fiona apple and female musicians of today: is there a comparison?
About a week ago, tickets went on sale here in New York for a performer I’d do anything to see: Fiona Apple.
Fiona Apple is one of the most influential artists in my overall musical taste. After seeing her “Criminal” video when I was in third or fourth grade, I was immediately captivated. I was blown away that there existed a female musician who was damned talented and unabashedly doing her own thing in the time of contemporary teen pop stars like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. I loved her immediately because in stark contrast to the other sugary sweet pop stars of the late nineties, Fiona Apple had all this angst and maturity and depth to her sound – the introspective lyrics, the jazzy arrangements and that smoky powerhouse voice made me a fan for life. I actually think my interest in poetry and later, literature, began because of her.
When she released When The Pawn… in 1999, I became a fan for life. I remember I asked my parents to buy me the album for Christmas that year, and from that moment on, the album was constantly on rotation in my walkman. Even as her artistry and sounds progressed through the mid-2000s, the When The Pawn… era of Fiona remained my favorite. So many awesome tracks from that album like “Paper Bag”, “Limp” and “Make A Mistake” are still in my heavy rotation.
Even after she pretty much disappeared from the public eye and my tastes matured, I still have a soft spot for Fiona. Whether I’m writing something introspective or cleaning my room, there’s always a little room for Fiona on my playlists. It normally bothers me on principle when beloved artists from decades past come back from the proverbial dead to sell a bunch of high-priced tickets to “exclusive” shows, but since the Fiona tickets were moderately priced ($40) and her tour hits major cities throughout the Northeastern U.S. (and Chicago), I feel like hope she may be preparing for a comeback.
I tried like hell to get tickets to the Brooklyn show later this month, which were somehow sold out in 10 minutes (F you scalpers!), but ultimately didn’t succeed in my quest. I have a few other tricks up my sleeve, but I doubt I’ll be able to finally be able to see the strong female musician I’ve admired so much for so long live.
The whole experience made me start reminiscing about the late 90s and its female musicians. In America, and I am just assuming throughout the rest of the world (please correct me if I am wrong), there was a weird kind of third wave of feminism; things like the Lilith Fair were taking off and even the dude-liest dudes had Liz Phair and Sheryl Crow in their CD collections. After much analysis, I’ve come to the conclusion that this female-centric uprising must’ve been some sort of reaction to the overwhelming grunge scene pioneered by male bands like Nirvana. I have noticed, though, that all of these female musicians about which I am talking had in addition to their talents, a kind of conventional sex appeal – either by being dark and moody with expressive faces, or having the kind of female ideal body.
Reflecting on how female musicians were marketed and perceived back then versus now, it seems like things have changed. And I don’t mean in terms of pop music, but in the indie scene, there’s a clear lack of female musicians as powerful as those of the 90s. Sure, right now there are a lot of great, beautiful female-led bands whose sounds recall the decade like Cults, Tennis, or Best Coast and even some killer all female bands like No Joy, Tamaryn and the Vivian Girls, but there is a clear lack of solo performers that can compare to Fiona Apple. I’m not sure if it’s because record companies think strong female musicians can’t drive the same kind of profit male-centred bands do, or because general interests have moved away from intellectual female musicians towards the Rihannas, Lady Gagas and Katy Perrys of the world, but it’s a clear and definite shift.
I’ve only found one female musician recently, tUnE-yArDs, whose talent, clear aesthetic and originality reminds me of early Fiona, so in my head, she is spearheading the renaissance of kickass women performers who do it all.
Who do you think can be the next Fiona? Or, awesome Lip readers, who are your Fionas? Let us know in the comments!