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Birth of the Uncool

Birth of the Uncool
Article by SadyDoyle, Illustrated by Rebecca Green, appeared in issue Primal; published in 2011; filed under Music.
In defense of the Tori Amos fan

Illustration by Rebecca Green

Tori Amos is not cool. Even now, as we find ourselves in the midst of '90s alt-nostalgia—Pavement has reunited, Weezer is putting on a tour devoted entirely to its first two albums, the cool kids are all going to Courtney Love's shows to see how out of control she'll get (heck, Juliana Hatfield and Evan Dando are touring)—the love of Tori Amos records remains a forbidden and dorky love. People often confess to it in the same way they confess to having once played Dungeons and Dragons: shyly, or with a self-deprecating smirk and shrug. Which is entirely understandable; even when she was at her most successful, there was a stigma surrounding Tori Amos fans.

It's the nature of that stigma that's interesting. Though our memories of the 1990s may be misty and selective, I'd argue that Amos's popularity was connected to some of the key cultural moments of that decade. Her early mythos—burnt-out hair-metal escapee turns earnest singer-songwriter in attempt to regain her bruised integrity—was a perfect fit in the early '90s, as power-ballad fatigue set in and the MTV generation searched for "authenticity" in music. Her much-mocked New Age belief system tied into the pop-Jungian mysticism of the mid-'90s—think Women Who Run with the Wolves, The Celestine Prophecy, Robert Bly, even The Craft—for which Amos, always willing to talk about faerie aid, could be seen as a high-profile representative. Her large, early-adopting online fandom was tied to the late '90s and the rise of the Internet. But in particular, the public persona of Tori Amos was tied, whether by coincidence or intent, to the emergence of third-wave feminism, and the struggles around gender and sexuality that characterized the decade of its rise.

Still, despite her reliable presence in a changing culture, Amos has just never been considered cool. And the reason for that has always been the same: Both her persona and her music played directly into some of the more widely reviled varieties of femininity. The real problem with liking Tori Amos is that it's just too girly.

Amos defined her music, from the outset of her career, around feelings of social ostracism and the expression of a complex inner self that had trouble finding acceptance. Little Earthquakes, the solo album that made her name, brimmed with first-person, seemingly autobiographical confessions about rejection, self-doubt, and adolescence. "Every finger in the room is pointing at me," began its first song; the album's first single, "Me and a Gun," was an a cappella recounting of Amos's own rape. But though it could easily have turned into a paean to self-pity and victimization, Little Earthquakes was also full of defiance, as well as assertions that being true to oneself was its own reward. And then there was the implicit message of the music itself: All of this happened, and I'm still here.

Amos's music and lyrics were pretty, emotionally expressive, vulnerable: in other words, stereotypically feminine. But they weren't coy or girlish; they were laced with anger and sadness, and they addressed taboo topics. A song in which a little girl talked to an icicle could turn very quickly into a song about masturbation; a song about a miscarriage could contain lyrics about mermaids. Amos wasn't connected with a feminist music scene like riot grrrl; she didn't tour with Lilith Fair or perform at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. But her mouthy, brash style wasn't easily assimilated outside of feminism, either.

In rock music, there tends to be two types of women granted the stage: tough girls and nice girls. Tough girls—Polly Jean Harvey, Patti Smith—get respect, albeit grudgingly, because they display traits we honor in men: They're confrontational, direct, balls-out. Nice girls—Dusty Springfield, Sarah McLachlan—are admired for displaying the compliance and sweetness we associate with femininity. Of course, it's a false dichotomy: No one is purely nice or purely strong. But Amos, who was both achingly, publicly vulnerable and openly defiant, fit most easily into a shadowy third category, feared by performers and lambasted by critics: the hysterical, shrieking female. It had claimed Sinead O'Connor before her, and would claim Fiona Apple after. But her fans loved the combination of public hurt and defiance. The story of the wounded ugly duckling turned rock-star swan spoke to women. It spoke to social outcasts. It spoke to survivors of sexual violence or abuse. And it spoke to LGBT people, especially young gay men, who had particular reason to connect with Amos's recurring themes of religious repression and sexual shame, and who still constitute a large part of her fan base.

