How Fiona Apple’s “Heavy Balloon” tapped into the zeitgeist of living during a pandemic

How Fiona Apple’s “Heavy Balloon” tapped into the zeitgeist of living during a pandemic

A review of a key track from Fiona Apple's 2020 album, "Fetch the Bolt Cutters"


Every Fiona Apple album release is now akin to a cosmic event. The prodigious singer-songwriter launched her career with 1996’s Tidal, but she has released only four albums since. Her latest album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, arrived near the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in North America and is thematically of the zeitgeist, intrapersonally-driven yet always longing for external connection.

Like other tracks on Bolt Cutters, “Heavy Balloon” relies on intricately scattered, home-brewed percussion, the pulse of which is centered around Apple’s forceful contralto vocals.

Illustration of Fiona Apple
Fiona Apple Illustration by Robert J. Ballantyne

The song’s title refers to the dissonance of depression. When Apple sings the main hook, “I spread like strawberries / I climb like peas and beans,” she refers to the potential of growth not just toward uplift, but in other directions, too.

“Because strawberries are rhizomes, and so they grow in this network sideways, and peas and beans, they climb up, you can put them on trellises and stuff,” Apple told Vulture magazine. “I’m all right, it’s okay, don’t worry about me… I’m like strawberries, I’m going to spread myself out and take over this whole garden.”

As we all learn to adjust to a mid-pandemic lifestyle, “Heavy Balloon” reminds us that it’s important to consider our personal growth in multiple dimensions.

References

Apple, F. (2020). Heavy balloon [Song]. On Fetch the bolt cutters [Album]. Epic Records.

Apple, F. & Handler, R. (2020, April 17). The story behind every track on Fetch the Bolt Cutters. Vulture. Retrieved from https://www.vulture.com/2020/04/fiona-apple-fetch-the-bolt-cutters-songs.html

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Fetch the bolt cutters. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fetch_the_Bolt_Cutters

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