Fiona Apple: Wacked Out Crazy or Wonderfully Crazy Genius?

Fiona Apple has been in music news a lot over the last 18 months since the release of her 2012 album The Idler Wheel… . I hadn’t been interested in Ms. Apple since the ‘90s so most of these stories I just skimmed and moved on. That was the case until this summer when I saw this odd video of Fiona performing a song in preparation for her Fall ’13 Tour.

fiona 4What a strange video. She’s singing “I Know” from her late ‘90s album When the Pawn… Sitting in a living room and holding the hand of some older woman. Is she her Mother? Grandmother? Random elderly fan-girl? Who’s to say? I was mesmerized. At one point the woman gets up and answers the door. Presumably Fiona ordered a vegan pizza or something. After the first viewing, I had the distinct impression that Fiona was completely wacked out crazy.

I watched the video a few more times over the next week and realized I was no longer absorbed in the weirdness of the situation but was wrapped up in the song. She sounds amazing. I decided to revisit Fiona’s albums. Most notably the aforementioned Idler Wheel and When the Pawn. Since that time I haven’t stopped listening to them. So that got me thinking, maybe she’s not “completely wacked out crazy” but instead a “wonderfully crazy genius.”

Unfortunately, the weirdness in Fiona’s life continued. More stories of breakdowns, dead dogs, arrests fiona 3and tour cancellations came out. That’s when I started wondering. Which is it? Is Fiona Apple “Wacked Out Crazy” or is she a “Wonderfully Crazy Genius?

Let’s deliberate! The Honorable MoSS? Todd presiding.

MoSS? Todd: Now hearing arguments from the prosecution or the “Wacked Out Crazy” side.

WOC: Your honor, we plan to prove Ms. Apple is Wacked Out Crazy by showing a long history of crazy activities going back to the mid ‘90s when she first came into the public eye.

Crazy Exhibit A:

In 1997, Ms. Apple received an MTV Video Music Award. Instead of graciously accepting the award she decided to use her time to quote Maya Angelou and rant about the bullshit life of celebrity.

A normal, not wacked out crazy person, would have gotten onstage, accepted the award, thanked God, and then, being disoriented from the shock of the win, walked the wrong direction towards backstage until the beautiful spokes model that holds the awards pointed her to the correct exit.

MoSS? Todd: Defense, or “Wonderfully Crazy Genius” side, do you want to cross examine?

WCG: Yes your honor. While we acknowledge that getting on stage and quoting Maya Angelou is both annoying and pretentious, Ms. Apple’s speech was in no way crazy. She said the word bullshit live on cable TV. This was way back in the ‘90s before it was a dialogue staple on cable channels like FX, TNT, and Disney Jr. In our book that was kind of badass. She’s a rock star doing rock star stuff. If anything this makes her more sane than crazy.

WOC: Your honor, next I’d like to present to you a letter Ms. Apple wrote to her fans apologizing to them for cancelling her concert dates. I think this clearly shows her wacked out behavior. What was her reason for cancelling? Her dog was sick.

Crazy Exhibit B:

Fiona's letter to her fans

MoSS? Todd: Who wants to read all that? Give me the highlights.

“I have a dog Janet, and she’s been ill for almost two years now, as a tumor has been idling in her chest, growing ever so slowly… She’s my best friend and my mother and my daughter, and my benefactor, and she’s the one who taught me what love is… I can’t come to South America. Not now. When I got back from the last leg of the US tour, there was a big,big difference. She doesn’t even want to go for walks anymore… So I am staying home, and I am listening to her snore and wheeze, and reveling in the swampiest, most awful breath that ever emanated from an angel.

And I am asking for your blessing.
I’ll be seeing you.


The concert was booked, people bought tickets and she cancelled over a dog. Come on. Adults have responsibilities and obligations to meet. I could understand cancelling from a family member’s illness but not from the family dog. That is just crazy.

MoSS? Todd: Defense, to you have anything to say about this?

WCG: Your Honor, do you have a dog?

MoSS? Todd?: Yes.

WCG: What’s his name?

MoSS? Todd: Rigatoni.

WCG: Cute name. I bet you love him very much. Is Rigatoni aging rapidly?