Derisive references to Tori Amos fans started to crop up in her press almost as soon as those fans came into existence. A 1994 article in the U.K.'s New Musical Express described them as a "a quivering gaggle of whey-faced young oddities," and Amos as "mother of a thousand fuck-ups." The word "obsessive" started to appear a lot, as did "cult." By the late '90s, everything written about Amos was seemingly obliged to mention her "fanatical" listeners, and the fan phenomenon soon eclipsed discussion of her music. This culminated in a 1999 Spin cover story, which (unflatteringly) profiled some of the fans and asserted that there's "no such thing as a casual Tori fan. People either dismiss her music as pretentious and twee, or they cover their entire body in Tori tattoos." Of course, Amos appealed to plenty of boys and men who wanted to cast her as their personal Manic Pixie Dream Girl. But as time went on, the deeply gendered narrative of the obsessive, hyper-emotional weirdo took over. The Spin article actually had to point out that "Amos has resonance for guys, too, although they're often teased mercilessly for it."

Close examination of any group of fans tends to reveal collectors, imitators, and overanalyzers. Amos's fans stood out partly because she was one of the first artists to receive a substantial career boost due to the Internet, and to use it as a major promotional tool. ("Ms. Amos has such a widespread following in cyberspace that she is releasing one new song, 'Merman,' only as a computer download," went one line in a New York Times article, which if nothing else points to the fact that 1998 was indeed a different time.) Her fans' early, widespread adoption of websites, mailing lists, and message boards meant that outsiders could actually see how a particular fan subculture worked. But they also stood out because of what they obsessed over, and how uncomfortable their obsessions made others.

As a society, we encourage girls and women to be emotionally accessible, and in touch with their feelings; we say that it's an innately feminine trait. We say it, that is, until they have feelings that make us uncomfortable, at which point we recast them as melodramatic harpies, shrieking banshees, and basket cases. The stereotype, for instance, of the good, sweet girl who thinks that getting a boyfriend is the most important thing in life is located directly next door to the stereotype of the pathetic, tear-soaked whiner who can't just get over her breakup already; what matters is how they feel about the boy. Unsurprisingly, the girl who feels better about him is less likely to be seen as inappropriate or overly emotional by the general public.

And, though there was no shortage of girls who were drawn to Amos's songs due to boy troubles—I myself maintain that 1996's Boys for Pele is one of the best breakup albums ever made—lots of them had troubles that were far worse. In the NME article that described her fans as "oddities," Amos estimated that "one in three women who comes to my shows [has been] raped or sexually abused." Her numbers didn't come from a formal study, but formal study apparently supports them: London School of Economics gender studies scholar Deborah Finding, who surveyed more than 2,000 Amos fans for her 2009 PhD thesis, found that the rate of sexual assault in Amos's fanbase was "enough to support the statistic that one in four women has suffered sexual violence," and that "98% of the respondents said that they used her music as a means of emotional support."

There are few things more calculated to unsettle the patriarchal culture than a bunch of women coming together to discuss the effects of sexual violence on their lives. One of those things, as it happens, is men coming together to talk about being sexually violated or abused, discussions that also happen at Amos shows. Indeed, one of the queasy undercurrents in the diminishment of Amos's fans is that, if they're not girls, they're viewed as being somehow too much like girls. Amos's male fans may or may not be effeminate men, and they may or may not be gay or bisexual men, and they may or may not be assault or abuse survivors. But it's hard to underestimate the role that homophobia and gender policing have played in the assessment of her fans. Consider the widespread laughter and surprise when pro wrestler Mick Foley recently announced that he's a longtime fan of Amos's music. In an article for Slate adapted from his memoir, Foley recalls hugging Amos, writing, "I felt like an innocent child in the arms of an angel." The line was widely disseminated in the blogosphere, photos of the burly wrestler underscoring the cognitive dissonance of such a, well, manly man digging such girly stuff.

