You really know you’ve been listening to the radio a lot when you know who “Shameika” is. And you actually know who’s being written about in the media. Case in point: Fiona Apple, and her song “Shameika.” (Or “Shameika Said I Have Potential. Shameika Said I Have Potential. Shameika Said I Have Potential.”—you just keep on wanting to say it. It’s hypnotic.) The song’s dissonant rhythms and jarring effects reminded me of walking down the hall in high school, by the banging of metal locker doors and kids throwing words around like hand grenades.
In today’s New York Times, not one but four music critics join voices to explain the many ways Fiona Apple’s album is a “bold, cathartic, challenging masterpiece.” (And I’m going to order my copy asap from Easy Street Records!). Critic Lindsay Zoladz addresses the Shameika song, writing:
“One of the album’s unifying themes is women and Apple’s relationships with them, not in a rah-rah #empowerment sense but in a much more complicated and often very raw manner. A standout is “Shameika,” named for a schoolmate of Apple’s who—in a eureka moment for the artist that she admits Shameika probably doesn’t remember—told our antsy, tortured, self-doubting future songwriter that she “had potential.” The verses are chaotic torrents of piano and percussion, and then the world suddenly stops as Apple sings, in an almost hammy, Elton John kind of way, ‘But… Shameika said I had potential.’”
That is all good and fine but when I saw the photo of Fiona Apple—skinny white chick with long dark hair—and that she was raised in Harlem, I knew that Shameika was black. That is key to the song!!! Because it builds on what the critic should know, (shouldn’t they?) and admit: if you’re a neurotic white girl and a black girl thinks you’re cool, well, you suspect that it may actually deep down somewhere be true. It’s a bit of white culture, don’t you know… And it’s an amazing feeling.
(Fiona Apple’s young life in Harlem was harrowing. According to her wiki-bio, “At age 12, Apple was raped outside the apartment she shared with her mother, step-father and sister in Harlem. She subsequently developed an eating disorder, purposely slimming her developing body, which she saw as ‘bait’ for potential predators. ‘I definitely did have an eating disorder,’ she recalled. ‘What was really frustrating for me was that everyone thought I was anorexic, and I wasn’t. I was just really depressed and self-loathing.'”
So you can imagine when Shameika said she had potential, it was really, really, really cool. It was ruminate all the way home in your head and write about in your diary cool. Those words lifted her, til she was soaring in the sky on the wings of cool…
Can’t wait to listen more to my favorite station, KEXP, after my quiet walk around the neighborhood.
fyi: here’s yesterday’s face mask production, for a mother and two children (daughter–blue; son–red).
btw: Keep those orders coming! If you can be patient, I’ll just keep on sewing face masks! I’m loving the sewing, actually (as long as I practice T’ai chi, take care of posture, and dance around the room while working!). I also love connecting to people through beautiful fabrics and careful stitching. My hope is that the people feel someone cares about them, and the masks endow them with a sense of dignity and style. As if we too, all of us, despite all this bad and sad stuff that’s going on, we too “have potential.”
photo of Fiona Apple by Sachyn – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=79308040
Fiona Apple joins the Watkins Family Hour house band for Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited at Lincoln Center’s Out of Doors series, August 8, 2015. Photo by Sachyn Mital.