Fiona Apple on Recent Scrutiny: “It’s the Same as Being Bullied at School”

At this point last year, Fiona Apple was still submerged in praise from her fantastic The Idler Wheel. But the months that followed haven’t been very kind to the singer—last winter she lost her beloved dog Janet, and in an attempt to occupy herself she has kept busy continuing to promote both The Idler Wheel and new material recorded with singer Blake Mills.

However, recently her performances have made headlines not for the music, but for what we, the media, have dubbed as “meltdowns.” The latest incident happened just last week, after a fan at a Portland show heckled Apple, yelling “Fiona! Get healthy! We want to see you in 10 years,” then followed that up with “I saw you 20 years ago and you were beautiful!”

Though notoriously media-shy, Apple decided to speak out on the matter after the Internet exploded with headlines about her having a “breakdown” on stage. The singer spoke with Pitchfork the following morning for a brief, but extremely honest and emotionally raw interview. Below are some highlights from their discussion.

On the audience member who yelled “Get healthy, we want to see you in 10 years!”

She hurt my feelings. I don’t think what I look like is relevant. And by the way, this whole “unhealthy” thing has me baffled. It’s really confusing to me why anyone would have an opinion about that. And [the heckling] just takes you out of [the live performance]. People around me try to tell me that’s not going to happen, but it always happens. It’s really disappointing. I can’t laugh—I’m an emotional person. And I’m just very sensitive about that. Many people are, not just women. The heckler said, “I saw you 20 years ago, and you were pretty.” That’s just rude, and I don’t want her there anymore because it’s my stage, you know? I got very angry. But I’m going to try and be more prepared for that.

On her weight and appearance:

It’s a sensitive subject because it’s not something that should be talked about, because there is nothing wrong with me. I’m healthy and I shouldn’t even have to say any of that. What makes me unhealthy and puts me in danger is that kind of scrutiny itself. It’s the same as being bullied at school, and just because you’re getting older, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t hurt by it. You could make anybody cry if you told them that they’re ugly.

I don’t even know what I’m being accused of. Do they think I’m on drugs? That I have a life-threatening illness? Do they think that I’m anorexic? At this point, emotionally, it doesn’t get easier to hear those criticisms—but it gets easier to be resolute about my reaction to it. Which is just: “Go ahead and call me ugly, call me skinny, call me crazy and speculate as much as you want, but not at a show.” I don’t think that there’s anything melt-downy about that. I don’t have any problem getting angry at someone who insults me in the middle of a show.

On her involvement with Chipotle’s ad campaign:

Chipotle was in a big rush and they initially wanted Frank Ocean, but he screwed up his voice. And they wanted to use “Pure Imagination”, a song I wanted to do in a show when I was 18 but was too afraid to. I didn’t want Gene Wilder to be upset about that song being sung by some idiot. I thought that I had the best chance of doing it well. This is the absolute truth: The only person that I care what they think of the Chipotle commercial is Gene Wilder.

  • Adolf Hitler

    Fiona is the last artist that I will actively follow and anticipate new albums from. Once she’s done, I’m done. I’ve got plenty of classic music to listen to and I’ve got my own musical aspirations so I’m good for the rest of my life. I don’t need this fake plastic garbage they pass off as art and music. It’s pure entertainment and fantasy and political agendas. Just propaganda. The music industry can rot for all I care. Musicians, good artists, need to start over and play for free, paly coffeeshops, get drunk, blow minds, put it out there emotionally and spiritually. And audiences should shut up and listen. You want another Bob Dylan? Kurt Cobain? Beatles? Pink Floyd? Then take heed and break the current system and support local artists; but only those who have true artistic soul and passion. No knockoffs no posers and no professional musicians in the “it’s my job” capacity.