Even the experience of Amos's music itself was, in some senses, stereotypically feminine. To go to a Tori Amos concert was to seek catharsis. Her performances were known for being unpredictable and hugely expressive. There were lots of tears, there was lots of screaming, and sometimes both of them were coming from the stage. To some degree, the passion around Amos was disquieting because her performances asked the audience to surrender control, to commit themselves to experiencing huge, sometimes scary emotions, to leave the realm of rational thought behind and make intuitive connections between the words, the noises, and the sheer physicality of the woman on the stage, who might be grinding herself orgasmically against her piano bench or angrily clawing herself. Of course it made people uncomfortable; it was about leaving comfort zones behind, about surrendering inhibitions. If you didn't enjoy that sort of thing, it was hard to imagine why somebody else would. Poststructuralist feminist theorist Hélène Cixous, among other people, pointed out that the gender binary also tended to perpetuate itself in other divisions, such as "Head/Heart," "Intelligible/Palpable," and "Logos/Pathos." The music of Tori Amos asks its fans to stand on the wrong side, the female side, of all those dichotomies.

So, Tori Amos had girls, she had queers, she had various gender nonconformists, and they were all being advised to take their feelings seriously, survive, and stand up for themselves. No wonder this stuff wasn't hip. But it sold, and it continues to sell: All of her first seven albums (with the exception of her covers album, Strange Little Girls) have gone gold, and the first two, Little Earthquakes and Under the Pink, have gone multiplatinum. Amos still tours at least once every two years, and still meets with fans to take requests and hear their stories before nearly every show. The work stands; the fans remain.

And it stands because Amos—who's not indie, not mainstream, not riot grrrl, not nice girl—occupies a more or less unique place in the culture. Be yourself was always the message of the work, and she's been nothing but for almost 20 years. No, Tori Amos isn't cool. But for the people who love her work, she's irreplaceable, and she inspires and informs their resistance. As far as legacies go, that seems like one to envy.


Sady Doyle founded the blog Tiger Beatdown, and has written for magazines and blogs including The American Prospect, Salon, and The Atlantic's Culture Channel.

Comments

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Tori Amos

I'll proudly wave my nerd flag. She's definitely been a very polarizing figure in the industry, but I remember her being thought of as pretty cool and strange in the 90's. As a guy, I was never afraid to proclaim my love for her. Now-a-days, not so much. With the wigs and the plastic surgery and having people like Perez Hilton introduce her at SXSW, I'd say she's gone a bit nuts. (I'm sorry, but 1996 Tori Amos would have eaten 2010 Tori Amos). I never was a fan of contrived art rock. She does have some gems on her newer work, but it's a complete chore to sift through all the over bloated albums to find them. Here's hoping she'll come back one of these days and let the music do the talking instead of loose concepts and gimmicks.

That being said, the woman can still work the stage and she's never disappointed me live.

Agree 100%. It's like you're

Agree 100%. It's like you're in my brain. I ache for the Tori I knew during my formative years. I hope one day she'll come back around, but maybe you can't go back? We'll see. Right now, she's gone to a place that I can't follow. And yes, she absolutely does put on a hell of a live show.

Uh...

Call me one of the "rabid fans" however I find the inane commentary about how Tori "has changed" and "lost her edge" to highly annoying.

As an artist, which she is as her music isn't spoon fed to her in a studio, you simply cannot keep putting out the same work of art. What would the point be? Have any of the great artists ever done that? Would Monet be Monet if all he did was painting after painting of Waterlilies for his entire career? No. You cannot keep creating the same work of art. If you do you boarder on being a Xerox of yourself.

"1996 Tori" would never "eat 2011 Tori." In a lot of ways 2011 Tori has finally achieved what 1996 Tori was trying to express to the world, live by your own standard. Find your own fire and stoke it yourself. Or as she puts it "bring your own Sun." That is what the message behind Boys for Pele was. It was her first work where a musical narrative was woven. Little Earthquakes and Under the Pink had a theme but they didn't have a narrative which flowed from one song into the next. Boys For Pele was Tori's first "sonic novel."

That gave way to the deeper narratives which are found in her later albums most notably in, from the choirgirl hotel and Scarlet's Walk.

And excuse me but the "wigs" and "plastic surgery." Honestly. Has her face changed? Yes, it's called age. I have seen Tori up-close (not before every concert!) a few times over the last 20 years and I can honestly say if she's had work? I want the number for her surgeon.

