There's a common Chinese saying I feel faithfully encaptures, in a weird way, the feeling and spirit when indulging in Fiona Apple's art — 留得青山在, 不怕没柴烧 — Where there are green hills, there is wood to burn. It's a phrase worth different meanings, but one can interpret it as taking care of good health, finding hope in life or building oneself strong enough so nothing may tear you down. The Bolt Cutters is a plethora of chaos, yet it's also a liberating starlight. Fetch the bolt cutters, may you finally be free!
"How could a father ever look their daughter in the eye and say, "I'm a sex offender"?"
Listening to Fiona Apple today found myself reflecting way back on those exact words my grandpa asked to innocent 8-year-old me in Chinese, sitting by a fishing dock as we watched the sunset. Hearing the brutally savage bridge on 'For Her' for the first time, "You raped me in the same bed your daughter was born in", some of those alerting thoughts, penetrating feelings of unease came racing back.
One second, there's the joy of bobbing my head to 'Shameika'. The next second, I'm poring over recordings of Harvey Weinstein. One minute, I'm immersed by the clunky, manic rhythms. The next minute, I read about Louis CK, revoltingly forcing five women to watch him masturbate. Normally, I'm content with stating the obvious about 'Bolt Cutters': it's a satisfying, truly magnificent piece with sturdy qualities fueled by Apple's enduring artistry, but something's definitely pulling on the strings from below. Digging through the contextual bits of 'Bolt Cutters', the bigger picture seems to reveal one thing, just what is there to be content about? Exploring the deceit, fraud, misconduct, abuse of power that occurs behind closed doors in Hollywood, the entertainment industry, our governing bodies, enables our strong state of displeasure, frustration, even outrage. Immense sadness and uncertainty follows when we notice the absence of change and admit to our individual powerlessness. Now with quarantine, the feeling is ever-so present.
Fiona Apple, a victim of sexual assault at a very young age, has just about every reason to be infuriated by this, like us common, working-class folk. Infuriated since the days of 'Criminal' and the infamous 1997 VMA acceptance speech. The burden that comes with dealing with problematic exes alone can make any grown woman crack. Then, there's the struggle of living through a traumatic past experience. Those inconsiderate would tell any woman like her to "grow a pair and move on", but just how would you tell an abused, heartbroken young girl to "move on" and live like normal again? The scars are permanent, the latest showing of such scars is 'Fetch the Bolt Cutters'. Chaos, confusion, anxiety taunts every corner of Apple's musical compositions and prodigious songwriting. The beauty of it all, in spite the wickedness, is turning moments of tragedy into a decisive, Homeric triumph. An honorable accomplishment better said than done. And in our era of #MeToo, nothing seems more fitting or priceless than observing a fierce Fiona Apple raising the middle-finger, ramming a tractor over her abusers' heads. Figuratively, of course.
Music, like all other expressions of art, hold some ideal of merit and value. The best of what it offers may come from interpretation, or stepping within the shoes of its creator. The greater the canvas of a work of art, the more one could draw from it. Perhaps I'm just babbling on a bit too much, but ultimately, Fetch the Bolt Cutters (and all of Apple's other works for that matter) is just one important piece to a greater puzzle.
It's preposterous to predict the impact this may have (if at all) though the rest of the decade at the moment, but with the Weinstein conviction and exposure of rampant sexual misconduct in the entertainment biz, Bolt Cutters is a thought worth reflecting on. Here I sit, naive and young, pondering those words my deceased grandfather said to me all those years ago while in my 6th (?) sitting of Bolt Cutters. Perhaps one day, it'd hit with me differently.
FAV TRACKS: For Her, I Want You To Love Me, Shameika, Fetch The Bolt Cutters, Under The Table, Relay, Newspaper, Cosmonauts
LEAST FAV TRACKS: Ladies