Let’s Leave Fiona Apple Alone, Shall We?

Before leaving the stage when accepting her award for Best New Artist at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1997, a young Fiona Apple shouted, “This world is bullshit, and you shouldn’t model your life on what we think is cool, and what we’re wearing and what we’re saying.” As a brilliant but fragile woman who’s never had a problem vocalizing her own internal battles into her art, she’s also become known for her public displays of emotion. “I don’t think I’ll ever have an idea of what I look like to the rest of the world,” she told us back in May in 2012.

“It’s all your own perception. I could easily be concerned with how I’m taken and then have all the good stuff filtered through to me and choose to believe that. For the rest of my life it’d be the truth for me, but not the whole truth.” And after yelling at the audience to “shut the f–ck up” and storming off stage at a Tokyo fashion party back in August, last night Apple encountered another incident during a show at Portland’s Oregon’s Newmark Theatre.

During her show, which she played with Blake Mills, apparently the set was already giving off a unbalanced vibe—with Apple’s usual  on-stage antics and saying things like “See, Christians? You can still have a good time and keep your virginity without butt sex”—when an audience member began heckling her. According to the Oregonina, a member of the crowd yelled out: “Get healthy – we want to see you in 10 years,” to which Apple responded: "I am healthy! Who the fuck do you think you are?…”I want you to get the fuck out of here. I want the house lights on so I watch you leave!" To make things worse, a male audience member exclaimed that she was a “has-been” before the heckler continued with “I saw you 20 years ago and you were beautiful!" Like the trooper she is, Apple finished her set through her sobbing tears and apologized to the audience. Her show tonight in Seattle has been cancelled. 
Okay fine, yes, concert crowds acting idiotically is nothing new, but I’ll never understand the mindset of those who think it’s in any way appropriate to boo and hiss at those that are, not only exposing themselves and putting on a show for you, but one that you most likely paid a decent price for. It’s Fiona Apple for f–cks sake, has the women ever been the model of stability? No, she’s been the model for those who say, screw you, I’m going to deal with my shit like a normal person the best I can and if I’m a little off, at least I can channel into these beautiful albums I have continued to make for the past twenty years.
Moral of the story: most humans are insufferable and cruel.
Happy Friday!

Watch Fiona Apple’s Video for ‘Hot Knife’ Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

Is it too early in the morning to be emotional? Oh well, too late. Although it’s been years since to the two parted ways, there was a time when Paul Thomas Anderson and Fiona Apple were one of the most beautiful and talented young couples floating through the celebrity world. Their joint emotional intelligence and passion fueling their artistic impulse, as PTA directed a handful of her best music videos from “Fast As You Can” to “Across the Universe.”

And now, after eleven years outside the video world, the two have reunited to collaborate for the final song off last year’s The Idler Wheel…, the repetitiously upbeat “Hot Knife.” It’s a minimalistic video, mainly showcasing Apple’s captivating presence on screen, but cutting from black and white to color as she plays the drums and sings in her delicate yet maniacal emphasis.

Take a look below.

Watch Tilda Swinton and David Bowie Play House in ‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)’ Video

Tilda Swinton as David Bowie, David Bowie as Tilda Swinton, David Bowie and Tilda Swinton sitting on a couch—really any combination of those two other-worldly genius creatures is a dream come true. And with Bowie’s new reemergence into the spotlight, we get to see the two together in his video for “The Stars (Are Out Tonight).”

Artist and director Floria Sigismondi, who has given us videos from Fiona Apple and The Cure to The White Stripes and Bowie’s “Dead Man Walking," works her magic yet again to give us Swinton and Bowie as a married couple who find their lives tormented by young celebrities. Running almost six minutes long, we get a well-shot and well-edited look at the two in both in peaceful and obsessive domesticity. Take a look.

Rick Ross, Fiona Apple, and Eight Other Artists Who Deserved a Best Original Song Nomination

The category for Best Original Song is always a bit of a mess. The songs are rarely judged on how they sound; the importance is, of course, how the song fits into the film for which it was written. This year’s nominees are representative of the usual fare. There’s the popular choice (Adele’s "Skyfall," which will likely win, as it should), the new song for the big-budget musical adaptation (the unnecessary "Suddenly" from Les Misérables), and then there are the forgettable tunes (I didn’t even know what Chasing Ice was before today, much less the song from it). It’s a shame, really, because there were plenty of good tracks included in the list of 75 eligible songs. Here are a few that probably will have a longer shelf life than "Pi’s Lullaby."

