Monday 31 July 2023

Tori Amos

Until a couple of years ago I knew little about the singer-songwriter Tori Amos. She's now responsible for more of my earworms than any other performer. I watch her often on YouTube, comparing performances.

People used to tell me she was like Kate Bush. My favourite Kate Bush song is "Under the Ivy", which is one of her more Amosish pieces. I think that she has the artistic aspirations of Amos. Bush is less confessional though, and sexuality isn't her topic or vehicle. Janis Ian in "Watercolors" has some of Amos' anger, self-criticism, and social awareness. Joni Mitchell's "Blue" album (perhaps still my favourite record) has the reflection and self-questioning that Amos displays. Amos has more control over her voice than all of them.

Janis Joplin and Bjork throw themselves into their songs. Amos sometimes does too, in her own way. The tremble in her voice may be an act, but sometimes I wonder if she's going to get to the end of a song in one piece.

How much are my judgements affected by the fact that I'm a heterosexual male? Pass. My favourites are "Hey Jupiter", "Baker Baker", "Winter", "Icicle", and "Precious things". "i i e e e" from "Live Sessions 1998" showcases her singing and playing. "Putting the Damage on" is sometimes earwormy. I'm not so keen on "Crucify", "Pretty good year" or "Cornflake girl" though they show her versatility. And I like most of her covers too.

All of the pieces I like are over 25 years old. More recent songs like "Speaking with Trees" sound like re-hashes. I'd rather have a new rendering of "Precious things". Writers who use their early life as source material can run out of inspiration. Some other writers, even if they're not always autobiographical, get their best ideas early and spend the rest of their lives raiding their early notebooks - I think Dylan Thomas did that. Such artists in their later years sometimes produce themed, committed work (concept albums, etc) to compensate for their lack of inspiration, it seems to me.

I've read Janis Ian's autobiography, which I found interesting. She was praised on TV by Leonard Bernstein when she was about 16. She's one of the few live acts I've seen. She wrote that when she first heard Don McLean's "Starry, starry night" she played it dozens of times non-stop thinking it the most perfect song ever. I recall having a crush on that song too. I've read a biography of Joni Mitchell, and I liked that. I've not read an Amos book yet, though I'm looking out for one.


  1. My daughter is a big Tori Amos fan. I buy her every new album because I'm a bit of an I'm-started-so-I'm-going-to-finish kind of guy. Over the years I've also discovered on her behalf a few similar singers: Regina Spektor, Agnes Obel and Aldous Harding and, yes, the last one's a woman. Tori Amos is one of a very select list of artistes whose albums I've bought after hearing a single played once on the radio. In her case it was 'Cornflake Girl' which I'm still fond of, in Enya's it was 'Orinoco Flow' and in Marillion's it was 'Garden Party'. Oddly my daughter isn't fond of Kate Bush but I keep thinking about trying her on '50 Words for Snow' now she's a bit older.

  2. I really should explore music more. My tastes aren't sophisticated and haven't changed much for years. If I was young now, I think I'd be playing Billie Eilish while doing my homework.