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Stuff Lesbians Love: Fiona Apple

Since she bounded into the music scene with her debut album Tidal (1996), Fiona Apple has had a devoted lesbian following. After leaving us on read for 8 years, she thankfully released the album Fetch the Bolt Cutters in April 2020… and did not disappoint. Taking a look at her past pattern of releasing albums, they tend to come in pairs before another break, so let’s hope there’s a follow up soon!

Fiona said “love is love!”

While she’s kept labelling her own sexual orientation out of the spotlight, she’s been incredibly supportive of the gay community. In 2000, around the release of her second album When the Pawn, Apple wrote a note to a 16-year-old high school student’s gay-straight-alliance upon request:

“If a good boy loves a good girl, good…If a good boy loves another good boy, good. And if a good girl loves the goodness in good boys and good girls, then all you have is more goodness, and goodness has nothing to do with sexual orientation…A person who loves is a righteous person, and if someone has the ability and desire to show love another — to someone willing to receive it, then for goodness’ sake, let them do it. Hate has no place in the equation; there is no function for it to perform. Love is love, and there will never be too much.”

Looks like Fiona Apple said “Love is Love” before it became an advocacy campaign. Bill Magee, the recipient of the letter, has written about his experience with Fiona Apple since: “Quite frankly, 16-year-old me was much more interested in interacting with a celebrity than building an alliance between gays and straights, but Fiona took me at my word and wrote me this really sweet letter.”

Apple getting the note to him late didn’t dampen his spirits in the slightest, he still remembers it as the most exciting thing to have happened to him, “The show was on a Friday, and I got this via FedEx the following Tuesday, and she even apologizes for it taking so long. For much of the 12 years that have passed since these events transpired, this has been the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me…I’ve met her a couple times since, but I never got a chance thank her for taking some time out and being so thoughtful, especially for a lonely weirdo like me.”

Fiona Apple has been featuring lesbianism and the “love is love” mentality on her platform since her first album. ‘The First Taste’ (1996) has a notoriously awkward film clip — especially when you consider she was barely an adult — but the montage of kisses does, at least, include same-sex romance.

Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Fiona Apple is adaptable without losing herself. In April 2020, she broke an eight year album hiatus with the explosive Fetch the Bolt Cutters. While some much-loved artists come back with clumsy, unchanged or cliché music and we wished they left us in the glory days, Fiona Apple did us proud: she created something that adjusts to today, that offers something new, while still remaining recognisably her.

Fetch the Bolt Cutters is a reminder that Fiona Apple’s still resisting artifice: she’s still using art to file her observations about things in society that make her shitty, despite the consequences. Jenn Pelly writes for Pitchfork that while Apple’s earlier music was about “grand betrayals by inadequate men and the patriarchal world,” the newest album is about freeing yourself from the calcification of those feelings, to “fetch the bolt cutters.”

In one way, sure, Apple’s older — she has a different point of view that naturally comes with age — but, in many ways, Fetch the Bolt Cutters is more angry. It’s less self-conscious. She’s not an 18-year-old anymore; she carries the wrath and rage of a mature woman. The album’s themes and messages aren’t completely detached from past albums either. If anything, her lyrics are more refined, more direct, despite the experimental music that accompanies them. Fetching the bolt cutters is about militancy. It’s about disruption.

‘Under the Table’, a song on Fetch the Bolt Cutters, uses the stuffy environment of a formal event to describe the growing censorship of today. She’s not going to shut up: “I would beg to disagree / But begging disagrees with me.” It couldn’t be any more critical of silencing women in the song; she’s not giving up on criticizing the “patriarchal world” …at all.

She’s not opposing discussing controversial topics. On the contrary, she’s digging her feet into the cement and warning her partner who they committed to: “I told you I didn’t wanna go to this dinner / You know I don’t go for those ones that you bother about / So when they say something that makes me start to simmer / That fancy wine won’t put this fire out, oh!”

Fiona quit cocaine after she spent an “excruciating night” at Quentin Tarantino’s house, listening to him and her ex, Paul Thomas Anderson, brag. She’s quoted as saying “Every addict should just get locked in a private movie theatre with Q.T and P.T.A, and they’ll never want to do it again.” I hear her scream it in ‘Under the Table’. The song is a chant I can hear every woman angry with wishy-washy sell-outs singing in unison:

“Kick me under the table all you want / I won’t shut up, I won’t shut up / I’d like to buy you a pair of pillow-soled hiking boots / To help you with your climb / Or rather, to help the bodies that you step over along your route / So they won’t hurt like mine.”

In Fetch the Bolt Cutters, Apple’s “reached into the past to confront her rapist, middle-school bullies, and herself.” So brave. No wonder lesbians love her.

AJ Kelly

Contact AJ at [email protected] or view the rest of her work on aj-kelly.tumblr.com

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