In the eight years since she released Idler Wheel, Fiona Apple has rehashed and distilled some of her earliest memories, all of which reckoned with her own identity as a woman and how she sees herself in relation to other women. The final product is the exquisitely noisy and brilliant Fetch the Bolt Cutters, her fifth album. At its core is a crown jewel in the Apple universe: “Ladies,” the singer’s ode to the women she won’t get through to.
At the launch of the track, Apple repeats the song’s title like a pick-up artist-cum-lounge singer, inflecting the word with varying emphasis and jokiness. Over the course of the song, she wonders why women are always set at odds, especially in situations where the men are clearly at fault. Her primary examples are affairs, looking back on both her grandmother’s anger towards her grandfather’s mistress and Apple’s own experience with being the other woman in a relationship. The verse where she examines the affair she took part in is especially excellent: Apple comes damn near scatting while passing along the dress of another “ex-wife of another ex of mine” who passed her some kindness.
In an interview with Vulture about the album, Apple stated that FTBC “is a lot of not letting men pit us against each other or keep us separate from each other so they can control the message.” Passing on the dress is her own truce, woman-to-woman. By the end of the song, she more explicitly states that a “competition” would be futile.
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