RED Hearts: Feeling Like a Criminal?

RED Hearts are guest posts on I Heart Daily from the authors of RED: Teenage girls in America write on what fires up their lives today. Today’s RED Hearts post is from Alison Smith, 21, in Allston, MA who writes about Fiona Apple's new album:

There’s something about Fiona Apple, in her music and in interviews, that’s always on the edge of falling apart, right there on the verge of a catastrophic explosion. But that’s her power; to call her fragile would be a severe misinterpretation.

An artist who’s been ridiculed for 15 years as overly angsty, somber and unappreciative, Apple’s discomfort in the spotlight only adds to the art she chooses to release -- again, on her fourth album, The Idler Wheel…, which is out this Tuesday. “I just want to feel everything,” is the strength you can’t fault her for, and one she repeats in “Every Single Night,” the first single off The Idler Wheel…. (And in true Apple idiosyncrasy, these ellipses are not actual ellipses, but a stand-in for the 20 words that follow.) Yes, TIWIWTTDOTSAWCWSYMTRWED is a perfect reintroduction to Apple after a major recording gap following her last album, 2005’s Extraordinary Machine.

“Every Single Night” takes the listener from quiet melismas to tribal booms. The song falls in line with Apple’s themes of contrasting melancholy, inwardly directed yearns with commanding outbursts. The music video was released last weekend and features images of a giant octopus, snails, and Apple spooning a skeleton. As a fan who has placed Apple on an (anti-heroine) pedestal since elementary school, I value the last moment of the video, when her eyes widen jokingly, in exaggerated resistance to being the star.

The rest of the new album, streamed early on NPR, is rife with guttural growls. But the most surprising moment takes place on the final track, "Hot Knife," when a schoolyard chant overturns Apple's declaration that she is butter and her man is a hot knife. The chant, giving dominance instead to Apple as the hot knife, is a refreshing change of pace. The lyrics put her in a position of confidence in non-broken relationships.

While I am incredibly excited for The Idler Wheel…’s release, I’m equally delighted to have Apple back in the press. (Check out her infamous 1997 Best New Artist acceptance speech at the VMA’s.) She’s always been refreshingly outspoken about misconceptions of her character and music. This time around, we can hope the reluctant role model -- more hot knife than butter -- continues to move young girls to reject the judgments placed upon them and to employ their individual voices.

RED Hearts guest poster Alison Smith is an author of RED: Teenage girls in America write on what fires up their lives today, which is out in paperback.