Fiona Apple’s “Tidal”

by Justina Brandt

This year, Fiona Apple’s debut album Tidal turned 25. Written primarily when Apple was just 16, Tidal became a groundbreaking post-genre album that went 3x Platinum in the United States and contained the single “Criminal” that peaked at #2 on Billboard’s Top 40 list. However, Fiona Apple was anything but defined by her commercial success. Her acceptance speech at the 2007 VMAs said it best: “this world is bullshit.”

Apple’s pessimistic take on the world allows for her to be nothing but honest through her songwriting. In “Sleep to Dream”, the album’s opener, Apple frames herself as tough, with her “feet on the ground” because she doesn’t “go to sleep to dream”. In the haunting jazz ballad “Slow Like Honey”, Apple’s voice feels ghostly and almost threatening, as she warns people not to underestimate her. 

Apple takes this same brutal honesty and power in her more vulnerable songs as well. “Sullen Girl” is a mere two verses and two choruses, but Apple reflects with uncomfortable honesty on how an experience with sexual assault shaped her own identity and how others perceived her. Tidal’s standout reggaeton track, “The First Taste”, is a song about a crush, but Apple brings it emotional impact through her swooning voice and unapologetic attitude towards lust.

What makes this album so musically unique is that while it explores jazz, rock, pop, and reggae it is essentially genre-less, as no song perfectly fits into one category versus another. The presence of Apple’s biggest inspirations–Billie Holiday, John Lennon, and Maya Angelou–can be felt through the entirety of the album. Nobody else could have made Tidal. It took Apple’s no-bullshit perspective and musical sophistication to create an album that can still turn heads 25 years later.

Rating: 5/5

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