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I’ve never been much of a fan of extracting song lyrics and posting them as status updates, or blog posts, or whatever, for the sake of expressing something you can’t figure out how to express yourself. It’s lazy.

But it absolutely GALLS me when I see people extract quotations from Fiona Apple’s lyrics to esoterically allude to some fight they just had with their boyfriend. They’re completely missing the point. Fiona’s music is not a generic representation of love, jealousy, or disappointment. Her music is not suited to be covered by other musicians or mined for poignant facebook quotes because every word she sings is referring to an experience she had, an emotion she felt, an innermost essence. Her music is great not because it is relatable or resonant, but because her music offers a rare honesty that is unfettered by pretense - when you listen to her, you are listening to HER. Taking her words and using them to express your own feeling (as applicable and resonant as those words may be) goes against what is to me the POINT of Fiona Apple’s work - honest expression of feeling. And she does it better than anyone.

That’s why this cover of “Jolene” works so well. Fiona isn’t just singing the lyrics and hitting the notes. You can tell when Fiona sings this she is feeling it, in the most primal and personal way, in a way that not even Dolly Parton could approach. Fiona’s version emanates weakness, powerlessness, desperation, unrequited love - it’s beautiful and sad. She sings it from the perspective of a love already lost, with a tone of resignation. I just….love her.

  • Track Name

    Come on in My Kitchen

  • Album

    The Complete Recordings (1 of 2)

  • Artist

    Robert Johnson

No song does a better job than this one at completely encapsulating you in an era, place, and feeling. The second I start listening to this song, I’m on a Mississippi porch, in a rocking chair, listening to the cicadas and grasshoppers and the steady pluck of Robert Johnson’s guitar.

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