Bikini    '97
by Lauren Bright

It's hurricane season in the Big Apple, which means it's gusting the kind of rain that has you grasping your umbrella with clenched fists.  I swim to the subway, scurrying to meet Ms. Fiona Apple, who's leaving town in a few hours.  By the time I get to the East Village studio, I look like a sodden chia pet.  The photographer's bulbs are strobing, and stylists are fluttering about with coffee and clothes in hand.  I get my first glimpse of Ms. Apple: she's a looker.  She has this eerie beauty -- haunting eyes and swollen lips.  Her petiteness and wiry frame makes PJ Harvey look chubby; I want to run and fetch her a Big Mac.  And as icing on the cake, at the juicy age of 18 she's been French kissed by fate: a record deal with Sony Music.

During our limo ride back to the hotel, two things become clear: Fiona's exhausted...and she's looking forward to this interview like my parents look forward to meeting my boyfriends.   When we finally settle into the swank lobby of the Four Seasons, I'm feeling a bit guilty about depriving her of much needed rest.  She's a good sport though, and it isn't long before I realize that a Big Mac is out of the question.  "I'm a vegan," she says, "because I used to think I could talk to animals and every time I ate meat I felt really guilty."  And the animals were probably listening.

Fiona has a voice that's laden with husky sensuality and raw innocence.  Her debut album, Tidal, is a solid collection of jazz and torch ballads interwoven with amazingly poetic lyrics -- certainly not something you'd expect from an 18 year old, especially one who'd never played a live gig before signing her record deal.   "My first live performance was in Paris at The Road Show in front of 700 people," says Fiona.  "It's weird with me on stage though -- being up there is really natural for me.  I see it in real terms, like, 'I'm me, that's the stage, and I'm going to get up there and play that piano."

Fiona's newfound success, however, has made her wary of her impending touring schedule.  "I already am lacking an escape," she says, scrunching her face.  "And on the road, it's like you are always at work.   That scares me.  I'm a little afraid that I'm gonna be pulled in every direction and not have any time for myself.  I don't want the whole thing to disintegrate into chaos."

But the chaos has begun.  The hype surrounding Fiona is the stuff legends are made of. She's being compared to everyone from Billy Holiday to Alanis Morissette -- all of which is fine with Fiona.  "People are going to compare me to other people in the beginning because everyone wants to know 'what's she like,' and people like to orient themselves with comparisons.  But I am what I am, no matter what people say.  Tori Amos and Alanis Morissette are fine, but I'm not them.  Eventually other people will know that, too."

One listen to Tidal is enough to confirm that Fiona puts all of herself into the songs.  "The album is a reflection of all my emotions and experiences.  Tidal is the perfect word to describe that.  It describes my view of life; don't aim for the good to avoid the bad.  You have to just ride with it, be happy, and enjoy both the lows and highs."  fin