As an artist, Fiona Apple does as she pleases. Always has, and, seemingly, always will. The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter hasn’t released a studio album since 2012’s The Idler Wheel (whose full title is a 23-word poem), which came seven years after her third effort, Extraordinary Machine. You might recall that the latter dropped six years after 1999’s When The Pawn…, whose 444-character, eight-line stream-of-consciousness poem is one of the longest album titles ever.
With only four albums to her name in a 20-plus year career, clearly Apple — who also has pretty much no social media presence — is in no hurry, and doesn’t need to be in your face every second. She’s gone years without making a peep, in an era when a day without an Instagram is considered radio silence.
But over the past few months, the normally reclusive singer has released a series of quirky one-offs that give us hope she might be gearing up to re-enter the game. Then again, it could just be Fiona being Fiona. Here’s a rundown of Apple’s unpredictable past year:
Last February she released a slice of meditative chamber pop, “Left Handed Kisses,” a duet with whistle-happy singer Andrew Bird.
She then basically went dark for 10 months until she popped up on the list of artists for the We Rock with Standing Rock benefit in support of the members of the Standing Rock Sioux protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. It was at that group’s December show that she unveiled her vicious takedown of soon-to-be-inaugurated President Donald Trump, “Trump’s Nuts Roasting on an Open Fire.”
She was not nearly done trolling the former Celebrity Apprentice host, though. In honor of January’s Women’s March, Apple made her feelings about Trump crystal clear with the biting original “Tiny Hands.” The sliver of a song was dropped in advance of the massive protest that drew millions around the globe and featured the unforgettable refrain, “We don’t want your tiny hands anywhere near our underpants.”
And even though it didn’t come from her, Apple-heads were psyched on Tuesday (Feb.7) when director Kevin Hayes shared a clip of the 39-year-old singer crushing an a cappella cover of SWV’s 1993 No. 1 hit “Weak.”
Given all that activity, Billboard reached out to Apple’s label, Epic Records, for further information on what the singer is up to and if a fifth album is in the works; at press time there was no response.
The recent burst of activity came after a long period of quiet from Apple, who hasn’t toured since a short outing with singer Blake Mills in the fall of 2013. In fact, her last official new song came in 2014 when she dropped the spare track “Container,” which was used in the opening titles for the Showtime drama The Affair.
That same year she hooked up with her sister, cabaret singer Maude Maggart, for a cover of Anton Karas’ “I’m in the Middle of a Riddle” for Starbucks’ Sweetheart 2014 Valentine’s Day compilation.