Song of the Day #1,147: ‘Not About Love’ – Fiona Apple

Best Songwriters – #7 – Fiona Apple

Fiona Apple is by far the least prolific songwriter on this list, having released only three albums over the past 15 years, and no one-offs, EPs, original B-sides or any of that. She has written (or at least released) a grand total of 32 songs.

Yet she finds herself at #7 on my list of favorite songwriters, a testament to the greatness of those 32 songs. If only she’d muster up the will to get back in the studio, she might climb into the top five.

Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say that Apple earned her spot on this list thanks to the 22 songs on her last two albums, When the Pawn… and Extraordinary Machine. While I am a fan of her debut, Tidal, it is a less confident and mature record than its successors — not surprising, considering she was 18 when it was released.

The leap in Apple’s songwriting from Tidal to When the Pawn… is astounding. On her debut, she proved that she knows her way around the piano and that she has a vocal gift unparalleled by her peers, but the songs were mostly straightforward ballads. On her sophomore record, she reached dizzying new heights, playing with tempo and structure, turning each song into a journey.

She continued that evolution on the much-delayed Extraordinary Machine, spinning out songs that you’d never hear on the radio. She introduced elements of jazz, classical and hip-hop into her moody piano rock. Most of the songs were about heartbreak and rebirth, likely inspired by her break-up with director Paul Thomas Anderson.

‘Not About Love’ is one of the typically ambitious songs on Extraordinary Machine. I love that Apple rarely settles for a verse-chorus-verse structure. Sometimes she delays a chorus for several verses, sometimes she plays two verses then introduces a bridge and never returns to the original verse. Here she follows the first chorus with an extended bridge that feels like it’s performed in double-time. Always something unexpected.

This is an emotional song, summed up by its powerfully poignant chorus: “This is not about love, ’cause I am not in love… in fact I can’t stop falling out.” Apple made the interesting choice of recording a video for this track with Zach Galifinakis, who lip-synchs while lying in bed with her. The video is quite funny, and quite a juxtaposition from the song. As this is a post about songwriting, I’d recommend listening before watching, but the clip does make for an amusing few minutes.

It also serves to lighten up the image of the persistently morose Apple. It’s nice to see her laugh for a change. It’s clever how the video starts with what looks like the usual mope-fest before panning quickly to the funny man. And while I don’t generally find her sexy, the black pants and beige sleeveless top she wears during one section of this video are extremely flattering.

Apple and Galifinakis are friends, and also collaborated on a comic rap song of his called ‘Come On and Get It‘ on which Apple contributes the line “Show me your fanny pack and I’ll show you my fanny.” Perhaps he should find a spot on this list.

The early cars
Already are
Drawing deep breaths past my door
And last night’s phrases
Sick with lack of basis
Are still writhing on my floor

And it doesn’t seem fair
That your wicked words should work
In holding me down
it doesn’t seem right
To take information
Given at close range
For the gag
And the bind
And the ammunition round

Conversation once colored by esteem
Became dialogue as a diagram of a play for blood
Took a vacation, my palate got clean
Now I could taste your agenda
While you’re spitting your cud

And it doesn’t make sense
I should fall for the kingcraft of a meritless crown
No, it doesn’t seem right
To take information
Given at close range
For the gag
And the bind
And the ammunition round

This is not about love
‘Cause I am not in love
In fact I can’t stop falling out

This is not about love
‘Cause I am not in love
In fact I can’t stop falling out
I miss that stupid ache

What is this posture
I have to stare at
That’s what he said when I’m sittin’ up straight
Change the name of the game ’cause he lost
And he knew he was wrong but he knew it too late
But I’m not being fair
‘Cause I chose to listen to that filthy mouth
But I’d like to choose right
Take all the things that I’ve said that he stole
Put ‘em in a sack
Swing ‘em over my shoulder
Turn on my heel
Step out of his sight
Try to live in a lovelier light

This is not about love
‘Cause I am not in love
In fact I cant stop falling out

This is not about love
‘Cause I am not in love
In fact I cant stop falling out
I miss that stupid ache

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2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,147: ‘Not About Love’ – Fiona Apple

  1. Dana says:

    Again, not a surprise to find Apple on your list, but it does revive the whole discussion as to elevating the artist with a limited output of great material over an artist with a longer more prolific career with many great moments and some lesser ones as well. Indeed, as you concede, 1/3 of Apple’s own output is lacking, and so she elevates on your list on the strength of two records. With someone like Billy Joel, you sink him down to 10th on your list (and he apparently had to compete with many others to even place there) because he had the nerve to stop recording rock/pop albums after a twenty year span of releasing about a dozen albums and some of the later albums lacked the greatness of the Turnstiles to 52nd Street trifecta. So, arguably, if Joel had stopped recording after 52nd Street and stood on those records, he would elevate higher on your list?

    Now, having finished reviving that rant….I will say that I too am generally impressed with Apple’s enormous talent. However, as I have said before, the intensity of her songs, musically and emotionally, does not always make for easy listening, and I’m not always in the mood to hear Apple for that reason.

    I did as you suggested and listened to this song first, and then watched the video. The song is great, displaying many of the unique musical qualities and, yes, complexities, to which I gravitate. I suppose it’s a testament to your musical diversity that you can love and appreciate a song like this as well as a paint by numbers ballad like Paisley’s “Then.” (It sounds like a compliment, but….) Anyway, the video is really funny. I particularly love Galifinakis’ facial expressions early on as he is reading the lyrics. Classic!

  2. Amy says:

    Ditto to everything Dana says… the rant, the appreciation for today’s SOTD, the further appreciation for the video.

    Coming late to the party, I did just pop straight to the video, and thought, “What?! Fiona Apple has a sense of humor?!” What a refreshing surprise. Despite my lack of love for some of Fiona’s more dramatic, angsty mannerisms, I’ve never doubted her songwriting chops. And today’s song is a great one.

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