MoSS? Todd: Yes, he’s over 14 years old. I’m warning you counselor. Tread lightly.

WCG: Are you looking forward to euthanizing Rigatoni during his final days of pain, misery and helplessness?

MoSS? Todd: That’s enough! I won’t have you continue this line of questioning. (Blubbering uncontrollably) 1 minute recess. Watch this shot-for-shot remake of the Simon and Simon opening credits starring John Hamm until I get back.

MoSS? Todd: OK. I’ve composed myself. “Wacked Out Crazy”, What Else You Got?

WOC: Welcome back Your Honor. Next I’d like to present this home video of Ms. Apple acting erratically.

Crazy Exhibit C:

You can clearly see Ms. Apple doing strange things in this video like filming herself in a freaky face mask, cutting her own hair and speaking in such a way as to question her sanity.

MoSS? Todd: Defense, anything to add?

WGC: Ummm…No your honor. That is a pretty crazy video. Wowzer!

MoSS? Todd: I’ll now hear arguments for the defense.

WCG: Your Honor, we plan to demonstrate that while some of Ms. Apple’s behavior could appear to some as crazy, this behavior really just complements her musical genius.

Genius Exhibit A:

This is the video for Fiona’s song “Hot Knife.” The song is amazing. Layer upon layer of repeated vocals slow build into an explosion of songwriting genius.

Now after viewing this video, can you blame her for acting a little crazy if that was going on in her head all day? I can’t imagine the struggle it would have been to get this song out of her head and to translate it to a recording.

MoSS? Todd: Prosecution, cross examine?

WOC: No way. That was awesome!

WCG: I know right?!! Next, I’d like to show a video featuring crappy emo band, Panic at the Disco. They attempted to sample one of Fiona’s songs on their latest album and she told them to cease and desist.

Genius Exhibit B:

Would a crazy person do that? I make the argument that it would actually be crazy for her to WANT to be involved in any way with a Panic at the Disco song.

MoSS? Todd: Prosecution?

WOC: You got me there too. Panic at the Disco sucks!

MoSS? Todd: I think I’m prepared to make my decision. Clearly, there is a crazy magical world going on in Fiona Apple’s mind. Sometimes she demonstrates odd behavior because of it. It reminds me of another crazy genius, Willy Wonka. (Gene Wilder not Johnny Depp) And like in the case of Willy Wonka, I believe we should accept the craziness and embrace the wonderful treats we get in return.

MoSS? Monthly Mixtape: August 2013


Side A : Chris’ Picks

Side B : Todd’s Picks

Pazz and Jop is a stupid name, says Music or Space Shuttle? co-founder

pazz and jop logo

I look at the Village Voice Pazz and Jop list every year, just because I am a list junkie when it comes to music. Even though it comes from something as uber-hip as VV, the Pazz and Jop list gets the opinions of something like 500 voters. 2011’s top album, Tune-Yards’ W H O K I L L, only showed up on 19 percent of ballots; Kanye’s 2010 disc set the high-water-mark by appearing on 37 percent of ballots.

The 2012 album approached Kanye heights, and it’s a real shocker…some guy who goes by Frank Ocean topped the list with his Channel Orange. Who saw that coming?!?

channel orange cover(Before I go on about Pazz and Jop, can I ask once again what’s so great about Channel Orangeespecially when you consider just how amazing Ocean’s 2011 “mixtape” Nostalgia, Ultra is? That album is far more interesting and alive; I find Channel Orange to be boring by comparison. Where the fuck were all you people last year? I was at the front of the line, putting Nostalgia #2 of 2011, and Todd wasn’t far behind at #6. So I really wanted to like Channel Orange. Look at my top 3 discs of 2012: sophomore efforts by the xx, Sleigh Bells, and Best Coast. I don’t automatically jump ship after the debut…but I just don’t hear the greatness of Channel Orange.


Given the huge number of voters and the obvious diversity in tastes, I thought it would be fun to line up our top 20 albums of 2012 against their rankings in Pazz and Jop.

