"Slow like honey, heavy with mood". Fiona Apple's own words describe perfectly the overall feel of her 1996 debut, <i>Tidal</i>. This is the album that burst her onto the singer/songwriter scene, and being only 18 years old at the time of it's release...it's amazing to see the maturity of her songwriting displayed throughout. The consistency, the intelligent lyrical content, the unmistakable knack for creating cascading melodies and intricate song work...it is all present here. An artist of her age should not be capable of such a musical feat. Only a true talent can display such wonderful musicianship and style.
This album achieved massive success, catapulted by the leading single "Criminal". I'm sure most of you remember this song, as it was one of the biggest hits of the year and was accompanied by a rather sexual and odd music video that recieved a lot of publicity, both good and bad. This song alone has proved to be one of the greatest pop singles released in the past decade, but is however not a worthy indication of the overall sound and feel of the album. This is the opening act by an artist who has put out albums of critical and commercial acclaim since. This may not have the maturity, originality, and flare of "Extraordinary Machine" or "When the Pawn...", but it's a promising introduction to a potentially illustrious career.
The overall sound of this album can be described in many ways. It's dark, it's beautiful, it's heartfelt (and at times heartbreaking), it's sultry, it's emotional, it's everything pop music should be. Her unique voice and masterful piano skills really help drive this album. Artists her age, whenever there are any in pop music, are usually filling the airwaves with bubble-gum pop music compiled of completely uninspired and bland lyrics about teenage break ups and cute boys. While Fiona Apple does focus on some of these things, she looks at them in a much more intricate and deep way. Think of someone like Britney Spears, had they sat down and thought about what it all means, looked past what is on the surface, and delved into their soul to write heartfelt music that actually means something, and actually show the emotion it brought in the music.
What really sets her apart on this album, is her ability to create songs that match the mood and feel of the lyrics. She displays her jazzy and sultry side on "Slow like honey"...singing with a voice that sounds much older than she really is, and created a perfect lounge-like atmosphere as she croons her beautiful words. "Sleep to Dream", the opening track, shows her more straightforward angry side...and she does it convincingly. Complete with a catchy chorus that has as much depth as it does edge. "Shadowboxer" and "Criminal" once again bring about her jazzy influences and her mature voice are the clincher to the song's well put-together success.
Even her ballads are something to truly be awe-inspired by. "Sullen Girl" flows along smoothly with a stunningly beautiful piano part flowing beneath her great voice...building up to a string-filled chorus with her gently swooning "It's calm under the waves, in the blue of my oblivion", and then in gently swells back down to just her and her piano. This is how beauty should be tranposed by an artist. It's brilliant. Her other ballad "Never is a Promise", starts out sounding very classical, with more of those swelling strings and yet another stunning piano part. It's breathtaking, and her lyrics once again shine through as the song puts you in an unescapable trance.
Overall, Fiona Apple shows the potential on her debut to dethrone the popular female singer/songwriters out there today, such as Tori Amos, Jewel, Sheryl Crowe, etc. A potential that I think she has more than lived up to with each passing album. My only gripe is I wish she would release one more often, but it shows she takes great care in perfecting what she has...and every album sounds very polished, including this one. In years to come, and possibly even now, this album can be looked upon as a pop classic. That's extremely rare for a debut album, especially from an 18 year old as herself. Any listener of this album should light some candles, put on a comfy robe, grab a cigar, and let her lovely music carry you away...