Fiona Apple's Bad, Bad Girl Moments - Rolling Stone
Home Music Music Lists

Fiona Apple’s Bad, Bad Girl Moments

The singer’s most memorable outbursts, oddities and music industry rebellions

fiona apple

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

It seems that as long as Fiona Apple has been with us, she's been as infamous as she has been famous: tear-streaked interviews, public confessions, punking an entire awards show in a single acceptance speech. All her crazy behavior earned her a rep and at the same time, made her an icon. This week Apple releases the first single off her forthcoming The Idler Wheel, and so we revisit the moments when Fiona's been a bad, bad girl.

By Jessica Hopper

fiona apple

Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Her Onstage Meltdown

Though there have been plenty of memorable on-stage hissyfits thrown since (Kanye West at Lollapalooza, Courtney Love in perpetuity), none are more infamous than Apple’s 2000 meltdown. Playing to a sold-out crowd of 3000 at New York’s Roseland Ballroom, Apple’s unhinging began as some problems with the sound, complaining she was unable to hear herself. Things escalated, with the singer crying and staring at the V.I.P. section before storming off stage 40 minutes into her set.

fiona apple

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Her Glacial Pace

"I could write another album in the next two months and be right back out there, or I could never write again," explained Apple, speaking to Rolling Stone in 2006 of her sporadic habit of releasing albums. It was three years between Tidal and its follow-up, When The Pawn…, but since then, Apple’s albums have been six years apart – a highly unusual span for a multi-Platinum artist. Every time she returns with a new record is a welcome surprise – making every album release a triumphant comeback.

fiona apple

Courtesy of Dave Muscato/

The Free Fiona Campaign for Extraordinary Machine

In late 2004, Apple was at an impasse. She had recorded Extraordinary Machine with producer Jon Brion but was locked in a disagreement with her label, Sony, and was starting to consider other lines of work she might be better suited for. The early Jon Brion-produced version of the album had leaked to the internet, but it soon became clear that a proper release wasn’t forthcoming. Apple’s ever-loyal fanbase assumed the corporate overlords at Sony were responsible for the hold up and rose up in protest. The "Free Fiona" campaign involved angry fans mailing hundreds of (foam) apples to the label offices to show that they weren’t going stand idly by, Fiona-less. The outpouring of fan love spurred the songstress into action and she promptly began re-recording Extraordinary Machine with bassist/producer Mike Elizondo. The album finally saw the light of day in October 2005, three years after Apple began recording it.

Play video

Her MTV VMA Acceptance Speech

Leave it to a barely post-teen Fiona Apple, at the height of her acclaim, to react to accolades with unbridled fury. Fearful she was verging on becoming a sell-out and popular for the wrong reasons, Apple stepped behind the podium to accept the Best New Artist statuette at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards, and rather than thanking God, her parents and manager, she let loose an invective still remember 15 years later. Damning the music industry and urging viewers not to idolize her or any other artists, Apple then offered this advice "This world is bullshit, and you shouldn't model your life on what we think is cool, and what we're wearing and what we're saying." Apple issued a statement explaining her reasons for the speech on her website, but never apologized.

fiona apple


Her 90-Word Album Title

What better way to politely flout the conventions of the music industry than giving your album a 90-word long title? Apple’s hotly-anticipated second album, 1999’s 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, cause you'll know that you're right is a poem the singer wrote after reading letters reacting to her MTV speech. Typically, Apple is unapologetic: "To anyone who has ever made fun of me for doing that, I say this: Are you in the Guinness Book Of World Records?". Unfortunately, she only held the title for eight years, bested by a Soulwax album in 2007 with 100 more characters to its name.

fiona apple

Patrick McMullan/Liaison

Her Boyfriend, the Magician

Though Apple has had relationships with other mercurial and famous men (Boogie Nights director Paul Thomas Anderson, Bored to Death-creator Jonathan Ames) it’s her late-Nineties relationship with magician/illusionist David Blaine that was the most curious – the pairing humanized him, and gave her a weird cultural cache; she wasn’t dating a guy in a band, she was dating a guy in an ice block.

fiona apple

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Her Big Mouth

When she starts a sentence with "To be totally honest," it’s redundant. There is no Fiona tamping down how she feels or not answering a journalist’s probing question, even if, as it did in her 1997 Rolling Stone Q&A, it means answering through a veil of her own tears.

Play video

Criminal Video

Though "Criminal" was the fourth single off her multi-Platinum debut, Tidal, it might as well have been the only one – the Mark Romanek-directed video is how the world remembers Apple best: all of 19, lithe and lolling around a poorly lit tract house in her underwear. Controversy ensued – critics assailed the singer for the creepy porn overtones, comic Janeane Garafalo mocked her for being too skinny. In a fit a feminist sedition, Apple claimed she disrobed in order to exploit herself on her own terms, before anyone else had the chance to.

Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.