Also for the ability to, at 46 walk out wearing stretch leather leggings in a black shag wig, looking f*ing fabulous and rocking the sh!t out of the stage while playing 2 different keyboards and a piano?! Hell. Yeah. Bring it on. Again and again please.

I guess you're right. She has changed. For the better. She plays on her own terms now. She doesn't; have some record label ass telling her that the track listing for her latest work has to be X order, or that she has to have "more guitars" in certain songs. But her music still makes me think, melt, and cry a little: with a wig or without.

HELL YAH

Wow thank you.I've never been ashamed of tori she's totally awsom n I've even turned some of my friends on to her. I think one of the things that makes ppl love her so much is that she's open about herself she never hides what she feels,goes threw, thinks. So you get the sence that you know her just a little. And she's a fun cool person

With all due respect, I do

With all due respect, I do not think this http://www.savvyskin.com/pics/plastic-surgery-tori-amos.jpg is "age".

Interesting

Interesting opinion. ACatNamedEaster's is equally as valid. Waste of a post.

Tori live

You really hit the nail on the head with your description of Tori Amos live, even the current, plasticky Tori Amos. I was lucky enough to see her in October 2010 with the Metropole Orchestra in Amsterdam, and it was an experience that definitely called on the entire audience to open up, free themselves, as uncomfortable as that can be. It was cathartic, and as a manly man, née redneck, completely freeing. Reading your article brings me chills, as the power of her live shows are like none other. It's simply a matter of being willing to be open to the volume of emotion that Tori Amos communicates at every show. Regardless of the bloat of her recent releases, there are gems to be found throughout.

You're right though, being a straight, male Tori Amos fan gets you some strange looks, but meh, WTF do I care? I care about emotion, power, release and serenity, all of which can be found throughout her catalog and experienced at a live show. Word is she'll be touring late fall 2011, so if she's nearby treat yourself, if you can handle it.

Question

First off, excellent essay.

To jb: You say that you don't care about people judging you for being a straight male Tori fan, and yet in the first sentence of your comment you call Tori "plasticky Tori". Why would you comment on her appearance when the main point is music? Or more importantly, why would you care? I don't mean this as a personal attack; this is a common discussion amongst Tori fans of late, and it makes me want to slap people every time I hear it. I say if you are going to claim that you aren't afraid of judgement, you probably shouldn't be judgmental yourself.

-A Gay Male Fan.

you're right, in more than one way

Honestly, I could care less what Tori Amos "looks" like; however, I am of the opinion that she might have been better off leaving well enough alone. I am entitled to that opinion, just as you are entitled to think of me as a judgmental ass. That's OK.

You're spot on though, her current fan base does gang up on her new look, I think it's a distraction between releases :-p

I also feel that the "plasticky" moniker can be applied to her past 3 or 4 releases, possibly leaving out MWG, as it might deserve a bit of overproduction, but as was mentioned in a comment below, I miss the reality, the rawness of the Tori of the 90's through SW. I listen to her whole catalog, but I find that I skip a lot more songs on the newer albums than the early releases.

I don't get goosebumps looking at photos of Tori, I get them listening to her music, reading about its meaning and feeling its constant contribution to my life.

A follow-up thought

Her current fan base gangs up on her because they revere her as a Goddess, even though she has stated on multiple occasions that idolizing people is unhealthy. Is everyone upset because Tori is (gasp) a human being, with normal insecurities that we all have?

You're allowed to have your opinions, but that doesn't mean they're utterly and totally worthless.

Gold Dust

So I enjoyed reading this article and many of the responses. I too was a fan of Tori who adored and idolized her. I recognized that there were many aspects of the girl she shared with us that were reflected in me. She understood me in all my awkwardness, lonesomeness & even my beauty and glory. & she was beautiful, charming & quirky! I discovered her when I was abt 15 & now I am the age that she was when she wrote all those songs that inspired me. I still dream of her sometimes on stage & her recognizing me/finally meeting me. : ) I too have been disturbed and concerned about her cosmetic surgery, excessive (straight-faced) glossy photos, & the fact that her music seems to have a disconnect these days. At the same time I have to be realistic and allow her to be human & insecure, etc. Maybe she is still the same girl inside or maybe she is in a place of being deeply troubled. Regardless, I also realize that she has traveled down paths that are my own future, just as they were when I was 15. In a nut shell, surely I will understand when I'm 49. Yes, I'm 35 now & still it seems my connection with Tori is very deep and personal. Thanks for all your posts and for reading mine! & thanks to her for having such a personal connection with us all.

