Saturday, October 25, 2003

Fiona Apple is

f*cking annoying.

I wouldn't be this disappointed if I hadn't been hoping she'd be so cool. I had recently been thinking about what cultural and literary references I would pick as reflecting a strong female voice. Wanting to branch out beyond my own eclectic taste and random acquaintances in this domain, I asked the college girl who helps me out with my twins on the weekends who she really thought men should listen to if they wanted to get a clue. She said "Fiona Apple, definitely Fiona Apple."

On a Saturday morning not so long ago, yours truly is hanging out with the babysitter, while the children nap, singing along to Lady Marmalade, "go sister, soul sister, let it flow sister" as we suds off the outgrown car seats and baby stroller with bleach water and some mysterious solution I picked up at the hardware store that promises to remove every stain known to man from every surface known to man, based on a complicated system of ratios to the other two liquids. Now, only other parents can appreciate the value of a responsible babysitter. All the teenagers you would entrust your children to these days have really busy lives with athletics and extra-curriculars or their parents must give them more generous allowances, compared to the days I remember putting in hard work for $2 an hour, would do the dishes, and the $50 or so you could save up meant the difference between Guess jeans and whatever your mother might pick up at Sears. So I do feel lucky to have sitters that are hard-working, actually like my children and are personable to boot.

So my children's sitter tells me her story of the weekend. She was browsing through the poster section of the University of Georgia campus when whom should she see a poster of, but her first boyfriend. Apparently they met when she lived in New York and was going to the Lycee Francais. He went to the nearby Italian high school. He and his friends had a band and he asked her to sing with them, but she was too shy. Her family moved to Georgia and she lost touch with him until recently she realizes that he's the drummer with the Strokes (who frankly I had never heard of, but then I'm not a reference because I don't follow contemporary music that closely). Any way, I thought to myself, that is a good Almost Famous story because your ex-boyfriend could move on to Drew Barrymore and if you had joined his band you could be "On the cover of Rolling Stone." And I'm ten years older and the might-have-beens in my life don't even remotely come close to anything famous...which brings me back to Fiona Apple.

I decided to check out her two CDs. I have to say her voice was actually a nice surprise. It was stronger than I expected. Given the fact that she looks a little waifish, I was expecting less. In her lyrics as well, she could be said to represent a strong female voice. After all, some girls do go looking for wolves on the way to their grandmothers' houses...and are usually disappointed not to find them, because bad boys tend to run the hell away from girls like that. Alas, the criminal, damned and insane generally avoid those who are more demented than they are. So, ok, she's the bad girl "who's been careless with a delicate man"..."because she can" but now she regrets this, because he was "all I ever knew of love." Well, it was time for some revenge for all those "I done a good woman wrong" songs written by self-indulgent teenage boys and men.

I liked the image of the incomplete seduction in "The First Taste," and she has some nice rhymes, in the "The Child is Gone," for example

Cuz I suddenly feel like a different person
From the roots of my sould came a different coercion
And I ran my hand o'er a strange inversion
A vacancy that just did not belong
The child is gone

Still, something was really bothering me about her music. "The child is gone?" I wouldn't bet on it, not with cliches such as "armour falling down" and "he finds a home in me" or the fact that in two albums, her songs all sound rather similar. That was it, it was the lack of thematic range that disturbed me. With one exception, all Fiona's songs are about angst. And that is where I smell a rat. Eminem? You're white trash, your mother's a crackhead, your girlfriend's a known slut and you live in a trailer? Yeah, I'll give you angst. But, seriously, how much angst can some pretty blond girl who grew up on the Upper West Side and had her first multi-platinum album release at eighteen really have experienced? Sure, the rich and beautiful have their problems too, but she doesn't sing about drug addiction, depression or psychotic families, the usual suspects there. She sings about unhappy love, the failure of communication and the fact that no man will understand what she's truly thinking. Well that might feel really compelling to Fiona, but I'm snoozing at this point. I'd give her two or three songs on those themes, but close to twenty? Oh, and this is too rich for words, I looked up the dedications on the back of her CD cover and lo and behold, there's "The Man--Andy, my Andy--thank you for you." What a poseur! What nerve, she's actually in some sort of seemingly good relationship. I bet she made all that tormented love sh*t up.

Granted, compared to a contemporary like Paris Hilton, Fiona's got some depth, but you still gotta wonder what happens to these kids who are so sophisticated, blase, world-weary and seen-it-all at eighteen. What will they have to say when they're in their thirties?

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