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Words I Might Have Ate: Fiona Apple stepped out during quarantine

While the coronavirus forced all of us back into our homes, Fiona Apple also stayed home. But she left her comfort zone. 

Her fifth album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, was crafted entirely in her home studio, banging against the walls for percussion. The heavy thrashing featured on every song on the album sounds like someone desperately trying to escape. Escaping what, though, is up to the listener. 

The album, for that reason, was extremely timely. Quarantine had just started, and many of us were blindsided by the now-inescapable conditions of our living situations. Fiona Apple gave an escape, something new that reflected both symbolically and physically the restraints of a home.

The album is emblematic of making a change for yourself — whether by getting away from an abusive man or interacting with that man’s new girlfriend. Every story on the album is either heartwarming, enlightening or relatable. “Shameika,” a schoolyard depiction about her being motivated most by a well meaning, tough-love type of teacher, is an example of Apple doing all three wonderfully. It touches on femininity and the impact of her words through Apple’s whole life. 

“Relay,” however, is a heavy-hitter, one that represents the consequent feelings from being hurt by a partner. It’s not sad, though. It’s a powerful, dizzying response to moving past and understanding her own “evil” responses to the evil she experiences. She sings, “evil is a relay sport / when the one who’s burnt / turns to pass the torch.” How does one break the chain of evil? She contemplates whether her own negative feelings only make the situation worse, beautifully articulating her own feelings. 

Along with haunting lyrics, the piano riffs and her cool voice demonstrates Apple’s ability to create music that assists in her own storytelling. The first lines in “Rack of His,” tell a story about sending someone “pictures and cards on non-holidays / And it wasn’t because I was bored.” She says so much about her devotion to him in two short lines. Apple isn’t subtle, but the music wouldn’t be so impactful if she tried subtlety. 

The album also drips of femininity. Perhaps that is why YouTube music critic Anthony Fantano famously rated the album a light 7, while Pitchfork contributing editor Jenn Pelly gave it a rare 10.0. Fantano misinterpreted some of the lyrics, while making some genuinely well-thought-out critiques. Pelly’s review was a fairer and more accurate assessment of the album, because it seemed she understood and could relate to Apple on a more personal level. 

Other highlights on the album both lyrically and musically are “Heavy Balloon,” which uses plant metaphors to show her strength in overcoming depressive obstacles and “Ladies,” a song meant for the women who she is meant, societally, to hate. 

Apple’s composition of Fetch the Bolt Cutters made it an extremely important and timely release. With the symbolic banging on the walls for percussion to the self-reflective lyrics, Fiona Apple released her rawest record to date. The record touched many people, especially women, deeply and reflected her clawing past uncomfortable negative feelings. An album that can inspire such passionate feelings means it will be a highlight of quarantine creations. 

Shelby Campbell is a senior studying strategic communication at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Shelby know by tweeting her @bloodbuzzohioan. 

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