Fiona Apple (born September 13, 1977) is a Grammy-winning American singer-songwriter. She gained popularity through her 1996 album Tidal, especially with the single "Criminal" and its music video. Her music is influenced by everything from early jazz, pop, to alt-rock. It is also characterized by Apple's candid personal lyrics and imaginative productions, often featuring idiosyncratic arrangements with instruments as varied as the french horn and optigan.
Apple's family has roots in entertainment. Born Fiona Apple McAfee Maggart in New York City, she is the daughter of singer Diane McAfee and actor Brandon Maggart. Her older sister, Amber, sings cabaret under the stage name Maude Maggart. Her half brother Spencer is a director and directed the video for her single "Parting Gift". Her half brother Garett Maggart starred in the TV series The Sentinel. In addition, her maternal grandparents were Millicent Green, a dancer with the George White's Scandals, a series of 1920s musical revues similar to the Ziegfeld Follies, and Johnny McAfee, a multireedist and vocalist of the big band era; her grandparents met while touring with Johnny Hamp and his Orchestra.
After she joked to a friend at the age of 11 that she was going to kill her sister and herself, Apple's parents placed her in therapy. The following year, she was raped on her way home from school and would allude to the trauma years later in such songs as "Sullen Girl".
Apple's break into the music industry came in 1994, when Apple gave a demo tape to the babysitter of music publicist Kathryn Schenker. Schenker passed the tape along to Sony Music executive Andy Slater. Apple's rich alto voice, piano skills and lyrics captured his attention, and Slater signed her to a record deal.
Main article: Tidal (album)
In 1996, Apple's debut album, Tidal, was released by Epic, a subsidiary of Sony. The album went on to sell 2.7 million copies and was certified three times platinum in the U.S.
"Criminal," the third single, became Apple's breakthrough hit. The song reached the top forty on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, while the controversial Mark Romanek-directed music video ? in which a scantily-clad Apple cavorted in a '70s-era tract house ? became very popular on MTV. Apple later said: "I decided if I was going to be exploited, then I would do the exploiting myself"
Other singles from Tidal included "Shadowboxer," "Sleep to Dream," and "Never Is a Promise." Her public image was tempestuous. Most notoriously, while accepting the 1997 MTV Video Music Award for "Best New Artist" for "Sleep to Dream," she proclaimed: "This world is bullshit, and you shouldn't model your life on what you think that we think is cool, and what we're wearing and what we're saying," referring to the mainstream music industry. Host Chris Rock would comment on her speech later on during the program, saying, "That Fiona Apple was mad, huh? Fiona X was up here." Though her comments were generally greeted with cheers and applause at the awards ceremony, the media backlash was immediate.
However, Apple was unapologetic: "I just had something on my mind and I just said it. And that's really the foreshadowing of my entire career and my entire life. When I have something to say, I'll say it." Stand-up comedian Denis Leary included a satire of this speech on his album, Lock 'n Load, titled "A Reading from the Book of Apple". Janeane Garofalo parodied Apple's comments in light of the fact that her video for "Criminal" seemed to reinforce the same celebrity fixation on weight and appearance that Apple condemned. Apple responded to these criticisms in an article in Rolling Stone in January 1998.
During this period, Apple contributed covers of The Beatles' "Across the Universe" and Percy Mayfield's "Please Send Me Someone to Love" to the soundtrack of the film Pleasantville.
Main article: When the Pawn...
Apple's second album, When the Pawn..., was released in 1999. Its full title is When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He'll Win the Whole Thing Fore He Enters the Ring There's No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might So When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You'll Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won't Matter, Cuz You Know That You're Right. The title is a poem Apple wrote after reading letters that appeared in Spin regarding an article that had cast her in a negative light in an earlier issue. The title's length earned it a spot in the Guinness Book of Records for 2001. However, as of October 2007, it is no longer the longest album title, as Soulwax released Most of the Remixes, a remix album whose title surpasses When the Pawn...'s length by 100 characters.
The album was cultivated during Apple's relationship with film director Paul Thomas Anderson. When the Pawn... received a positive reception from publications such as The New York Times and Rolling Stone.
