Rolling Stone (11/25/99, pp.97-8) - 3.5 stars out of 5 - "...richer, deeper and stronger than TIDAL [Apple's 1st record] in every way....Apple bears down on her voice and piano with enough rock command to produce some truly fine songs..."
Spin (12/99, p.215) - 8 out of 10 - "...a breakthrough and even more fun....Finding a groove that rocks, swings, and occasionally hip-hops lets Fiona concentrate on emoting, which she does in full-on mock seriousness. The results are delicious..."
Entertainment Weekly (11/12/99, pp.77-8) - "...consistent, rhythmic and forceful....[taking] chances that continually pay off....PAWN is the work of an original, albeit a developing one....genuinely inspiring..." - Rating: A
Q (3/00, p.101) - 4 stars out of 5 - "...a handsome record, well worth perservering with and a massive step forward....Part Jewel-with-tunes, part Tori-Amos-without-kookiness...fueled by Apple's own stomping piano, is unafriad of a soaring chorus to complememt the angular verses..."
Uncut (3/00, p.82) - 5 stars out of 5 - "...WHEN THE PAWN is a bold, brave and bruised album of searing intensity and disarming honesty - part poetry, part therapy and wholly brilliant..."
Alternative Press (12/99, p.86) - 3 out of 5 - "...a solid effort that expands beyond the angsty-woman-with-piano label....musically Apple proves to be wise beyond her years....a cohesive album rife with jazz sensibilities..."
CMJ (11/29/99, p.3) - "...even more sure of her weighty insecurities. The arrangements...are equally rich....filled with confidence..."
Vibe (12/99, p.257) - "...With her sturdy, two-fisted piano playing and a voice that belies her relative youth, Apple unfurls deceptively up-tempo tracks that make pain and guilt seem like perfect pop fodder..."
Mojo (Publisher) (3/00, p.103) - "...a more muscular, richer affair that finds Ms Apple displaying a far broader emotional range....proving that Apple is following a compelling progression that so many of her compatriots have failed to chart..."
Full title: When The Pawn Hits The Conflicts He Thinks Like A King What He Knows Throws The Blows When He Goes To The Fight And He'll Win The Whole Thing 'Fore He Enters The Ring There's No Body To Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might So When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand And Remember That Depth Is The Greatest Of Heights And If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where To Land And If You Fall It Won't Matter, Cuz You'll Know That You're Right.
Personnel includes: Fiona Apple (vocals, piano); Jon Brion (various instruments); Tom Biller (guitar, synthesizer); Michael Breaux (woodwinds); Wendell Kelly, John Noreyko, Paul Loredo, Jean Martinelli (horns); Patrick Warren (Wurlitzer piano, Chamberlain); Greg Cohen (bass); Matt Chamberlain, Butch (drums, percussion); Jim Keltner (drums); Rich Costey (programming).
WHEN THE PAWN... was nominated for the 2001 Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album and "Paper Bag" was nominated for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.
Of the many women who came of age during the "Lilith Fair" age of the 90s, none was as intellectually precocious or as emotionally scarred as Fiona Apple. Her sophomore album, WHEN THE PAWN revealed Apple to be a fiercely independent artist who jealously guarded the sanctity of her creative expression. It bubbles over with confessionals pertaining to the effects that fame had on Apple's continuing string of disastrous relationships.
Rather than whine about her trials and tribulations, the lithesome 20-something matter-of-factly sings of yearning ("Paper Bag"), moving on from bad love ("The Way Things Are"), and staying wrapped up in it ("Limp"). As was the case on her debut, Apple's smoky delivery and understated piano playing make her the '90s equivalent of Nina Simone, another headstrong iconoclast. Producer Jon Brion does a great job incorporating a mix of swirling orchestration, lo-fi ambiance, and punch onto some of Apple's more notable numbers including the breathlessly fast-paced "Fast as You Can" and the defiantly resilient "Get Gone." Musically rich and lyrically challenging, WHEN THE PAWN is the kind of smart pop that is unfortunately more the rare exception rather than the common occurrence.