Happy Birthday, Fiona

Thinking a lot lately about the Fiona Apple cover story from the January 1998 issue of Rolling Stone, with the mortifying title "Fiona: The Caged Bird Sings". But then, I think of this article a fair amount. It's kind of a touchstone for me. I don't necessarily want to reread it but I'm thinking a lot about it lately. As a kid I wanted to be like that. Written about like that. I wanted to be so fascinating the way Fiona Apple was in the interview. To live a live worth scrutinizing. As I recall, in part of the interview she listens to Janeane Garofalo's parody of her 19967 VMA acceptance speech and gets upset. Fiona says something about how "Of course I have an eating disorder. Every girl in fucking America has an eating disorder." The reporter writes somethings about her getting upset, about her breaking down. The reporter writes something beautiful about Fiona's tears. Okay I looked at the article again and the exact quote of Fiona's reaction to the parody is: "It's then she cracks. Big tears dollop down her face." I loved this as a kid and part of loving it was that I felt so sad for Fiona. She was being teased. She's actually really articulate and seemingly "on it" in the interview, in a way that I didn't put together at the time.

Thinking again about the cover of Tidal. It was so personal and so weird and dumb and intense but not corny. It was real, it was too much it was somehow excessively personal but it was real. It made me feel sort of seasick. This is my experience of Fiona in general, I think.

Fiona Apple also performed at the first concert I ever went to. I often tell this story. It was at Kamp KOME 1997. I remember that it was was Fiona's birthday that day. Her band gave her a present, and she unwrapped the glittery ribbons from the gift and wrapped them around her waist for the rest of the show.

I remember that it was Fiona's 20th birthday that day, and I remember thinking "God, she's so old." I must have been what. 14? 15?

Oh -- that concert was on September 13th, 1997.

Happy Birthday, Fiona.

I hope you're happy Fiona. I remember an interview (in Pitchfork) where you talked about just being either at your house or the club nearby. I don't know. Do you want to come home Fiona. Do you want to come back to New York? Do you want to go back?

Birthdays are so hard. Just ask anyone who's ever had one. But I want you to feel good.

I remember in that Rolling Stone profile thinking how gorgeous how smart if you just listen closely enough if you just provide enough of yourself to fill up the frame. If you just listen to yourself. If you go crazy with listening. I'm not trying to make it be some crazy sad genius girl thing (though it is that too). There was just something so appealing to me about the thing of ones life being worth watching that much. Something along those lines. If you believe in it it's there. If you give yourself credit for making something then it's there.

I remember watching the infamous speech at the VMAs that year when it was broadcast live. I was, I think, Sarah's house. That sounds about right. She was who I went to the concert with. That speech was incendiary.

I've gotten to perform it twice and Michael Schulman and Rachel Shukert's legendary awards show tribute night "YOU LIKE ME". Apparently last time I performed it Tavi was there but I didn't see her. I was too busy acting. Here's a video of thus year's performance:

I want to feel like that, in the profile, like my every move is scrutinized. Like people know and love my for my genius and my generous sharing of my pain. Like I'd have an army of fans mailing in apples on my behalf to get my lost album released.

I'm sure it's not all autograph booths Fiona. I know your life isn't easy. I'm sorry for making you into a fairy tale. I don't know you. I'm sure you're a real person too. You deserve a private life. Am I able to feel sympathy for a reluctant pop star. How delicious right. The passive sadism of the fan the consumer. Someone's always worse off than you are on the New York City subways. There's always someone drunker, weirder. Worse. Not that its bad to be weird or drunk-- just the feeling of subjectivity which I've said before is seawater (it encourages insatiability).

When I first hooked up with Scott Panther who I gave a new nickname to (I now refer to as "the cokehead who wouldn't share"), the first night we hooked up on his stereo we listened to a lot of things, including Fiona Apple's cover of "Frosty the Snowman". I can't believe that song exists, to be honest. To hear it for the first time when you're having sex with a stranger and it's nowhere near Christmas. Fiona you are magick and have been with me for so long.

Fiona's response to Janeane from the article:
Well, I best be off now to primp and preen
But before I go, here's an end to your mean
I be a paradox of gestures and genes
But you are a cowardly bitch, Janeane
Today I'm not happy with how I look in New York - everyone else feels so stylish and I feel very frumpy, bland, uninspired. I want to feel how I imagine Fiona Apple feels: that there's something inside worth noticing. Maybe I want to feel how Magazine Articles feel: that the beautiful art is the product not of industry, history, fate, etc. but the sheer fascinatingness of the personal pain. That we are archives to ourselves. That we contain and overwhelm ourselves. That we crash into one another and can bear each other's beauty and pain.

Is it sick or sycophantic of me? To think that this was the ideal? This having a music journalist write about seeing you cry? How is that ideal? I guess maybe it's the thing of no hiding. I'm so sorry, Fiona, that you had to do this in a magazine so I could see it as a tiny little baby queer in California but it means so much to be, this thing of letting yourself be real, painfully, and forcing that to occupy the space of a pop career. Fill up the album cover with your gaze. Let multiple meanings reverberate, revise your statements. Say you meant more than what you meant at the time. Be mean. Go with yourself. Go with yourself.

Dear Fiona what are you going to do to celebrate your birthday? Fiona I hope you have friends and cake and presents, again. Even if you don't I'm glad you're here.


Jon Miller said...

My favorite thing about Fiona:

She writes this album, when she is literally like 17. It is, easily, one of the best 5 pop albums of a decade. Easily! And, she has that crazy girl genius thing, but real, all teenagers are crazy. So really she just has that genius thing. People were just paying attention, that's all.

All of that, and then she has a few more glimmers of popular culture, and sort of fades away. She doesn't release a bunch of stuff, she has a third album that, let;s be real, is just "ok", and then..... BOOM! She releases the best work of her life.

Which, because i am reading your blog, obviously makes me think of a lot of your worries about the way you are perceived. There are a lot of ways and a lot of days left to do the best thing you've done.

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