Karen O – "Strange Love" (from Frankenweenie)

Fiona Apple – "Dull Tool" (from This is 40)

Rick Ross – "100 Black Coffins" (from Django Unchained)

John Legend – "Who Did That To You" (from Django Unchained)

Sunny Levine – "No Other Plans" (from Celeste and Jesse Forever)

Arcade Fire – "Abraham’s Daughter" (from The Hunger Games)

The Bootleggers feat. Emmylou Harris – "Cosmonaut" (from Lawless)

Florence + The Machine – "Breath of Life" (from Snow White and the Huntsman)

Katy Perry – "Wide Awake" (from Katy Perry: Part of Me)

The Black Keys / RZA – "The Baddest Man Alive" (from The Man With the Iron Fists)

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Personal Faves: The Return of Fiona Apple—Live!

Instead of ending the year with a slew of Best Of lists, BlackBook asked our contributors to share the most important moments in art, music, film, television, and fashion that took place in 2012. Here, Nadia Chaudhury writes about fulfilling her dream of seeing Fiona Apple perform live.

Seeing Fiona Apple live won the year for me. Murmurings of her new album in January, after seven years spent doing whatever she does when not making new music (I’ve always imagined her frolicking through the woods), and to-be-expected tour excited so many people, like myself, were the musical highlights of the year before they even happened. Then, in in April, she officially announced the album, with an epic poem of a title (The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do) that ought to be pretentious but instead comes across as more endearing than anything else.

I had to see her (I never did while in high school; No Doubt was all the female empowerment I needed). I tried desperately to get tickets to what were pegged as her intimate one-off shows smaller venues in New York in March, to the point where, on the day tickets were for sale, I had my browser open up to Ticketmaster five minutes before they were released, and roped a group of friends and my fiancé to help me in my plight. As soon as the clock hit noon, we clicked, typed those ridiculous captcha words (if only it had read “pawn conflicts” that day…), and failed. Miserably.

So I waited.

Soon after my failed purchases, it was announced that she would be playing Governors Ball on Randalls Island in June, the same week that Idler Wheel had been officially released (though it had been streaming for weeks before and I already had it memorized). It was a music festival (that’s bad), so there were other bands (that’s good), but the main draw was Fiona (that’s great). My fiancé and I got there at noon, right when the gates opened, to stake out a spot at the front of the stage, center right (the money spot). Unlike the ticket fiasco, we succeeded in our goal, and we stood there for six hours, trading off who got to walk around the grounds of Randalls before it got too crowded to come back to our spot.

Band after band played, some better than others (Built to Spill, timeless as always). Then, it was Fiona Time, right at the beginning of dusk. While earlier in the day, the sun had been blazing hot, now the skies had since darkened a bit, turning into a soft hazy gray.

She walked onto the stage, settling in the center at the microphone stand. The blurred sun was right behind the stage, illuminating Fiona from behind. Then, without a 1-2-3 prelude, she begins, diving straight into the jaunty “Fast As You Can.”

Her performance is just mesmerizing. There’s the way she sways and bends her body to the music as if she’s a willow. She shakes her hips, stomps her feet, her one bent leg tapping her foot to the beat of her music. She grips the mic stand with one clutched hand, while the other hand rests on her hip, bracing herself from herself, or with two hands on the mic, like she’s trying to coax affection or approval or everything that she’s been searching for (and apparently couldn’t find from Jonathan Ames, if "Jonathan" is to be believed).

