the piano and shouting out her lyrics when she's 40? 45? 50? Don't get me wrong: she's great at what she does. And I think there's always a time and place for angry music--in fact, I wish someone would have the guts to make some angry Christian music. But the angry stuff, sustained on a constant plane for the last 16 years since Tidal, has to stop somewhere or she'll either destroy herself or just stagnate. How powerful would it be if she came out with an album about forgiveness?