Never Is A Promise

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Songfacts®:

  • Apple wrote this song after the guy she lost her virginity to broke a promise by showing interest in another girl. In the heat of the moment, guys often echo the kind of dialogue heard in romantic movies, saying things like "I'll never leave you," but of course not living up to it. In "Never Is A Promise," Apple takes him to task, letting him know exactly how it feels to be on the other end of it.

    The song is rather therapeutic for Apple, who uses this heartbreaker to learn and grow stronger. A disciple of Maya Angelou, she does it in very poetic verse:

    The skin of my emotions lies beneath my own
    You'll never feel the heat of this soul


    Apple is letting this guy know that words have meaning, so he should be careful when saying "never." She's also finding her strength in learning how to deal with his broken promises.
  • Apple's songs start as journal entries, and are thus very personal and confessional. "Never Is A Promise" she wrote when she was just 16.
  • This is the song that earned Fiona Apple a record deal. When she realized she would have to find a path after high school, she mad a 3-song demo tape to ease her way into a music career. One of the songs was "Never Is A Promise," and that's the one that got the attention of Andy Slater at Sony Music, who signed her and produced the Tidal album. Slater added a string section, but the song remained true to Fiona's demo, focused on her piano and voice.
  • The string quartet on this song - cello, viola, two violins - was arranged by Van Dyke Parks, who has worked with superstar acts like The Beach Boys and U2, but also with more eclectic artists like Joanna Newsom.
  • The Tidal album, released in July 1996 when Apple was 18, surged in popularity late in 1997 when "Criminal" became a hit and Apple made news for putting MTV on blast during her acceptance speech for Best New Artist at the VMAs. By this time, five singles had already been issued from the album, but Sony tried to squeeze more out of this orange by commissioning a video for "Never Is A Promise" and issuing it as a promotional single to radio stations, in part to promote her upcoming tour. What Apple really needed was a break from the nearly two years of relentless promotion. She finally reached her breaking point in 1998 when she canceled her spring tour, citing "personal family problems." Apple reined in her promotional schedule and touring obligations when she released her next album, When the Pawn..., in 1999.
  • The video is one continuous shot of Apple floating in the foreground of a nighttime street scene. It was directed by the Frenchman Stephane Sednaoui, whose credits include "Today" by Smashing Pumpkins and "Breaking the Girl" by Red Hot Chili Peppers.

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