I think its fine and good to

I think its fine and good to comment on Tori's appearance. You either like it or you don't like it. I don't think he said anything negative about her music, so who cares. I grew up on LE, UtP, and BfP. Although not my favorite albums, whenever, I imagine Tori Amos, I see that Tori Amos. The Tori an adolescent developed his first star crush on. I mean what' so wrong with musical and physical attraction going hand in hand. And its like Tori wasn't pushing this buxom, long legged, Nordic physique. She's tiny rather, not quite endowed, but her femininity and sensuality pushed right through the roof. She didn't have to prance around on stage wearing absolutely nothing, she didn't need to cover herself in meat dresses. The gimmick was the music (albeit the pictures in BfP were subject to quite some controversy). Every album is a little gem, and I have to say I didn't much like all of them. But here's the beauty, years later I'll hear a live version or see a video, and I'll go back to that album and discover a new gem because musically they all have very original merit. I don't like Tori, I love Tori. I don't like her appearance these days, but she can choose whatever stage image or persona she wants, the music is still good to me.

And I still like girls very much.

See you at the next show.

The thing is, Tori spent

The thing is, Tori spent plenty of time in her career cultivating a physical image that she wanted to project. All of the 'be yourselfness'-ness aside, don't fool yourself into thinking Tori doesn't take and hasn't always taken great care to look a certain way. She spent countless interviews talking about her love for designer clothing and $1,000 shoes, even what type of hair dye she used (Torrid Torch Crimson, back in the day - I paid attention!)

So for a lot of us who have been fans since 1991, it's shocking to look at the Tori of today and see all the plastic surgery. It's hard to look someone in the eye and say "don't just me by my looks" when you've been discussing your looks in public for 20 years...

Girls, girls, what have we done, what have we done to ourselves

The problem with Tori's new "look" and the subsequent fixation thereof by some of her fans signals a much deeper disconnect. People that love her (and I've loved her for many years) are sharply divided on the issue. You've got the "it's all about the music" crowd and the "dear god, what happened to her face" folks causing a maddening amount of chatter on the forums.

But, although a musician should never be judged on their looks, with Tori it's complicated. Tori was never a passive presence just singing pretty songs: she had a message, a spiritual imperative, a life force that caused the listener to lay themselves bare. Her choices over the years (the plastic surgery, the incessant roll playing and dress- up sessions as a vacant fashion doll--no matter how stridently she contextualizes these things as social commentary) rings hollow against her former presumably "authentic" self. It seems a spiritual problem and, at it's core, an artistic problem. Her body of work stands disjointed and lost in a recursive maze of self-indulgence. It's also a feminist problem. I'm sure there are rabid feminist who condone plastic surgery, but i can't help but think its overwhelming presence in our culture will be looked upon as a grotesque aberration and an indictment of the times. That any women, let alone one so passionate about the themes of patriarchal suppression and subjugation, would submit to this distortion is disappointing, especially since her voice on these matters would've been a blessed help.

We're only human...

This issue has nagged me for years but, as it's hard to find anyone capable of discussing this rather abstract and absurd "Tori Problem", I've said nothing and tried to enjoy her music for what it is. And she is an amazing musician, undoubtedly; one of my most precious touchstones. But, there's something of the tragic in it for me, an unease, as if a dear friend took an unfortunate and misguided turn of which they're unlikely to recover.

I will keep listening, I will keep hoping and maybe one day a clear voice and honest passion will return (NOH was promising). As she said: "just keep your eyes on her..."

but she sings about it herself

what is interesting about is that Tori in her music sings about her own struggle with this! Girl dissapearing marks the start of this for me, but there are many more songs that adress the issue of her struggle with getting older and not looking like a young woman any more, especially on American Doll Pose. And if you listen to abnormally attracted to sin you can just hear the despression she has had over this.

