Song of the Day #986: ‘A Mistake’ – Fiona Apple

Fiona Apple became one of my very favorite artists on the strength of one album, 1999’s When the Pawn… (that’s the commonly used title, anyway… the official title is a 92-word poem that appears on the album cover).

Apple’s 1996 debut, Tidal, made a fan of me. Her singing, writing and piano playing displayed a maturity well beyond her 19 years. But even featuring such great songs as ‘Shadowboxer,’ ‘Criminal’ and ‘Never is a Promise,’ that album didn’t hint at the greatness to come.

Three years later, my expectations weren’t all that high for Apple’s sophomore release. But as reviews started rolling in, it became clear that she had made a huge leap forward. And when I bought the album, it didn’t take me more than a couple of listens to realize it was one for the ages. (Dana, here’s a case where 12 years later that initial reaction has proved to be absolutely dead-on).

Working with producer Jon Brion, Apple crafted dense, melodic songs that surrounded her piano with lush strings, horns and percussion. Vocally, she delivered Oscar-worthy performances on every track, brimming with emotion and demonstrating absolute mastery of her craft.

And the whole thing culminates with a song I consider one of my very favorite by anybody, ever — the torchy heartbreak ballad ‘I Know’ (featured on the blog in just my second week of Song of the Day posts).

I’ve since written about four more of the album’s ten tracks, making today’s selection the sixth. I’m sure I’ll get around to the remaining four in due time.

I’m gonna make a mistake
I’m gonna do it on purpose
I’m gonna waste my time
‘Cause I’m full as a tick
And I’m scratching at thg surface
And what I find is mine

And when the day is done
And I look back
And the fact is I had fun
Fumbling around
All the advice I shunned
And I ran where they told me not to run
But I sure had fun

So I’m gonna fuck it up again
I’m gonna do another detour
Unpave my path
And if you wanna make sense
Whatcha looking at me for?
I’m no good at math

And when I find my way back
The fact is I just may stay
Or I may not

I’ve acquired quite a taste
For a well-made mistake
I wanna mistake
Why can’t I make a mistake?

I’m always doing what I think I should
Almost always doing everybody good
Why?

Do I wanna do right?
Of course
But do I really wanna feel I’m forced to answer you?
Hell no

I’ve acquired quite a taste for
A well-made mistake
I wanna make a mistake
Why can’t I make a mistake?

I’m always doing what I think I should
Almost always doing everybody good
Why?

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #986: ‘A Mistake’ – Fiona Apple

  1. Dana says:

    Although Amy finds Fiona’s intensity to be off putting, she never fails to pull me in when I take the time to listen to her. Her songwriting is complex yet seemingly effortless to her (much like Costello’s by the way). I certainly wouldn’t expect to see your top 20 list of albums without a Fiona entry.

  2. Amy says:

    Okay, okay, I’m all willing to say that I’m too hard on her and to eat crow and recognize her brilliance, BUT I CAN’T GET THROUGH THIS INCREDIBLY ANNOYING SONG!!!!

    In all honesty, I do like some of her songs very much (or at least one of them – “Criminal,” I think? I’ll have to go back and check your blog – but I find myself far more often wanting to turn off the song midway just to get away from her… what? melancholy? angst? intensity? I don’t know. I just can’t stand listening to the Fiona that is represented by today’s SOTD.

    I do feel a little bit guilty about that, if it’s any consolation, but I just don’t see the appeal. Maybe she appeals far more to men than women? Could that be it? I don’t know. Regardless, this one I don’t like at all.

  3. Amy says:

    Get a load of this:

    I tracked down the song that I like by Fiona Apple – “Paper Bag.” If more of her songs sounded like THAT, I’d be a huge fan. Meanwhile, because every Fiona video out there was being uncooperative, I came across the cover I shared. I adore YouTube. Such talent out there 🙂

  4. Clay says:

    That’s a hot Japanese girl covering a great Fiona Apple song. Thanks for the link. 🙂

    As for your reaction to this song, I don’t even begin to get it. Sometimes I can appreciate why somebody dislikes music by one person or another (Dylan, Wainwright, some Fiona Apple) but I can’t fathom why anybody would react that way to this excellent song.

    Based on fan sites I’ve visited over the years, I’d say Apple’s fan base — like that of most female artists — skews more female than male.

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