Fiona Apple: When the Pawn – with “A Mistake” video cover

Fiona Apple - When the PawnPart 6 of 12 Albums That Stuck With Me

When reviewing Fiona Apple’s third album, Extraordinary Machine, I said that When the Pawn had “made me feel like all my ex-girlfriends ever were yelling at me all at once. Moreover, it made me feel like I deserved it.”

I stand by that assessment from … cripes, nine years ago?

Okay, break for feeling old. Now, onto reviewing this album from a 22-year-old following her multi-platinum debut.

One is tempted to worry about Fiona Apple. Just about every other song, she vacillates between debilitating neediness and intense vitriol. She jumps from convincing herself “You’re all I need” over and over in opening track “On The Bound” to sarcastically telling off a suitor in “To Your Love” to lashing out at an abusive partner in “Limp” to romantic resignation at losing someone in “Love Ridden”.

She’s clearly had problems with at least one person paying way too much attention to her. Penultimate song “Get Gone” tries to deliver the message as plainly and simply as possible that she is not interested. Two tracks earlier, in “Fast As You Can”, the directive to go away is similar but the reasoning is quite different: she’s just too messed up.

Finally, in “I Know”, she’s willing to put up with being an unloved second choice. Girl’s got some serious self-esteem issues.

So yeah, as someone who’s sometimes crossed lines trying to get girls to talk to me, I can identify with the objects of Apple’s songs. And who hasn’t at some point felt totally unworthy of a particular (or any) partner?

When the Pawn excels at bouncing back and forth between rage and self-hatred, righteous anger and overwhelming shame. The target changes, but throughout, someone is given an emotional thrashing.

(Apple obviously does not play guitar as her primary instrument. Only a piano player would so recklessly pinball between keys like this.)

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