I admire Tori for being A Real Woman. For being one of us. She showed me as a teenager that it is okay to be afraid and still remain strong. She is now leading the way in how it feels to become older and how that can be a struggle. Her greatest strength is her vulnarability and I think that is something beautifull.

I was in Amsterdam as well.

I was in Amsterdam as well. I found that particular show to be the most "moving" of all shows. It indeed united fans and was extremely cathartic in nature. The tears flowed freely... and in unison with each others as if to open the dam of unabridged emotions that never fully connected prior to this potentially life changing live experience.

the dam, dam DAM DAMN!

Honestly, as I sit here to type this reply, I have to say that chills are washing over me like waves. I have had the good fortune to attend a lot of shows, TA and many others, and I can say without a doubt that the Amsterdam show was like no other show I've ever experienced. I highly doubt any show in the future will surpass it either.

Amber, all I can say is you were most certainly there, your description of the night, the emotion, the release, is perfection. Jules Buckley's introduction set the tone, and Tori's teary talk after Star of Wonder just solidified it. I can honestly say it took me a good month to process the emotions I had from that night and not well up with tears listening to the boot. Hopefully there's a real release of this show (and other tracks she may have rehearsed with the Metropole, as she did return to work with them again this January).

Honestly, the whole night was a total gift from both Tori and the Metropole Orkest, one I can never repay. Kudos to the Metropole on their recent Grammy as well.

c'mon people!

This article, while interesting, does an injustice to Tori as an artist and to her fans as well. Tori is a gifted, brilliant, incredibly sophisticated songwriter. This is a woman who can write songs in a pop structure that one can easily sing along with, while also when thought about it's clear that these songs can have many layers of meaning. Tori is a gifted, brilliant, incredibly sophisticated musician as well. She can play 2 different types of piano keyboards at the same time, hands and feet, all while singing. Seeing her live is a transformational experience for everyone I've seen her live with over the years, about 15 times dating back to 1996. She presents big concepts, visions, in a completely unique, tight, manicured way, while also seeming raw and emotionally accessible.

This is why people like Tori Amos. It's not because they're feminists. It's not because they're homosexuals. It's not because they're sexually tortured. It's not because they were abused, not because their parents died at early ages, it's not even because they're social outcasts. Tori is TALENTED and UNIQUE. That is why she has fans! And she has all kinds of fans - straight men (like me), gay men, straight women, gay women, people in their 30s, teenagers, and more. To pigeonhole her fans as X X and X is downright insulting and I believe highly inaccurate. Maybe that was the case in 1992 when "Little Earthquakes" came out and in 1996 and later, but now it's really not. A Tori Amos concert is filled with a broad cross section of people, and they come because she moves them - because she's talented.

Finally, as usual with this type of commentary on Tori, her latest work is ignored. As a fan of hers in 2011 it's disappointing to hear nothing of her last album "Abnormally Attracted To Sin", nothing of "The Beekeeper," nothing even "Scarlet's Walk" as I recall. Crazy indeed, and revealing... an author writes what they know... and they don't really follow Tori's music, clearly. This author faded out 10 years ago.... ironic that she purports herself as one who is in position to critique Tori's work and her fans when she's working off of memories from years ago.

Disagree

"People often confess to it in the same way they confess to having once played Dungeons and Dragons: shyly, or with a self-deprecating smirk and shrug."
I don't! I will yell my devotion to Tori to anyone unwilling to hear it. I simply don't care what anyone thinks and I'm not a snob when it comes to music. Simply put, I don't care if I'm cool or not, it won't deter me from speaking about music I love.

Great Article. And I'm a straight guy

First of all, great article. My gay brother who is not a Tori amos fan asked me "why do so many gay men like her". Now I can explain it better.
I want to add that it is hard to categorize Tori Amos. She has musical styles in her albums that are all over the map. From girl-and-her-piano slow and quiet songs, to hard rock, to pop, to 50s sound, mid-tempo, slow-tempo, no tempo, anything goes. And also hard to decipher her lyrics and hidden meanings. All of this takes work, which tends to put a wall between the no-fans and the obsessive-fans. Hard to be a casual Tori amos fan.
By the way, she is very feminine as described in the article, in terms of emotions, thoughts, meanings, and mostly in her music. But sometimes she can be so "masculine" in the typical stereotype use. For example, check out her cover of Purple Rain as performed with the band in 2003. It is so powerful, and she even uses her low register for most of it (except the banshee ending). I always use that as an example for people who think they already know everything about her. Here's the link on Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBMjQfzQXAw
Oh, and I'm a straight guy, not even a teenager, and it took me ages to convince my feminine wife why she should also dig into Tori Amos. So stereotypes are fun to laugh at...

