At the age of twelve, Apple was raped upon returning home from school to her mother's apartment. The rape is mentioned subtly in some of her work, but is not necessarily a major theme. While the media latched onto the story of Apple's dark past experience, making her what she referred to as "the poster child for rape", the singer said the only reason she even mentioned the rape to an interviewer was because she didn't want it to seem like something of which she should be ashamed.
In 1996 Apple's debut album, Tidal, was released by a subsidiary of Sony. The album went on to sell three million copies (certified triple 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 and garnered a great deal of attention, mostly due to its controversial Mark Romanek-directed music video. While manager Slater says he considered the clip a "tribute to [director Gregg] Araki and [photographer] Nan Goldin", some interpreted it as a "sex tease". Years later Apple said: "The shit that got me popular was the stuff that I was not proud of ... I wanted to be like every other girl you see in videos, and that's why it's embarrassing. But the way that I justified [the treatment] is that the song is about someone talking to God about a mistake they've been making ... But I think the thing that screwed it up is how fuckin' horrified I look". Years later, she said that the video fit with the song and that it was "beautiful".
Other singles from Tidal included "Shadowboxer", "Slow Like Honey", "Sleep to Dream", "The First Taste" and "Never Is a Promise". After a series of fiery public appearances, Apple's public image began to suffer in some circles. Most notoriously, while accepting the 1997 MTV Video Music Award for "Best New Artist", 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. She closed quoting Maya Angelou: "Go with yourself". Though her comments were generally greeted with cheers and applause at the awards ceremony, the media backlash was immediate, with host Chris Rock making a derisive comment about her speech.
Some considered her remarks hypocritical, seeing a contradiction between her appearance in a risquι music video in only her underwear, and her telling young women to ignore celebrity culture. She was unapologetic, however: "When I have something to say, I'll fuckin' well 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 did a bit about Apple's emaciated looks. Apple, who admitted she was a fan of Garofalo's, was angry about this, mainly because Garofalo had talked about her struggles with her own weight and felt it was hypocritical of Garofalo to make fun of Apple's weight. Garofalo reportedly replied "it's comedy. Deal with it". 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.
xtraordinary Machine: 20022005
Apple sang with Johnny Cash on a cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge over Troubled Water" that ended up on Cash's album American IV: The Man Comes Around, which was nominated for a Grammy award for "Best Country Collaboration with Vocals". She also collaborated with him on Cat Stevens's "Father and Son", which was included on Cash's 2003 collection Unearthed.
"Free Fiona" campaigners outside the NYC headquarters of Sony BMG Music Entertainment in January 2005.
Apple's third album, Extraordinary Machine, which was produced by Jon Brion, was submitted to Sony executives in May 2003. Sony was reportedly unenthusiastic about the finished product, and the project was shelved for over two years. 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 via the DMCA copyright law, they soon reached P2P networks and were downloaded by fans.
In August 2005 the album was given a release date for October. Production had been completed by Mike Elizondo (though known for his work with hip-hop artists such as Dr. Dre, he had previously played bass for Apple on Pawn) and co-produced by electronica experimentalist Brian Kehew. Spin later reported: "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". Upon its release Extraordinary Machine became the highest-charting album of Apple's career in the U.S. (debuting at number seven), was eventually certified gold and nominated for a Grammy Award for "Best Pop Vocal Album".
It was revealed in late 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 Kehew (also a friend and former roommate of Jon Brion). Elizondo 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. Apple went on a live tour to promote the album in late 2005, and from early 2006 supported Coldplay on their tour of North America. The album yielded four singles: "Parting Gift", "O' Sailor", "Not about Love" and "Get Him Back".
Apple is a vegan and supporter of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). In 1997 she recorded a message on PETA's hotline expressing her concern for the plight of turkeys on Thanksgiving. In reference to a Butterball Turkey hotline people could call to get tips on cooking their turkeys, she claimed, "There's no proper way to kill and cook these beautiful birds". She continued, "Millions of people are learning that a vegetarian diet is the healthy choice for themselves, the Earth and the animals".
Apple has previously dated David Blaine, the magician, and film director Paul Thomas Anderson.
In 1999 Apple's second album, When The Pawn..., was released. Its full title is around ninety words long, and it 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, but some music journalists immediately dismissed the album. A review in Spin magazine quoted the title, and then underneath said "Whoops. Now we don't have room for a review. One star".
The album used more expressive lyrics, experimented more with drum loops, and heavily incorporated clavichord and organ. It did not fare as well commercially as her debut, though it was an RIAA-certified platinum-selling release in the U.S. The album's lead single, "Fast as You Can", reached the top twenty on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart and became Apple's first top forty hit in the UK. The videos for two follow-up singles, "Paper Bag" and "Limp" (directed by then-boyfriend Anderson), received very little play. Some critics felt the album's lyrics were also often difficult to decipher, due to the archaic and creative wording.
Released: July 23, 1996 (U.S.)
Chart positions: #15 U.S.
Last RIAA certification: 3x platinum in April 1999
Singles: "Shadowboxer", "Slow Like Honey", "Sleep to Dream", "The First Taste", "Criminal", "Never Is a Promise".
When The Pawn...
Released: November 9, 1999 (U.S.)
Chart positions: #13 U.S.
Last RIAA certification: Platinum in 2000
Singles: "Fast as You Can", "Paper Bag", "Limp".
Released: October 4, 2005 (U.S.)
Chart positions: #7 U.S.
Last RIAA certification: Gold in January 2006
Singles: "Parting Gift", "O' Sailor", "Not about Love", "Get Him Back".
Fiona Apple: iTunes Originals
Released: February 14, 2006 (U.S.)
Awards and nominations
MTV Video Music Award for "New Artist Video of the Year" for "Sleep to Dream" (win).
MTV Video Music Award for "Best Cinematography" for "Criminal" (win shared with Harris Svides).
MTV Video Music Award for "Female Video of the Year" for "Criminal" (nominated).
Grammy Award for "Best Female Rock Vocal Performance" for "Criminal" (win).
Grammy Award for "Best New Artist" for "Tidal" (nominated).
Grammy Awards for "Best Female Rock Vocal Performance" for "Paper Bag" (nominated), and "Best Alternative Music Album" for When the Pawn (nominated).
Grammy Award for "Best Country Collaboration with Vocals" for "Bridge over Troubled Water" (nominated shared nomination with Johnny Cash).
Grammy Award for "Best Pop Vocal Album" for Extraordinary Machine (nominated).
New Pantheon Award for Extraordinary Machine (nominated).
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