While singing, she widens her mouth to its fullest extent to squeeze every single ounce of sound out of her throat, and just look at the way she opens her eyes, drinking everything in front of her into her mind. There’s the way she waves her too-thin arms around, to emphasize her many points, as if in some poetic tantrum. There’s the way she grasps her own hands, or clutches at the edge of her skirt. There’s the way she pulls back from the microphone stand when she’s not singing. She slinks around the stage during extended musical breaks. She dances in a jerky sort of motion that is in sync with the music, as if she’s in a room by herself and no one else can see her. When she sits at her piano, she shakes her head, and whips her hair, she uses her entire body to push down and pound the notes out on the keyboard. It’s unknown whether the physical performance is for her, for us, or whether she even has any control over what she’s doing.

She sings with longing and at times is sweet, and other times, sounds purely guttural or emotes with a such a precisely controlled quiver as she wavers her voice. She exudes childish wonder in the best way (just look at the music video for “Every Single Night”), while at the same time, true earnest pain, all through her voice. There’s the intensity behind her words that extends deep into her voice, which moves throughout her body. Her vocal power is even amplified by her full backing band. “I just want to feel everything,” she sings. Every verse, every single thing she sings, is cathartic for her. The entire time, I just want to hug her, and tell her that everything is going to be okay, while at the same time, remaining several feet away from her.

Her stage banter isn’t much, but that’s not the point of seeing her. She rambles quickly, stumbling over her words, like an over-energetic child, which could be heard during her WTF interview with Marc Maron in July.

Her smile seems sheepish at times. At one point, she slumps behind the piano, only to wave hello to the crowd from underneath the piano. She’s unsure of how to respond to the multitudes of “I love you, Fiona”s that the audiences cries out; she handles them better than she used to, but there’s still a certain level of embarrassment she clearly feels when heaped with praise. And yet, when she thanks the crowd, she’s genuine. She cares, she really does.

Then she sits down on the stage floor during the musical end of “Criminal,” looking at the audience with a slight smile on her face. And then she waves and her face breaks into a huge smile. She gets up, waves more, and then hugs herself. As she walks offstage, a man, likely her manager, puts his hand on her shoulder as if to say, good job. 

Modest Mouse was set to play after Fiona, but they didn’t matter. We walked away. I wanted to remember what just happened for as long as I could. Some eight months later, I still haven’t forgotten even a single second. Good job.

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It’s Jon Brion’s Birthday So Let’s All Have a Cry

If this sounds incoherent, it’s only because I am listening to the Magnolia soundtrack and am growing too emotional to type. Sorry. But that only makes sense, considering today is the 49th birthday of cinematically minded musical genius Jon Brion. Although perhaps best known for his work in the PT Anderson-Fiona Apple-Aimee Mann world of collaboration, the whimsically dramatic singer/songwriter/composer/record producer has scored dozens of films—ranging from Adam McKay’s Step Brothers to his absolutely perfect work on Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind—while producing for everyone from Kanye West to Rufus Wainwright.

Although his projects may vary in medium and style, there’s a very specific sensation that wanders through all of his work—like gentle fingers plucking away at your heart strings, unhinging tearducts, and allowing you to journey even farther into the work it’s a part of. He isn’t melodramatic or devious with senitment, but provides an atmospheric, emotional through-line to guide you amidst the tangled worlds that his work speaks to. But however you see it, here’s a tasting of some favorites from his wonderful body of music.

Magnolia, “Stanley/Frank/Linda’s Breakdown” 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, “Phone Call”

Punch-Drunk Love, “Punch-Drunk Melody”

Hard Eight, “Sydney Doesn’t Speak”

I ♥ Huckabees, “Monday”

Magnolia, “Showtime”

Step Brothers, “Back and Forth”

Fionna Apple, “Fast as You Can”

Rufus Wainwright, “Damned Ladies”


Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Full OST

The Jon Brion Show – Feat. Elliott Smith / Brad Mehldau

Magnolia, “I’ve Got a Surprise For You Today”

Fiona Apple Debuts ‘Dull Tool,’ New Song For ‘This Is 40’ Soundtrack

All is never calm in Fiona Apple’s world and we love her for it. She’s written a new song for the This Is 40 soundtrack — Judd Apatow’s sequel that checks back in with the sister and brother-in-law from Knocked Up — and it’s darker than the feel-good comedy would suggest.

