I have one tape (yes, the cassette kind – they do exist) in my car that I always throw on when I’m sick of the radio. I have had this same exact tape since I was fourteen years old, and one song is actually worn out from the number of times I have rewound and listened to it.

That tape is Tidal, by Fiona Apple. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been listening to this same album for the past thirteen years of my life, that it still appeals to me after all this time. But every time I listen to it, I am struck anew by the depth of her songs. As my life has evolved, so has her message, from adolescent crushes to the pinings of early adulthood to the destruction of my childhood and the deep, devastating loss of my first true love.

About a year ago, my best friend and I treated ourselves to Fiona concert tickets for our mutually belated birthday presents. This was the night after the show where she totally flipped out and hid under the piano crying. Dangit! We missed a truly Fiona moment, for that is why we love her. She is always far more neurotic, more vulnerable, and more bitter than either of us has ever been, and thus we let her sweetly agonized lyrics express what we can only skim the surface of.

I thought perhaps I would not be as deeply affected by this concert as I was by the one we’d been to the previous fall. At that time, I was still licking my wounds after a very destructive year-long obsession, and the terrible, bitter beauty of her new album perfectly summarized my feelings. I bawled my eyes out.

But this time, I was just at the start of a new and very healthy relationship (my current one, in fact). I looked and felt great, my dad was still OK, I was with my best friend in the whole world, drinking wine outdoors at the end of June and listening to one of our favorite artists. Life was good. So I had nothing to cry about, right?

Wrong. Again, I bawled my eyes out. And this time the trigger was in fact a song from Tidal, one that had never affected me in this way before. Something about the way she sang it that night, though, just released something in me that needed to be let go.

So there I was, listening to a song that I’d heard probably hundreds of times in my life and never really listened to before. And I cried like a little baby.

If only all music were that powerful – I might actually buy more of it. But why spend money when I have my thirteen-year old cassette tape?

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