We all had them, those all-consuming crushes that took over our teenage lives. In our series The Objects of Our Obsession, writers explore the deeper meanings behind those fixations, and pay tribute to the people who we found totally crush-worthy.
I was a weird, awkward kid in the late ‘90s. And that’s why I found Fiona Apple’s incredibly cool, moody (but in an “IDGAF” way) attitude so captivating. It's why she’s forever been—and forever will be—my number one It Girl.
Even when I was just in elementary school, I was pretty angsty. I had trouble fitting in at school and was relentlessly made fun of by every boy I ever had a crush on (you try wearing an eye patch for three years and having the popular boy like you back—impossible). And, there were problems at home; just, you know, typical growing pains. So when I discovered Tidal, Apple’s 1996 debut album, it became my escape.
I first heard the album when I was seven years old, and my uncle’s girlfriend was playing it while I was at his house. I immediately begged her to give me the CD, eager to add it to my smorgasbord collection of Garbage, Alanis Morrisette, The Spice Girls, and Mariah Carey albums. And while that girlfriend would eventually turn out to be the absolute worst, I'll always be grateful that she gave me the CD.
Immediately, I sought refuge in "Sullen Girl", a song that spoke of sadness and emptiness. This was music by a girl who knew what it meant to be an outcast, who knew what it meant not to fit in, and so it was perfect for another girl who felt that same way. Soon, Apple’s music became my obsession—even if the situations she sang about weren’t things I could relate to while just in second grade. But that ever-brooding attitude was familiar, and then, too, while Apple was older than me and had experienced so many more things, she was still just a teenager—it hadn't been so long since she'd been in my position. It gave her music a universality, even if it felt specific to me.
And, okay, sure, some may find it weird for a kid to be belting out lyrics about basically eating men alive ("Criminal," of course) at a karaoke bar where my father had brought me. But, I like to think that early exposure to the idea that men will hurt you, and you'll hurt them, helped me build a thicker skin around all the fuckbois I would encounter later on in life. Because I did encounter them, and I did need a thick skin when life got tough—like, 16-year-old tough, and then 28-year-old tough. But through it all, Tidal still holds up—I can listen to it, and I don’t feel so alone.