Song of the Day #3,392: ‘Oh Well’ – Fiona Apple

Yesterday’s entry in the 30 Day Music Challenge asked for a song that makes you want to fall in love, and now we’re going in the other direction, with ‘A Song That Breaks Your Heart.’

As with most of these challenges, I can interpret this one in different ways. Aside from the romantic reading, I could go with a song that breaks my heart because it has sad associations. I’m tempted to pick John Lennon’s ‘Imagine,’ which has come up a few times already, because hearing it while thinking about John Lennon’s fate is indeed heartbreaking.

I’m going with a more traditional interpretation, though, and picking a song about a broken heart that tears up my own by proxy. Fiona Apple’s ‘Oh Well,’ first leaked in a powerful, raw version before getting an official release on Extraordinary Machine, is a masterpiece of sorrow, anger and resignation.

Allegedly written about writer-director (and one-time Apple beau) Paul Thomas Anderson’s affair with a young actress, ‘Oh Well’ is equally biting and sad.

[Verse 1]
What you did to me made me see myself
Something different
And though I try to talk sense to myself
But I just won’t listen

Won’t you go away, turn yourself in
You’re no good at confession
Before the image that you burned me in
Tries to teach you a lesson

[Verse 2]
What you did to me made me see myself
Something awful
A voice once stentorian is now again
Meek and muffled

It took me such a long time to get back up
The first time you did it
I spent all I had to get it back, and now it seems
I’ve been out-bidded

[Chorus 1]
My peace and quiet was stolen from me
When I was looking with calm affection
You were searching out my imperfections
What wasted unconditional love
On somebody
Who doesn’t believe in the stuff

[Verse 3]
You came upon me like a hypnic jerk
When I was just about settled
And when it counts, you recoil with a cryptic word
And leave a love belittled

[Chorus 2]
Oh what a cold and common old way to go
When I was feeding on the need for you to know me
Devastated at the rate you fell below me
What wasted unconditional love
On somebody
Who doesn’t believe in the stuff
Oh, well

6 thoughts on “Song of the Day #3,392: ‘Oh Well’ – Fiona Apple

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I may have highlighted this song before, but it’s the first to come to mind when I saw the challenge. Elton John’s “One More Arrow”is a song about a father’s death. It’s beautiful and poignant, specific in its references yet with a universal theme. As touching as Taupin’s lyrics are, however, it has always been Elton’s plaintiff falsetto delivery that has gotten to me.

  2. Rob says:

    Another great category. I’m going to pony up a tune by an artist mentioned many times in this blog, Mr. Randy Newman. The track is “I Want You To Hurt Like I Do” from “Land of Dreams”, probably my favorite Newman album. The lyric is simply heart-breaking … a father trying to explain the reasons why he is leaving his wife and family. Newman is a master songwriter … no other way to put it.

  3. Peg Clifton says:

    I have to go with the final song on Sinatra ‘s album Watertown-The Train. Every time I hear it I say that it breaks my heart

  4. Amy says:

    So the very first song I thought of and a very fitting choice – is “It’s Quiet Uptown” from Hamilton. I sobbed when I first heard it on the soundtrack, completely lost it when I saw the show live several months later and tear up every time I’ve heard it since. While Kelly Clarkson’s beautiful version on the Hamilton mixtape is equally emotional, it’s the original cast recording that gets me most. Still, when I went in search of a video of that recording and came across Clarkson’s, I was instantly reminded of another song equally worthy of being featured and that is the one I’m going to share today. The first time I heard Kelly Clarkson’s “Piece by Piece” was in its first performance on the American Idol stage. It was a new song, clearly autobiographical, and she was performing it while very pregnant with her second child with her clearly wonderful husband, during Idol’s last season. The lyrics earn their heartbreaking status on their own, but watching Kelly struggle through them, while the judges, especially Keith Urban, who likely was reflecting on his own role in his daughters’ lives, struggle right along with her, made this a truly heartbreaking performance. I’ve yet to be able to hear this song on the radio since hearing it this first time without crying through it. Grab a tissue and enjoy:

  5. Maddie says:

    This is a song that is more heartbreaking with context, but I think it works as a stand-alone heartbreak as well. It’s gorgeous and I fight through my own emotions to listen every one in a while and be reminded of what an incredible vocalist Ben Platt is.

  6. Maddie says:

    Oh, and since these two are a double whammy of heartbreak in the show, I may as well feature them here that way too:

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