Some more background…

  • Somewhere between 1,500 and 1,600 albums received at least one mention. (Channel Orange had 170 mentions.)
  • Kendrick Lamar was #2 (126 mentions) and Fiona Apple was #3 (101 mentions). No other “Century Club” members.
  • The highest ranked album with single-digit mentions: #72, Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland, Black Is Beautiful (7 mentions)
  • Van Halen’s new album came in #146 with 4 mentions

As you’ll see in the following side-by-side comparisons, a few of our favorite 2012 albums could have used our ballot. That’s right: some of our favorite albums didn’t get a single Pazz and Jop mention. #dafuq

Chris vs. Pazz and Jop

  1. The xx, Coexist (Pazz and Jop: 49)
  2. Sleigh Bells, Reign of Terror (Pazz and Jop: 60)
  3. Best Coast, The Only Place (Pazz and Jop: 98)
  4. A Place to Bury Strangers, Worship (Pazz and Jop: n/a)
  5. The Avett Brothers, The Carpenter (Pazz and Jop: t79)
  6. Sigur Ros, Valtari (Pazz and Jop: t-336)
  7. Crystal Castles, (III) (Pazz and Jop: t-116)
  8. Beach House, Bloom (Pazz and Jop: 10)
  9. Tame Impala, Lonerism (Pazz and Jop: 6)
  10. Diiv, Oshin (Pazz and Jop: 108)
  11. Burial, Kindred (Pazz and Jop: 59)
  12. Frankie Rose, Interstellar (Pazz and Jop: 128)
  13. El Perro Del Mar, Pale Fire (Pazz and Jop: t-1361)
  14. Wild Nothing, Nocturne (Pazz and Jop: n/a)
  15. Japandroids, Celebration Rock (Pazz and Jop: 4)
  16. Colleen Green, Milo Goes to Compton (Pazz and Jop: t-710)
  17. The Men, Open Your Heart (Pazz and Jop: 50)
  18. School of Seven Bells, Ghostory (Pazz and Jop: t-710)
  19. Lone, Galaxy Garden (Pazz and Jop: 237)
  20. Black Moth Super Rainbow, Cobra Juicy (Pazz and Jop: n/a)

I know Todd was surprised by my placement of A Place to Bury Strangers at #4; apparently the nation shares his assessment. Can’t believe my #14 (ranked even higher by Todd) didn’t rank; Black Moth Super Rainbow not landing a mention at all less surprising but still odd to me.

Todd vs. Pazz and Jop

  1. Eternal Summers, Correct Behavior (Pazz and Jop: t-185)
  2. Wild Nothing, Nocturne (Pazz and Jop: n/a)
  3. Japandroids, Celebration Rock (Pazz and Jop: 4)
  4. Seapony, Falling (Pazz and Jop: t-710)
  5. Frankie Rose, Interstellar (Pazz and Jop: 128)
  6. Best Coast, The Only Place (Pazz and Jop: 98)
  7. Paws, Cokefloat! (Pazz and Jop: t-1253)
  8. The Sea and Cake, Runner (Pazz and Jop: n/a)
  9. Tennis, Young and Old (Pazz and Jop: t-308)
  10. Diiv, Oshin (Pazz and Jop: 108)
  11. Frank Ocean, Channel Orange (Pazz and Jop: 1)
  12. Beach House, Bloom (Pazz and Jop: 10)
  13. Michael Kiwanuka, Home Again (Pazz and Jop: t-170)
  14. Hospitality, Hospitality (Pazz and Jop: 134)
  15. Echo Lake, Wild Peace (Pazz and Jop: n/a)
  16. Nude Beach, II (Pazz and Jop: t-356)
  17. La Sera, Sees the Light (Pazz and Jop: n/a)
  18. The Men, Open Your Heart (Pazz and Jop: 50)
  19. Sleigh Bells, Reign of Terror (Pazz and Jop: 60)
  20. Heems, Nehru Jackets/Wild Water Kingdom (Pazz and Jop: 137)

How the hell Wild Nothing got ZERO mentions is beyond me. Todd might lose his shit when he sees this. Nude Beach, coming in tied for #356 on Pazz and Jop, shares that distinction with Lionel Richie. La Sera should have a mention, right?

As with any list, take it with a grain of salt. Pazz and Jop’s album list has Taylor Swift at #17 and Carly Rae Jepsen at #40.

And Wild Nothing got no mentions.