When The Pawn... - Fiona Apple

Generally favorable reviews - based on 17 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 15 out of 17
  2. Negative: 0 out of 17
  1. Apple's piano trundles, the strings loom, the beats clop; everything, including her throaty voice, has alluring dark circles under it. With their hints of cabaret, tango, and doomed chanteuses, the melodies slither rather than pummel you.
  2. For any Upper West Side showbiz kid, musical comedy is mother's milk, more "natural" than the rude attack of rock or the polite confessional of folk ... With crucial help from Jon Brion, she's got the Richard Rodgers/Kurt Weill part down, and will surely tackle the Dorothy Fields/Lorenz Hart part later.
  3. Pawn is immediately grabbing, and instead of fading upon further plays, it reveals more with each listen, whether it's a lyrical turn of phrase or an unexpected twist in the arrangement.
  4. Her musical ideas and lyrics have caught up with the ability of her voice. The songs are well varied, and transition smoothly from one to the other.
  5. When the Pawn Hits ... is so good that the next album could have a 900-word title and I wouldn't even scratch my goatee.
  6. Part Jewel-with-tunes, part Tori-Amos-without-kookiness, it noodles, but only rarely.
  7. There's more to admire on "When the Pawn ..." than mere displays of guts, but if nothing else, it's the best non-apology since Madonna's "Human Nature."
  8. She has defeated the odds to create a sophomore effort that is reflective of her earlier work but transcends those earlier limitations to create a new standard for pensive singer-songwriters in the new millennium.
  9. On Pawn she chooses to rock, but in her own unique swinging way. Her songs are not ballads, but epics of rock, classical and postmodern music.
  10. Musically this is more varied and muscular than her debut ... vocally she rocks harder. And though she still ain't exactly perky, she does sound less sullen.
  11. has the talent, not to mention the fame and fortune, to seclude herself from the big bad world ahead of her. But Fiona II makes you hope that she'll find a way to use her talent as a connection to the world instead. Because she's an artist who deserves a shot at growing up.
  12. 70
    Brion girds Apple's elastic melodies with off-kilter beats, giving her music a more rhythmic feel than it has previously had, while the singer herself runs the spectrum of grim emotions.
  13. Forget the brattiness and occasional lunacy that succeeded Tidal's ascent to hit status. This is the work of an adult artist, and onethat's going to be sticking around.
  14. Apple's arty predisposition and prodigious gifts allow this 22-year-old to wax poetic and make it rock because her delivery is so dexterous and forceful.
  15. Fiona's brand of heartache is a welcome, dark respite from the avalanche of popcrap.
  16. Apple is ... crafty, covering up her rambling, dorm-friendly lyrics with sharp arrangements and sturdy songcraft.
  17. And for her second album of Amos-aping MTV-branded Lilith Fair fodder, the barmiest, prettiest pretender to Tori's throne of corporate crackpot chic deals unashamedly in that tired and trusted heavyweight heart-tugging currency: relationships.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 70 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 29
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 29
  3. Negative: 0 out of 29
  1. Mar 16, 2012
    This album was Fiona coming into her real power. Utilizing heavy and interesting rhythms while using the lower register of the piano brings a dark and, at the same time, funky feel to her music. Her ballads shine even greater than they did on her first album as they move gently and make it difficult to shake the feeling of shear heartbreak. I have not heard a female artist with lyrical craft nearly as great as Ms. Apple's. Not only is this album a 10 out of 10, it ranks to be in my top 20 favorite albums of all time. Full Review »
  2. SRod
    Mar 31, 2009
    Definitely her best, and possibly one of the best albums by a woman ever! Top notch production, mesmerizing arrangements, beautiful and intimate lyrics. Every little thing about 'When the pawn . . ." is brilliant. Full Review »
  3. Sep 22, 2013
    This album hits a variety of notes literally and metaphorically The media should take notes from this masterpiece every song is outstanding in its own right. Ranging from Fiona`s piano playing to her amazing voice down to the outright brilliant lyrics not only one of the best single female albums but one of the greatest single albums of all time. 10/10 Full Review »