Song of the Day #232: ‘Better Version of Me’ – Fiona Apple

extraordinaryThe leaked version of Extraordinary Machine caused a fan outcry. People were outraged that such a fine piece of work was being denied them by a label with no ear for art. Fans picketed the studio, sent hundreds of apples in protest and started a campaign called ‘Free Fiona.’

Then Apple broke her silence. She thanked her fans for the emotional response but said shelving the album wasn’t the studio’s call, it was hers. She simply didn’t feel like the Brion-produced tracks made up the album she wanted to release. Instead she was rerecording the album with producer Mike Elizondo and it would be out later that year.

And sure enough, a new version of Extraordinary Machine hit the shelves, with two new songs and all but two of the original tracks reworked with vastly different production. And once again, it was the best album of the year.

Some fans were quick to dismiss the official version, claiming Apple’s story was a cover-up and the Brion version was what she hoped to release all along. Brion is well-loved in his own right and the idea of siding with somebody as “ordinary” as Elizondo over him just didn’t make sense. Others, including many critics, preferred the crisp elegance of the official release to the murky ambiance of the bootleg.

I fall somewhere in between. My ideal copy of the album would include versions from both releases. Yesterday’s song is an example of one I prefer with Brion’s production (mostly because Apple’s vocal performance is much more passionate).

But today’s song was improved by Elizondo. The bootleg ‘Better Version of Me’ is almost distractingly busy, with Apple’s vocals buried beneath whistles, horns and percussion. And I really love what they’ve done with the bridge in this version, slowing the song to a halt so she can deliver the provocative line “Oh mister wait until you see what I’m gonna be…”

The nickel dropped
When I was on my way beyond the rubicon
What did I do?And of the games that I can handle
Not a one is worth a candle
What should I do?

I’m a frightened, fickle person
Fighting, cryin’, kickin’, cursin’
What can I do?

Oooh, after all the folderol
And hauling over coals stops
What will I do?

Can’t take a good day without a bad one
Don’t feel just to smile until I’ve had one
Where did I learn?

I make a fuss about a little thing
The rhyme is losing to the riddling
Where’s the turn?

I don’t want a home, I’d ruin that
Home is where my habits have a habitat
Why give it turn?

Oooh, after all the folderol
And hauling over coals stops
What did I learn?

I am likely to miss the main event
If I stop to cry or complain again
So I will keep a deliberate pace
Let the damned breeze dry my face

Ooooh mister wait until you see
What I’m gonna be…

I’ve got a plan, a demand and it just began
And if you’re right, you’ll agree

Here’s coming a better version of me
Here it comes, a better version of me
Here it comes, a better version of me


4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #232: ‘Better Version of Me’ – Fiona Apple

  1. Dana says:

    Really, HUNDREDS of apples? So, I’m thinking each fan showed up with more than one apple, right? I mean, you wouldn’t shlepp down to the studio with one apple! So, let’s say there were 900 apples left and each fan brought 5 apples to the studio–that would be 180 fans. Boy, that’s quite a fan base Fiona has! I can see why Jon Brion (as in THE Jon Brion—to be held up in the producer pantheon with Phil Spector, Phil Ramone and Quincy Jones) would be pushing to release his version of the album so as to satisfy that tremendous fan base! It’s amazing, really, that the studio didn’t cave upon seeing hundreds of apples and a few dozen fans with picket signs in front of their studios.:)

    Anyway, if this track is representative of the officially released album, then I side with the studio (or Apple if she is to be believed). The tone of this song is brighter and I think that kind of tone was needed to expand her range as an artist, so that the next time fans have reason to come out in support of Fiona, we may actually see over a thousand apples Limit 5 apples per person , please:)

  2. Clay says:

    Might have been thousands, smartass!

    And you shouldn’t dis Jon Brion… he’s quite talented and versatile. He produced Kanye West’s Late Registration and wrote the film scores for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Magnolia, among others. He’s not a household name by any means but he is extremely well-regarded.

  3. Amy says:

    When has that ever stopped Dana from dissing a gifted artist simply because he hasn’t heard of him? 😉 I like the sound of this song a lot. And I think it’s cute that the fans (all twelve of them?) sent apples in protest. What would they have sent if they were protesting such treatment of Prince? Or Britney Spears? The possibilities are endlessly amusing.

  4. pegclifton says:

    I like this tune a lot–but I can’t figure out what the picture is on the cover, tulips? Not apples, right. Well, it’s time for me to go watch Walken dance again.

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