When Eliza Dushku’s character Faith was introduced to the smash television series, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, she started off with a massive bang. She was mysterious and clearly a force to be reckoned with. Her attitude was fearless and her blow was lethal. This was not the girl whose bad side you wanted to get on. Because when Faith was scorned, her driving hunger for revenge came from a place so dark that she would make it her mission to completely desolate those who had wronged her.
The same can be said for Fiona Apple. From the moment she released her 1996 masterpiece debut album, Tidal, Fiona asserted herself as a powerhouse presence in the music industry. Here was a young woman with a shattered heart and an unapologetic appetite for vengeance. And not in an Emily Thorne or Taylor Swift #whitegirlproblems kind of way. Fiona’s lyrics were an outlet of raw self-expression – one in which she could both attack and reflect. They were equal parts vulnerable, hurt and angry. Listening to that album, one can almost see the bloodstained knuckles pounding away at the piano as her songs knocked out the men responsible for her internal bruises (check out my list of top ten essential Fiona Apple classics here).
But like Faith, Fiona’s debut did not launch her into a series regular. Instead, she became a reoccurring character who would pop up less and less frequently. Yet each time she did, her swings were just as brutal and were met with feverish applause from critics as well as a rabid nearly cult-like fan following. And even though she would vanish from the spotlight for what seemed each time like an eternity, Fiona would always come back in the last inning with a stake in her hand and an eagerness to punish evil.
After being in musical hibernation since the release of her controversial 2005 album, Extraordinary Machine, Fiona is officially back with her first new material in seven years. Having premiered last week, Every Single Night is the first track to be released off of Fiona’s upcoming fourth album, The Idler Wheel is wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords will serve you more than Ropes will ever do. And while the record’s 23-word title might feel overly high-strung and like you need to come up for air, its lead single is quite the opposite: simple, mellow and to the point.
On Every Single Night, Fiona’s claws are as sharp as ever. But instead of using them as weapons against another opponent, she redirects them inwardly – as it’s the 35-year-old chanteuse herself who is the catalyst of pain in this scenario.
“The rib is the shell and the heart is the yolk and I just made a meal for us both to choke on,” Fiona laments on the track. “Every single night’s a fight with my brain. I just want to feel everything.”
It’s not just the lyrics that are exposed to showcase the troubled core of Fiona’s situation. Musically, Every Single Night is framed by a skeleton of acoustic instrumentation that does more to guide the melody rather than to carry the song as a whole.
The spotlight on Fiona’s bare vocals evokes a feeling of struggle, almost as though she’s about to topple over. It’s a feeling that masterfully emphasizes the importance of music as a narrative tool, as this minimalist approach to orchestration perfectly compliments the fragile story woven by the song’s somber lyrics.
Every Single Night is not an evolution in sound for Fiona, but it’s certainly an evolution of her character. A song at this level of self-awareness is clearly an indicator of a far more mature songstress. It’s the same type of lesson in growing up as the one Faith learned when Angel helped her rejoin the good side after falling into a dark spell. It’s a lesson that warns against losing sight of yourself and teaches that honest introspection is the only way to begin to improve your faults. Even if that does mean needing to take yourself down a few notches.
Welcome back, Fiona. We’ve missed you.
Fiona Apple’s The Idler Wheel is wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords will serve you more than Ropes will ever do hits stores on June 19 via Epic Records.