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Music

The surprising hit song Fiona Apple wrote in 45 minutes

@notmyyaztattoo

How long does it take to write a Grammy Award-winning song? Well, according to legendary alternative singer-songwriter Fiona Apple, not a very long time at all. In fact, this one goes to show that sometimes the best songs are written under pressure and when you least expect it.

Fiona Apple’s debut album, Tidal, was released when she was just 19-years-old, with most of the songs having been written when she was 17 or even younger. This marked her as somewhat of a prodigy – even though she was, in fact, an adult when the album hit shelves. When Fiona Apple got to work on Tidal in the studio, she came in armed with a backlog of songs that she’d already written, but Sony executives wanted a more obvious hit to lead with when releasing the record. With that demand, her song ‘Criminal’ was born, a number that remains Apple’s most successful hit to this day. 

Joining ‘Sleep to Dream’ and ‘Never Is a Promise’ as album singles, ‘Criminal’ eventually won the award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance at the 40th Grammy Awards in addition to swinging a nomination for Best Rock Song. It peaked at 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and is still her only entry to date. 

Fiona Apple claims to have written the song just to prove she could, in 45 minutes while everyone else went to lunch. While she usually starts out her songs by writing in a journal and going deep into her feelings, this one was a standout, as Apple sat down at the piano and got to work, coming out on the other side with the third single off her first album.

However, the journey of ‘Criminal’ wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. In fact, there was quite a bit of controversy, especially when the music video rolled around. Many people criticised her for her “gaunt” appearance, with somewhat bizarre claims that her body type promoted the unhealthy trend of heroin chic. However, Apple addressed these claims herself when she said, “It wasn’t about getting thin, it was about getting rid of the bait that was attached to my body. I’ve gone through stages where I hate my body so much that if I pass a mirror that’s the end of my day. So it was a personal mission to do that video. To convince myself, you’ve got something else going on here.”

Media outlets compared the singer to Lolita and called her an “underfed Calvin Klein model”, which, by the way, was a statement that was somehow allowed to run in The New Yorker. Even amid the criticism, the song has proven its staying power time and time again, remaining Apple’s most popular track and remaining relevant even all these years later.

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