Quintessential Album Series :: Tidal :: Fiona Apple
Tidal is the debut studio album by Fiona Apple. It was released in the United States on July 23, 1996, by Work Records and Columbia Records (Sony Music). Tidal peaked at # 15 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and up to October 2005 had sold 2.7 million copies in the U.S. according to Nielsen SoundScan. The album was certified gold by the RIAA in December 1996, platinum in July 1997, two times platinum the following October and three times platinum in April 1999.
Tidal produced six singles: Shadowboxer, Slow Like Honey, Sleep to Dream, The First Taste, Criminal and Never Is a Promise. Criminal, the album’s most popular single, won a 1998 Grammy Award for “Best Female Rock Vocal Performance” and was named the single of 1997 in a poll of Rolling Stone readers.
For the song Sleep to Dream, Apple won Best New Artist at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards. Then in 1998 she won her first Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, as well as the MTV Video Music Award for Best Cinematography, for the song Criminal.
The music video for The First Taste never aired in the United States.
The 2005 album I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise by Bettye Lavette is titled after a lyric in Sleep to Dream, and includes a cover of that song.
In 2008, Entertainment Weekly named Tidal the 20th Best Album of the last 25 years (1983–2008). In 2010, Rolling Stone placed it among the greatest albums of the 1990’s, at # 83. A year later, Slant Magazine placed it at # 74.
The title of Tidal comes from the thought that Apple felt life, and in particular her music career, was a tidal wave with crests and low points. However, she also wanted to go against the notion of having to have a title to her album. As noted from an interview by Apple in 2010, she thought using ‘tidal‘ in place of ‘title‘ was a way to rebel against the powers of the music industry that required a title be given for the album. No matter the name of the album, it went on to be certified three times platinum.
Apple revealed that when she was 12 years old, she had been raped, which had been the motivation and meaning for the song Sullen Girl from Tidal. As a young adult, she grew increasingly depressed from the incident, which fed into her need to control her body and physical presence.
Her award-winning music video for the song Criminal featured Apple semi-nude and wearing undergarments. This put her super skinny body in the public eye; the New Yorker stated that Apple “looked like an underfed Calvin Klein model” in the video. Apple stated that even though she “definitely had an eating disorder, what was really frustrating for me was that everyone thought I was anorexic, and I wasn’t. I was just really depressed and self-loathing. For me it wasn’t about getting thin, it was about getting rid of the bait attached to my body.”
Apple wrote Criminal when she was only 18 years old, and it was released when she was 19. The video got a lot of attention because the scantily clad Apple looked like she was underage, which was the point of the clip. It was directed by Mark Romanek, whose credits include Closer by Nine Inch Nails and Rain by Madonna. “We wanted something blatantly erotic,” he told Entertainment Weekly. The lighting look was achieved by attaching a regular light bulb to the camera, which gave it the look of a flash that had just gone off.
What Makes This “Quintessential” to me?
The 90’s were so quintessential to my life, each year full of life-changing moments, emotionally-heavy memories, and personal milestones. 1996 marked my real introduction to the internet, and the communities that resided within where I would find a sense of belonging, connection and a “found family”. It was the year that I fell hard and fast for someone, and ran the other way, settling instead for a safe bet. The toll that decision took on me was unexpected, my self-loathing kickstarting in the spiral of bad decisions, and I punished myself, over and over. It wasn’t just the wrong turn in love though, but the manifestation of years of denied hurt and unresolved issues, all suddenly bubbling to the surface. It was the year that my demons came to my door, and the year my eating disorder almost stole my life from me.
It was definitely the year I needed this album.
Fiona’s pain resonated, as did her dark heart ways of looking at the world. There was more though, some hope in all of it, a soul that still believed in love and life, even if it was buried by emotional bruises and let downs. There was a strength, especially in songs like Sleep to Dream and Criminal, that I needed to summon, and I kept returning to the album, over and over again, taking it all in.
The album stayed with me well past its year of release. It became one of my personal go-to’s when I needed comfort and camaraderie, when I needed to mourn or to gather an arsenal of strength, and when I needed to feel like I belonged.
Do you have any memories of this album? Any favorite tracks?
My Top 5 Favorite Songs:
1. Sullen Girl
“Is that why they call me a sullen girl,
a sullen girl.
They don’t know I used to sail the deep and tranquil sea.
But he washed me ashore,
and he took my pearl,
and left an empty shell of me.”
I walked on, breathing in shallow, quick intakes of air, pretending that none of it defined me. Denial is the strongest traditions that my family ever passed on. But in the still of the night it all came rushing back, gutting me, leaving me as shallow as my breathing.
2. Sleep to Dream
“I tell you how I feel,
but you don’t care.
I say tell me the truth,
but you don’t dare.
You say love is a hell you cannot bear,
and I say gimme mine back,
and then go there,
for all I care.”
I was past dreaming, past wishing, past caring. Numbness settled around me like a warm blanket, or the supportive arms that never quite found their way to me. I tried not to think about the way it all could have been, it was too late for that now, I had my own secrets to keep, my own battles to fight, my own runaway reality to face.
3. Never is a Promise
“You’ll say you understand,
but you don’t understand.
You’ll say you’d never give up seeing eye-to-eye.
But never is a promise,
and you can’t afford to lie.”
I saw promises dancing in your blue eyes, wide open like your arms you held open to me. Tears still sting my eyes when I think back, when I remember how it felt to be held close, when the recollection of all of it hits. I could not afford to believe your promises, I did not believe I could live through being wrong.
“My feel for you, boy,
is decaying in front of me like the carrion of a murdered prey.
And, all I want is to save you, honey,
or the strength,
to walk away.”
The truth is, I was the one needing saving, but instead I kept casting my net wide, in search of the next soul in need of a rescue. The enabling quieted the cacophony of screaming in my insides, and temporarily stopped all my internal bleeding. But when I could not save you, and you could not save me, I just wanted the strength to run, not just walk, away.
“I’ve done wrong and
I want to suffer for my sins.”
No one could ever punish me the way I did. My tactics were near fatal, pinpoint trigger finger on each and every delicate part of me. I felt a failure and to blame in nearly every part of me, and it burned like a fire inside, a fire I kept trying to put out, for good.