Multi-platinum, Grammy-winning rock star Fiona Apple was launched toward the spotlight with the release of her triple-platinum debut album titled Tidal (1996). With the breakthrough hit “Criminal,” the singer received a wealth of appreciation and recognition, especially after the song won a Grammy Award and a MTV Video Music Award, as well as several other nominations. Moreover, Apple netted another MTV Video Music Award for her outstanding work in “Sleep To Dream.” Tidal also spawned such tracks as the 24 hit “Shadowboxer,” “Never is a Promise,” “The First Taste” and “Across the Universe.”
Apple’s sophomore album, When the Pawn, was released in 1999, where it soared to number 13 in America. Her fine efforts in the album garnered Apple two Grammy nominations. In late 2005, Apple again attracted attention with the long-awaited third album Extraordinary Machine. Producing hits like “Parting Gift,” “O’ Sailor” and “Not About Love,” the album received even better reviews than its predecessors and debuted at No. 7 in the US. As for Apple, she earned a Grammy nomination in 2005.
In addition to solo projects, Apple also made a reputation for herself as an accomplished duet singer. Collaborating with Johnny Cash, she sang two tracks which were listed in Cash’s 2003 collection. One of the songs, “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” even garnered the artist a Grammy nomination for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.
Off screen, Apple is a vegetarian and supporter of PETA. In 1997, she recorded a note on PETA’s hotline conveying her concern for the plight of turkeys on Thanksgiving. Commenting about this issue, she said, “There’s no proper way to kill and cook these beautiful birds. Millions of people are learning that a vegetarian diet is the healthy choice for themselves, the Earth and the animals.”
As for her private life, Apple, who has two tattoos on her lower back, once dated magician David Blaine. In 2001, she reportedly moved into a home in Los Angeles with her lover Paul Thomas Anderson, Magnolia director and screenwriter who directed Apple’s video for the phenomenal hit “Criminal.”
Childhood and Family:
Born Fiona Apple Maggart, on September 17, 1977, in New York, New York, Fiona Apple is member of a family loaded with entertainment roots. She is the progeny of actors Brandon Maggart and singer Diane McAfee. Amber, Fiona’s older sister, sings cabaret under the stage name Maude Maggart and her older brother, Spencer, pursues a career as a director. Millicent Green, a dancer with the George White’s Scandals, and Johnny McAfee, a multireedist and lead singer of the big band era, were Fiona’s maternal grandparents.
Young Fiona had to deal with the divorce of her parents when she was 4. After the break up, she was raised by her mother in New York where she began taking piano lessons at age 8. Soon after, she grew bored with the lessons and decided to teach herself the keyboard. As a child, Fiona had anti-social tendencies and obsessive-compulsive disorder, which forced the 11-year-old girl to undertake psychotherapy. A year later, she was raped upon returning home from school to her mother’s apartment.
While completing high school in Los Angeles, Fiona Apple crafted a demo tape. Her chance to break into the music industry came when a friend handed a demo tape of hers to Kathryn Schenker, a music-industry publicist the friend had babysat for. Apple’s music and style was so impressive that Schenker introduced her to Sony executive Andrew Slater, who soon requested a meeting with Apple. Amazed by Apple’s husky voice, lively piano skills and mature lyrics, Slater immediately signed her to a recording contract with Sony’s affiliate label called WORK.
Released by a subsidiary of Sony, Apple’s first album Tidal hit the music shelves in 1996. The album received excellent reviews from listeners and critics alike. The lead single “Shadowboxer” ripped apart the US Modern Rock charts, landing at No. 24. The follow-up, "Sleep To Dream,” garnered the new artist even more attention when the song won Apple a 1997 MTV Video Music Award for New Artist Video of the Year.
Her career was launched to even a higher level when “Criminal,” the third single from Tidal, became a hit on MTV and made it to No. 21 on the US Pop Charts. In addition to its evocative lyrics, the controversial music video, which featured a waifish, half-dressed Apple enclosed by the aftermath of a party, brought the song a large amount of notice. Soon as the video was on heavy rotation on MTV and VH-1, and Apple became an instant star. She added to her newfound popularity a 1997 Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance and a 1998 MTV Video Music for Best Cinematography. She also earned Grammy nominations for Best New Artist and Best Rock Song, and a MTV Video Music nomination for Female Video of the Year, due to her spectacular work in the hit song “Criminal.” Other singles from Tidal included “Never is a Promise,” “The First Taste” and a cover of The Beatles’ “Across the Universe,” which became the soundtrack of Pleasantville. Tidal eventually was certified triple platinum in 1999, selling over 3 million copies domestically.
Following a string of scorching public appearances, Apple’s image began to suffer in some circles. Most notably, while accepting a 1997 MTV Video Music Award, she declared, “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 image-driven MTV/music industry).
She also quoted Maya Angelou, “Go with yourself.”
Despite receiving cheers and applause at the awards ceremony, her statements immediately were criticized by the media. The host, Chris Rock, made a scornful comment about her speech, which only added to the backlash. Later on, stand-up comedian Denis Leary included a spoof of this speech on his album, Lock ‘N Load, titled “A Reading from the Book of Apple.”
Already having a multi-platinum album under her belt, Apple released her second studio album in 1999 titled When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks Like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He'll Win the Whole Thing 'Fore He Enters the Ring There's No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might So When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and if You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and if You Fall It Won't Matter, 'Cuz You'll Know That You're Right, which garnered a great deal of interest for its extensive title. Containing more expressive lyrics and experimenting more with drum loops and heavily incorporated clavichord and organ, the album obtained better reviews than her predecessor and peaked at No. 13 in the US. Unfortunately, the music videos of “Fast as You Can,” “Paper Bag,” and “Limp” received very little play. When the Pawn… finally received Platinum certification in America. As for Apple, she was nominated for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance (“Paper Bag”) and Best Alternative Music Album at the 2000 Grammy Awards.
While promoting her sophomore album, Apple also made a fine collaboration with Johnny Cash on a couple of tracks that ended up on his 2003 collection, Unearthed. In 2002, their duet song,”Bridge Over Troubled Water,” earned a Grammy nomination for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals. The duo also sang Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son.”
Working with producer Jon Brion, Apple’s third album, Extraordinary Machine, was submitted to Sony executives in May 2003. Unimpressed with the finished product, Sony shelved the project for over two years. A year after 11 tracks were leaked onto the Internet, the long-awaited third album was finally released in October 2005. With Mike Elizondo as Apple’s new producer, the album now had 12 songs. One was new, and nine were reworked versions of leaked tracks.
“Now that my album is finally finished, I am very, very excited to have people hear what we did. I am so proud of it, and all of us who worked on it.” Fiona Apple on Extraordinary Machine
Upon its release, the album, which produced such tracks as “Parting Gift,” “O’ Sailor,” and “Not About Love,” became the highest-charting album of Apple’s career, opening at a strong no. 7. Before the end of 2005, it had sold more than 300,000 copies in the US alone. In 2005, Apple received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album. The same year, she also launched a 13-date national tour. Soon, Apple will be opening up for Coldplay on their American tour in 2006.
MTV Video Music: Best Cinematography, “Criminal,” 1998
Grammy: Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, “Criminal,” 1997
MTV Video Music: Best New Artist, “Sleep To Dream,” 1997