Singer, songwriter Fiona Apple gained a recording contract in 1995 as one in a crop of mid-’90s female artists, but her confessional writing and throaty vocals made the teenager sound like much more than just the latest flavor. Born in 1977 in New York to singer Diana McAfee and actor Brandon Maggart, Apple began playing the piano at the age of eight and started composing her own songs just four years later, after the separation of her parents and her own brutal rape. After leaving high school at the age of 16, she journeyed to Los Angeles to see her father and make a demo tape of her songs. After several months of tape-passing, Sony Music signed Apple in 1995.
After recording Tidal with producer Andrew Slater, she released the album in mid-1996 and began touring. Constant video play of “Criminal” and “Shadowboxer” brought Tidal into the upper reaches of the album charts; it eventually went platinum, and landed her a Grammy plus an MTV Video Music Award. (She made one of the most famous VMA acceptance speeches in history when she proclaimed “This world is bullsh*t” and quoted Maya Angelou.)
The long-awaited ^When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks Like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He’ll Win the Whole Thing ‘Fore He Enters the Ring There’s No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might So When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and if You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and if You Fall It Won’t Matter, ‘Cuz You’ll Know That You’re Right — the album’s full title — followed in 1999. It was a bold move on Apple’s part, to follow her debut with an album with 90 words in the title. But she was more confident than ever on When the Pawn, working with producer Jon Brion to craft literate, jazzy pop that played mightily to her strengths. Some of her more casual fans were turned off, but the Apple diehards only grew, and When the Pawn peaked at number 13 on the Billboard charts (aided by the single “Fast as You Can”). Still, its brash title, heady sound, and Apple’s on-again, off-again relationship with the public proved obstacles to repeating Tidal’s platinum success.
She wasn’t heard from again until 2002-03, when word spread through the internet that Sony was unhappy with Apple’s newest songs. (By now the Apple cult had grown immensely, helped along by blogs and message boards.) The controversy continued through 2004, with the facts about who was responsible for the griping — Apple or her label — ranging from murky to downright unclear. But tracks from her recording sessions had certainly leaked, and while they were apparently unfinished, the fan response was mostly rabid. Apple could now add internet sensation to her lengthy list of titles (prodigy, tease, true songwriting talent, etc.).
By summer 2005, Fiona Apple’s third album had a name and a release date. Extraordinary Machine was slated for an October release; it would feature production work from Mike Elizondo and at least some of the material that had leaked, though in what form was unclear.