Fiona Apple – Tidal (1996)
Most difficult listening experience of the project thus far? Probably Billie Holiday’s Lady in Satin.
On that late-career recording, Holiday’s voice was so frail, she sounded decades older than she actually was.
In terms of Actual age vs. Estimated age of a voice on a recording, Fiona Apple probably has an equivalent gap. She was all of 18 years young when her debut record was released and much like Billie, she also sounds decades older.
The difference here? There isn’t an ounce of struggle listening to Tidal. It goes down smooth.
The second half of the album blends together somewhat (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and it had an Amanda Marshall-Beautiful Goodbye vibe at times.
The first half is where the magic happens.
One of the things I love exploring on Wikipedia is the order in which tracks from the album were released as singles. It’s fascinating to look back at the decision-making. Some lead single choices weren’t terribly surprising (Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough from Off The Wall), others, with the benefit of hindsight, are more baffling (The Girl is Mine from Thriller).
In Fiona’s case, the decision-makers did pick the strongest songs as singles (Shadowboxer, Sleep to Dream, and Criminal, chronologically) but I might have reversed the order of release. Easy to say 18 years later of course, but Criminal just screams single. Its irresistible groove, the deliciously dissonant chording, and the sultry vocals. A great track, one of the finest female vocal performances I’ve heard.
These days, the mature-beyond-her-years voice of Lorde can be heard all over the radio. They have very different styles but if you like that astonished feeling when you learn a singer’s age, you may love this debut from the head-turning-teenager of the 90s.