This world is bullshit.
That is to say, it’s both sad and not all that surprising that Fiona Apple–whose album Extraordinary Machine, a 2005 album only in the sense that Duke Nukem Forever is a 2011 game, and who only got it released thanks to a concerted campaign by fans–is having record label issues Grantland reports on this exchange at a recent, rare concert with collaborator Jon Brion:
At one point, a fan requested new material. “I can’t remember [how to play] any of my new songs because they’ve been done for a fucking year,” Apple replied. “Not her fault!” said Brion.
In other words, Fiona Apple’s new record is in limbo. Again. Granted, albums are shelved all the time, and sometimes you even hear about it happening. But Apple, of course, had this happen to her before; Extraordinary Machine‘s shelving prompted a campaign of fan outrage, Free Fiona (whose website, poignantly, is still celebrating the album’s no-longer-impending release). The album exists–Michelle Branch, among others, has heard it–and was supposed to be released months ago. Since then, there’ve been only scattered tracks and Buddy Holly tributes, none of which really tide fans over.
That said, there is no way this album is going to stay shelved forever. I wouldn’t even give it five years. Here are three ways this could play out:
The other concerted campaign.
Grassroots campaigns to “free _____” are ubiquitous, in music and elsewhere (TV shows, in particular, see these a lot), but Fiona’s got a huge advantage. The prospect of a second Free Fiona campaign is the sort of thing that’d be irresistible to critical outlets even if When The Pawn… and eventually Extraordinary Machine didn’t get awed reviews. That tiny nugget in the Grantland article was picked up by just about everyone, and MTV Hive went one step further and compiled five grassroots ideas for fans: lots of hashtags, lots of sending shit to label execs. If anything, all this is more likely to work a second time.
We are not condoning any illegal behavior. We’re just saying that it’s much more commonplace–expected, even–for artists to directly communicate with fans via Twitter, Soundcloud, etc. than it was at the beginning of the decade. There are usually rules about what you can and cannot post, but once you’re leaking your own material, you’re already well into rule-breaking territory. Theoretically, Apple could emulate Frank Ocean with Nostalgia, Ultra and throw the album up online someplace. It was possible before, of course, but
The actual, unadulterated release.
Albums get shelved for lots of reasons, many ultimately boiling down to “the market won’t like it.” But why wouldn’t Fiona Apple get traction in the market? No, Extraordinary Machine didn’t sell nearly as well as either of its predecessors. But she’s at the intersection of a number of musical trends: the ever-advancing crush of ’90s revivalism; the still-going surge of female singer-songwriters getting critical traction and coverage, much as they did back then; several of those artists being fairly bluesy in the same way Apple was, not to mention certain, much worse buzz artists whose names I won’t mention but who have not-great songs out. “Rumour Has It” could easily be an Apple song. So could multiple tracks by Florence and the Machine. The more you think about it, the more plausible it seems.
And, y’know, the old songs hold up. That’s poorly disguised stanning, but it’s also true. Why would I lay out the possibilites if I wasn’t secretly rooting for one to happen?