The Fiona Apple Comeback: Review of “Fetch The Bolt Cutters”

Courtesy of American Magazine 

By Katie Van Lew

Fiona Apple released her fifth studio album, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” on April 17, 2020.  To some, her name elicits memories of her smash hit “Criminal” in 1996, which she received a Grammy Award for as Best Female Vocal Rock Performance. Amidst the craze for mainstream beats and catchy choruses, Apple remained unphased by the dynamic nature of the music industry. She continued to receive critical acclaim, earning Grammy nominations in her third album Extraordinary Machine (2005) and her fourth album, The Idler Wheel (2012). 

From the end of 2019 to March of 2020, Apple released subtle hints that her fifth album was almost complete through interviews. The release of Fetch the Bolt Cutters was a shock to the world, as her album was released with very little promotion, and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Apple revealed that she had intentionally released Fetch the Bolt Cutters early to give her listeners the hope that they too could “fetch the bolt cutters” and escape in her music.

Apple exhibits her brilliance in Fetch the Bolt Cutters through the raw, and authentic power that her voice expresses. The songs illustrate an overarching theme of female power and self-expression. Her voice encapsulates an emotional vivacity that opens old wounds, with each song expressing a different side of Fiona Apple. Her album evokes a vulnerability that is cultivated by feelings of anger, frustration, love, and power. The intense emotion in her voice, accompanied by her bold lyricism is a declaration of rising above a system that tries to silence people into submissiveness. 

In Apple’s first track, “I want you to love me,” her voice is resolute, yet there are hints of desperation in her voice that pleads for love’s favor. She sings about the finite nature of life, yet she wants to be loved while time persists. The strain in her voice is indicative of the pressure to find love in a fleeting life.

In “Fetch the Bolt Cutters,” Apple expresses her desire to escape from the isolation. The majority of the song encapsulates Apple’s perceived ostracization from society,  due to her own eccentricity. In the fifth verse, Apple expresses her frustrations with people restraining her musical capabilities and identity in the lyrics: “I grew up in the shoes they told me I could fill/ Shoes that were not made for running up that hill/And I need to run up that hill/ I need to run up that hill/ I will/ I will.” Apple craves freedom despite living in a world that constantly expects her to conform and fulfill certain expectations. Her repetition towards the end of this verse indicates her overpowering desire to break free from the conventions of society and speak her truth. 

“For Her” is arguably Apple’s most unforgettable song on the album. Apple advocates for sexual abuse survivors by singing the words that many are unable to say. She was inspired to write this song after a film production intern opened up to her about the sexual abuse she had experienced when working with a person of authority in Hollywood. Apple dedicates this song to this woman and all the women who have suffered at the hands of men in power. 

Amidst the mainstream noise incessantly cluttering the radio, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” breaks free from the reign of the modern music industry. Her artistry challenges music boundaries today, delivering unconventional yet maddening lyrics that articulate every emotion in one album. Fiona Apple has been criticized and overlooked, but she will not be silenced.

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