Apple sings to an unknown lover, "So go tell that girl you don’t love her / and if you do / tell her two times / because you’re likely to get cut with a dull tool than a sharp one / you don’t kiss when you kiss / you don’t fuck when you fuck / you don’t say what you mean / you don’t talk loud enough."   

It’s delightfully demented, as the best Fiona Apple songs always are, and manages to be tense and upbeat at the same time. And, of course, make me want to see This Is 40 even more. 

Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter.

R&B Legend Bettye LaVette Opens Up About Her Tell-All Memoir

Bettye LaVette has one of the greatest voices in R&B history, but we came very close to never hearing her sing. At sixteen she recorded her first song, “My Man – He’s a Loving Man,” in 1962, and that early success allowed her to tour the country with folks like Otis Redding and offered the promise of R&B stardom. Fate, however, wasn’t kind, and a string of bad luck and broken promises kept her from truly making it big. But with a dedicated circle of friends and fans, LaVette continued to perform, and in the early years of the new millennium she found success with albums released by indie label ANTI-, through which she recorded an album of songs by singer-songwriters like Aimee Mann, Fiona Apple, and Lucinda Williams, as well as a collaboration with southern rockers Drive-By Truckers.

It was her performance of The Who’s classic “Love, Reign O’er Me” at the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors that delivered her much-deserved national spotlight, which led to her chance to sing “A Change Is Gonna Come” at Barack Obama’s pre-inauguration concert at the Lincoln Memorial. Now, the singer has a new album as well as a memoir, A Woman Like Me. The book is a no-holds-barred account of the roller coaster ride that was her career, featuring cameos by Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross, and Aretha Franklin—all of whom LaVette remembers at times fondly and, at times, with aversion.

I was excited to talk to the singer, who eagerly shared her excitement about writing a book, how she’s happy to share the stories from her life, and how the music industry has drastically changed in the last forty years.

What I really liked about your book was that it wasn’t the typical rock ’n’ roll memoir where you make it really big and than you have this giant tragedy. You kind of see that a lot in movies and books about people in the music industry. Did you have this idea of wanting to set the record straight about things that happened in your career?
No, not at all. These were stories that I’ve told over the years. You have to remember, just a little while ago all I had was these memories, that was absolutely all I had. Someone would always say, “You need to write a book,” and I would say, “I’m sure somebody’s gonna write one, either my daughter or my best friend—the people who have heard these stories a million times or whatever—but I thought it would happen after my death because I didn’t think that I would be around long enough to have somebody write about me and a whole bunch of tawdry stories. So no, it wasn’t conceived in the way that most books are, and I didn’t know it’d be different from what I’m doing now: sharing my stories.

It comes across that way. It’s written with a more personal style, as if I were sitting and listening to you telling me tales. It jumps around a bit; you’ll end one story and pick it up later, and characters come back just as you’re giving your memories of how you remember them. That’s what I liked about it; it wasn’t the standard kind of memoir in that way.
And I want people to know, too, that these stories are about who these people were. They’re not about who you know them to be. People sort of have problems with that because they know Marvin Gaye as a star. But I know Marvin Gaye as a man trying to be a star. So that’s completely different.

You’re pretty brutally honest about a lot people and give a lot of surprising opinions. You mention Ike Turner at one point and talk about the Ike Turner that you knew being different from the person portrayed on film and thought of in the popular culture. Were you at all worried about how people would react to how you were describing the people you were around at the time?
I have the advantage now of almost being 70, so I don’t care what you think! I do not care what you think. You know, the thing of it is: there’s no reason to lie, and there’s nothing to lie about. The only people I would have been worried about were my grandchildren, and they are now 21 and 27, so at least I can explain myself thoroughly to them now. The people I spoke about in the book haven’t spoken to me at all this time. I wouldn’t be losing anything if they decided not to speak to me now.

It’s kind of surprising, I guess, when you think about your family reading it. I’ve seen so many movies and read stories about this era and of people in rock ’n’ roll, and it’s not super surprising—
But Tyler, if you’re just twenty-something, you haven’t seen too many!

Well, I mean, there’s probably more of an expectation that I would get out of reading a book by a musician than maybe a that person’s grandchildren would have.
Really, why?

