Tori Amos Emerges from Career Doldrums with Plenty to Say in Her Songs
Courtesy of Tori Amos Tori Amos
There's that saying "the more things change the more things stay the same." In the 22 years since Tori Amos released her debut album, Little Earthquakes, the world has changed dramatically, but the singer has stayed remarkably true to herself. Of the topical and occasionally confrontational nature of her music, she says, "I think at different times, the songs have chosen to grab issues that are out there. It isn't always like that."
In what many consider her commercial peak in the 1990s, she was known for her activism, wildly visual music videos, and theatric singles, which dealt with themes regarding feminism, sexuality, and religion. Her first single, "Me and a Gun," dramatically recounted her getting sexually assaulted after a show in Los Angeles when she was 21 years old. "Cornflake Girl" was inspired by a novel about an African woman undergoing genital mutilation. Amos defiantly asks the Heavenly Father if he needs "a woman to look after" Him in the chorus of "God," from her second album, Under the Pink, which turns 20 this year. Parents of '90s teenagers were so focused on their sons being influenced by grunge and gangsta rap that they ignored the fact their daughters were being swayed by a ginger who could tickle more than the ivories with songs like "Icicle," which talks about masturbation.
"I think as an artist, people's history with your music is very real," Amos says of her legacy.
For a portion of her career, Amos' output consisted of odd collections of cover songs and overlong concept albums. Her compilation Gold Dust, essentially a retooling of her hits with the Metropole Orchestra, made some wonder whether the once-vibrant artist had run out of steam. Perhaps the pianist, now a wife and mother, had grown accustomed to domestic life. Did music become part of the routine and cease being a creative outlet?
But Amos deliberately pursued these unconventional avenues.
"There's a lot of reasons to do it," she says of her decision to cover Eminem's fantasy about killing his ex-wife "'97 Bonnie and Clyde" on 2001's cover album Strange Little Girls. "Ultimately, it's a great song. The song is really well-written. I can handle a different point of view, particularly when it's American like that. I was quite fascinated by the fact that my young nephews were really into it, but into it in a way where they didn't realize what it was about. I just felt that they needed to hear it from a different perspective, whether they listened to it or not. They needed to hear it from the almost dead body in the back of the car."