When the Pawn..., which was produced by Jon Brion, used more expressive lyrics, experimented more with drum loops, and incorporated both the Chamberlin and drummer Matt Chamberlain. It did not fare as well commercially as her debut, though it was an RIAA-certified platinum album and sold 1 million copies in the U.S. The album's lead single, "Fast as You Can", reached the top 20 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart and became Apple's first Top 40 hit in the UK. The videos for two follow-up singles, "Paper Bag" and "Limp" (directed by then-boyfriend Anderson), received very little play.
In March 2000, at a concert at the Roseland Ballroom in New York, Apple became dissatisfied with the venue's sound and broke down on stage, berating music critics and the audience with vulgar language, before ending her set early and storming off stage.
Main article: Extraordinary Machine
Apple sang with Johnny Cash on a cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge over Troubled Water" that ended up on his album American IV: The Man Comes Around and was nominated for a Grammy Award for "Best Country Collaboration with Vocals". She also collaborated with Cash on Cat Stevens's "Father and Son," which was included in his 2003 collection Unearthed.
Free Fiona campaigners outside the NYC headquarters of Sony BMG Music Entertainment in January 2005.
Apple's third album, Extraordinary Machine, was originally produced by Jon Brion. Recording sessions began in 2002 at Ocean Way studios in Nashville, Tennessee, but later moved to the Paramour in Los Angeles. Work on the album continued until 2003, and in May of that year it was submitted to Sony executives.
In 2004 and 2005, tracks were leaked on the Internet in MP3 format and played on U.S. and international radio; subsequently, MP3s of the entire album, believed to have been produced by Brion (although he later claimed the leaked tracks were "tweaked" beyond his own work), went online. Although a website distributing the album was quickly taken offline, it soon reached P2P networks and was downloaded by fans. A fan-led campaign, Free Fiona, was launched in support of the album's official release.
It was revealed in April 2005 that Sony was initially unhappy with the work, and Apple and Brion sought to rework the album. Sony reportedly made caveats on the process, to which Apple balked. After a long period of waiting, she began an attempt to rework the album with close friend, electronica experimentalist Brian Kehew. Mike Elizondo, who had previously played bass on Pawn, was brought back as co-producer to complete the tracks he had begun with Brion and Apple. Despite suggestions that the album had caused a rift between Brion and Apple, they regularly perform together at Largo, a club in Los Angeles, including a joint appearance with Elizondo on bass just before the news broke of an official release.
In August 2005, the album was given an October release date. Production had been largely redone by Elizondo and was co-produced by Kehew. Spin later reported the following: "Fans erroneously thought that Apple's record label, Epic, had rejected the first version of Extraordinary Machine... in reality, according to Elizondo, Apple was unhappy with the results, and it was her decision to redo the record, not her label's." Two of the eleven previous leaked tracks were relatively unchanged, nine were completely retooled, and one new song was also included. According to Elizondo, "Everything was done from scratch." The final mastering of Extraordinary Machine was performed by Brian Gardner, and the released version has a far higher level of compression than any of Fiona's previous releases.
Extraordinary Machine became the highest-charting album of Apple's career in the U.S. (debuting at number seven) and was nominated for a Grammy Award for "Best Pop Vocal Album". It was eventually certified gold and sold 462,000 copies in the U.S.,, though its singles ("Parting Gift," "O' Sailor," "Not About Love" and "Get Him Back") failed to enter any Billboard charts. Apple went on a live tour to promote the album in late 2005.
Apple on tour with Nickel Creek in 2007.
In June 2006, Apple appeared on the joke track "Come Over and Get It (Up in 'Dem Guts)" by comedian Zach Galifianakis. Galifianakis previously appeared in the music video for Apple's "Not About Love". The joke track is a complete departure from Apple's previous work, both lyrically and musically. It is a hip hop/dance track that features Apple singing lines such as "Baby, show me your fanny pack/I'll show you my fanny".
Apple recorded a cover of "Sally's Song" for the special edition release of the soundtrack, released in 2006, for the Tim Burton film The Nightmare Before Christmas. In May 2006 Apple paid tribute to Elvis Costello on VH1's concert series Decades Rock Live by performing Costello's hit "I Want You"; her version was subsequently released as a digital single.
Apple toured the East Coast during August 2007 with Nickel Creek.