Fiona Apple – Criminal

The year was 1997. A young singer-songwriter was in the midst of stirring the music establishment up with her particular brand of raw lyricism and unashamed passion. Fiona Apple, then just twenty years old, had released her debut Tidal to critical and commercial acclaim but it was the album’s third single and today’s throwback that irked the ire of many prudish industry bulwarks.

“Criminal,” a jazz-rock portraiture of feeling remorse over using sexuality for personal gains, was lauded for its deeply personal tone and overall polished musicality but it was the visual accompaniment that struck some as pushing the boundaries of decorum and taste. An attenuated Apple is seen in various stages of undress, sidling and writhing among languid partners, seemingly portraying a very dangerous female stereotype. But that likeness was deliberate and in line with her own experiences struggling through body image expectations. It also dovetailed the song’s message of coming to turns with one’s inner turmoil and guilt.

She would famously tell audiences watching her accept the Grammy for that year’s Best New Artist “This world is bullshit!” It was a grand way for her to call out critics who panned her for not conforming to the ideals they saw fit for a promising up-and-comer.

Relive the smoothly sexy track [and unnecessary controversy] with a play:

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