2020 marks Fiona Apple’s record comeback, with her fifth album Fetch the Bolt Cutters, which came out on April 17. It is an opportune time to review her influences, both from her career and who she has inspired, in this infographic:
Fiona Apple and her influences: The classics (and many others)
As it is known, Fiona’s background is strongly marked by Jazz singers of the fifties, such as Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. Especially in her debut album Tidal (1996) the influences of these three North American musicians are present. Songs like Criminal, Shadowboxer or Slow like honey owe a lot to the expressiveness of jazz standards of that time. Specifically, Fiona says that she began to play the piano following the jazz standards found in the Real Book.
Fiona Apple has referred to Kate Bush as one of the “heroines of the music industry.” There is also the fact that the long-awaited album Fetch the Bolt Cutters refers to Kate Bush. That heroism that Fiona talks about takes on special relevance in the context of her feminist perspective.
Another name to refer to is the classic Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell. Specifically, Fiona Apple’s most recent work, Fetch the Bolt Cutters finds a precedent in the 1975 album The Hissing of Summer Lawns. The track The Jungle Line included in that 1970s classic is a good connection. Not to mention that at that time Joni was criticized for having gone wild with experimentation. Luckily it’s different for Fiona, who has received excellent reviews for her newly released album. It is also worth mentioning that both Joni and Fiona have repeatedly criticized the music industry.
An immediate antecedent, who paved the way for Fiona’s debut in 1996, was Tori Amos. Without a doubt Little Earthquakes from 1992 is an almost contemporary antecedent, working with many of the same influences that we mention here.
As an additional mention, not listed on the chart: already on a technical and production level, Aimee Mann was Apple’s forerunner on a melodic and soft rock sound from the 1990s. As a direct link, producer Jon Brion worked with Mann on his first two albums (1993’s Whatever and 1995’s I’m With Stupid). Later Brion assisted Fiona in the Tidal recordings, became a producer on her second album, When The Pawn … (1999) and a few tracks from the third, Extraordinary Machine (2005). In subsequent years the producer collaborated with Dido.
Singers influenced by Fiona Apple
We can take as “debtors” of Fiona Apple to several singers of the early 2000s and contemporary. Some obvious references would be Lana del Rey and Dido. Without omitting these mentions, in this infographic we choose to include the following:
The first is the British Florence Welch (basically, Florence + The Machine), who has declared via Twitter to be a fan of Fiona Apple and was excited about The Idler Wheel specifically. The inspirational quota ranges from Florence’s pop styles to her expressiveness and vocal dynamism, which indeed seem to have an anchor point on Fiona’s fourth album.
Indie Rock / Pop duo Tegan and Sara have mentioned their influences for the 2019 album Hey, I’m Just Like You. The inspirational panorama was very nineties, with Tori Amos, The Cardigans and the protagonist of this post, Fiona Apple. About this, here you can see the Spotify list that Tegan and Sara put together.
Sky Ferreira, who has also recognized Fiona as a reference: the young singer admires Fiona Apple’s attitude against labels and somewhat confrontational. Key to reading this emphasis: Fiona has been a critic of the music industry since its inception (for example, in her famous 1997 MTV Video Music Awards speech: “The World is Bullshit”). His criticism continued on several other occasions (one historical, the “anti-Portnow” performance on the 2018 Grammys with Shirley Manson) to talk about feminism and the role of women in music.
Finally: I like to talk about a line that goes from Tori Amos, goes through Fiona Apple and reaches Regina Spektor. In the case of the latter, Regina has recognized that Tidal was an influence when starting her singing career. And indeed the styles that both dominate are compatible and comparable in their elements of jazz, piano ballads and pop.
Color fact: Fiona Apple denied Panic! At The Disco the sampling of Every Single Night.