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Fiona Apple: When the Pawn...

Arizona Daily Wildcat,
November 17, 1999
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Since her first album debuted in 1995, Fiona Apple has reminded the public that she is a real, suffering artist. She demonstrated this when appearing on the MTV Video Music Awards with eyes glazed over saying "this world is s--t" and oft mentioned in interviews her childhood rape as a source of her unbridled anger in her music.

No other artist, except maybe Jewel, has embodied pretension so distinctly as Fiona.

The curious thing, however, is that despite its high-school-literary-magazine-worthy 90-word poem of a title, cocky declaration is lacking in the music of her follow-up album, When the Pawn...

The album deals again with the typical Fiona topic of relationships with men, but unlike fellow pissed-off chick Alanis Morissette, Fiona criticizes herself and not the men.

Remarkable songs like the first single "Fast As You Can," where Fiona warns the man to "run free yourself of me," contributes to the largely self-deprecating tone of the album.

She owns up to her own flawed character, turning a critical eye towards herself without falling into the arty, look-at-me gaudiness of Jewel's Spirit or Alanis' Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie.

When the Pawn... represents a maturation of Fiona's music, in large part due to producer Jon Brion (Macy Gray, Rufus Wainwright). Fiona's astonishing vocal gifts are matched by the music behind them.

In her first album Tidal, the often bare-bones music left her voice seemingly stranded out on its own, but for this album, the music is richer, more complex, working with her voice to create a more textured whole. So, while we suspect there is still pretension in Fiona and in her lyrics, at least now they are in the context of a sophisticated, enjoyable album. - Graig Uhlin

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