unigo_skin
© 2014 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
 

Intro

Ever since her acclaimed and controversial debut at the age of nineteen, Fiona Apple has remained something of a mystery. Fiona is outspoken yet reclusive (she virtually disappeared for six years between her second and third albums). She is self-assured, yet vulnerable. Her defining characteristic seems to be her elusive, enigmatic nature. Heck, she even dated a magician (David Blaine)!

"Criminal" – Fiona Apple's first single and her most commercially successful song to date – embodies the very essence of Apple's persona. The song, which casts the crooner as a reckless but contrite lover, is not a clear-cut proclamation of female liberation. Nor is it a straightforward plea for forgiveness. Apple vacillates between the poles of self-righteousness and repentance. In the process, she keenly encapsulates the complexities of what it means to be a young woman in our time.

About the Song

ArtistFiona Apple Musician(s)Fiona Apple
AlbumTidal
Year1996
LabelSony
Writer(s)Fiona Apple
Producer(s)Andrew Slater
Learn to play: Tablature
Buy this song: Amazon iTunes
Try Listen and Learn (BETA)

Music Video

Shmoop Connections

Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
With its creeping piano riff and girl-power lyrics, "Criminal" would have made a nice theme song for the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention. Picture Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott singing "I've been a bad, bad girl." Like Hester Prynne (The Scarlet Letter) and Edna Pontellier (The Awakening), the song's narrator is a woman who defies convention, choosing to place her own desires and wishes above those of a man. But Apple's lyrics do not depict a woman without remorse. Following in the footsteps of Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Fiona Apple creates a nuanced, angst-ridden protagonist, one plagued by a lingering sense of doubt and compunction.

On the Charts

"Criminal" reached #4 on the U.S. Modern Rock Chart and #21 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1997.

The song earned Fiona Apple a Grammy in 1998 for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
back to top