Well,  I can’t imagine my grandparents writing about sex and drugs.
Ha, I love it!

But that’s interesting! It didn’t even cross my mind—thinking about how your family would react to it. I was thinking, “What if Diana Ross read this book, and what would she think about it?”
I don’t know if I would have even written it had my mother still been alive. You were just saying about your grandparents—I know how much of it my mother would have understood, and it wouldn’t have been enough. If I were trying to explain it to a young kid, what they would understand would not be enough. Those are the only people I was concerned about.

I saw you perform at the Robert Johnson tribute show back in March, and I remember you saying it was the first time you had been at the Apollo since like some time in the mid-’60s and how it seemed a lot bigger to you when you were there the first time.
It seemed like a little community theater!

It was the first time I had been there, too, and I was surprised because I had expected it to be much bigger. It’s such an iconic place, especially for R&B and African American artists. Was that a place you always strived to get to?
Oh, absolutely. You certainly wanted to work at the Apollo—that was absolutely it. I remember touring Otis Redding and The Shirelles. When we got to Philadelphia, Otis and I headed back down south and The Shirelles would go on up to the Apollo. Then everything happened so fast, and it wasn’t a long time before Otis was at the Apollo—it was maybe like six months later.

I didn’t know much about the industry at the time, but these days it seems artists are getting a lot buzz before they’ve come out with a proper album and can tour on that early successful buzz. That’s what I thought of when I was reading your story; you had a lot of singles that were getting some pick-up, and you would get the chance to record an album and then that opportunity fell through. It seems like before there was the major crossover for African American artists the industry was much more competitive. Looking at how the industry works now, have things changed that much for new artists?
I think the record industry today is virtually unrecognizable to anyone my age unless they’re, like, Clive Davis. My manager once introduced me to Billy Eckstine, who had a record on the charts for the first time in his twenty-year career. Whereas today you can sing for thirteen weeks and be on the cover of Vogue. The children have taken over! It’s just like the children running the house.

People are becoming successful based on nothing, but it doesn’t seem like there’s a long shelf life for them.
Oh, no, they’re almost disposable. And I think that the thing that keeps me from being terrified of them; I know that they are disposable, and that none of them are going to run up against me way late at night in a little small joint where there’s nothing but a baby grand piano. So those two things keep me sane.

What you are doing even now is a little more classical in a way—you’re singing songs and interpreting them in your own way, and you can continue to find an audience. I first discovered you from hearing your covers of Fiona Apple’s “Sleep to Dream” and Aimee Mann’s “How Am I Different.” I’m a big fan of Marianne Faithfull, and she recently did an album where she covered a lot of contemporary indie-rock songs and recorded them in her own style, and that something she’s been doing for decades. Was that approach introduced to you and did someone suggest you record those covers?
The songs, first of all, are just songs to me. Some people have small churches they have built dedicated to some of those tunes, and I don’t. They’re just songs to me. And I have always sung all kinds of songs because I’ve always heard all kinds of songs. It doesn’t make any difference what kind of song it is. If I sing, it’s gonna be rhythm and blues. None of them frighten me. I don’t think of them in categories or anything, because I know that if I did a song by Roy Rogers, it won’t sound like a Roy Rogers song when I sing it. It’ll sound like me.


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Fiona Apple Explains Her Wacky Post-Arrest Statement (Sort Of)

Over the weekend, Fiona Apple gave a statement that rivaled only her-long winded album titles (shortened here, because I am too lazy to go to Wikipedia and copy and paste the full titles, as When the Pawn… and The Idler Wheel…) following her arrest last week in Hudspeth County, Texas, for possession of hash. "There are four of you out there, and I want you to know that I heard everything you did," she said during her show in Houston. "I wrote it all down with your names and everything you did and said stupidly thinking that I couldn’t hear or see you. I then ripped the paper up, but not before I encoded it and — I got two lock boxes." And so on and so forth! Lock boxes, you know. Now, apparently, she feels kinda bad about it, and has apologized.

"There are no fucking lock boxes," Fiona claims. What a shame! I was hoping they’d be tied into the deluxe edition of her next album, which we’ll probably have to wait another ten years for. 


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