Excellent analysis!

>> deeply gendered narrative of the obsessive, hyper-emotional weirdo took over.

My partner and I were fans from the beginning - the full-on, directness hit us in the face from the first hearing of Little Earthquakes, but by pandering to the much smaller base identified above, and moving into the "I'm soooo kooky" niche, she's become a sideshow, and caused her own fanbase to be identified as wierdos and uncool. More of her original fans deserted her, as she descended into wilful lyrical obscurity and self-indulgent performance, with little real communication with the audience, particularly for the band shows, where her stage presence became a mask and cut that original visceral thread of communication. I sometimes wondered whether I had been at the same show when I saw the obligatory "Best Show Ever!!!" reviews - to be a "fan", did I have to suspend critical appreciation?

Albums became more and more obscure, again losing fans, who didn't have time or energy to go through long dissertations to "get" the songs. Shows became patchy enough that my partner decided it wasn't worth risking the dross for the jewels Tori is still well-capable of, and stopped going.

I respect an artist who ploughs their own course, without worrying about commercial success, and she can certainly afford it from her early success. Do I think the result is as enjoyable? No. Do I play the later stuff as much? No. Do I wish for "the old Tori"? - Yup.

I'm waiting for the musical to see what applying her immense talent to someone else's performance will be like; it could be a critical turning point. Or. Or....

Or do I just not belong to the Church of Tori any more?

I was an obsessive Tori fan -

I was an obsessive Tori fan - I had a website. I had the hair. I remember coming home from school and there...on the teevee...was this quirky, red haired girl in a bathtub. My brain exploded, and I became an obsessive fan.

But yes - after a few years - it started to wane. I didn't love the comments about "doing some blow and then hanging out in the studio"...and then, when she covered Eminem's "Bonnie & Clyde" - my Tori love disintegrated completely. The song is about assault, and sexual violence, in a way that I was NOT prepared to hear. I had no idea what I was getting with the new CD, and had to pull off the road, and turn it off, and take a deep breath to calm down before I could finish driving home. I threw the CD out immediately upon arriving home.

I felt betrayed by Tori - first, it was ok to be weird, offbeat, odd and to be myself. Then - she became this coked up weirdo. Then, I had to listen to music about sexual assault in a way that was NOT empowering.

I miss the old Tori. And I will say the contemporary Tori is a bit plasticky - not just the look, but her whole persona is a caricature of the past.

You do know she covered that

You do know she covered that song because she hated the sentiment behind it, right? She wanted to sing it from the point of view of the woman in the trunk, to give a voice to the murdered wife.

"When I first heard the song, the scariest thing to me was the realization that people are getting into the music and grooving along to a song about a man who is butchering his wife. So half the world is dancing to this, oblivious, with blood on their sneakers. But when you talk about killing your wife, you don t get to control whom she becomes friends with after she s dead. She had to have a voice."
-- Tori; Atlantic Records Website, Jul 2, 2001

Um. [trigger warning]

It isn't really appropriate to bring up why she was covering the song in response to someone who felt triggered by it. I'm sorry. Someone could feel triggered by a movie that at its heart critiques the treatment/societal pressures on women (say, Black Swan, which seems to do this, but has several very obvious moments of coercive sexual contact), or a book that is meant to portray the unfairness of the kyriarchy, but if a scene in the book triggers a viewer/reader, THE INTENT DOESN'T MATTER AS MUCH AS THAT PERSON.

Even moreso because Tori doesn't change anything. Is she really giving a voice to victims of murder and domestic violence by highlighting a very, very creepy song about murdering your wife because she has a new husband and fought with you - as sung to a toddler? She isn't altering the lyrics, just giving them the voice of a woman. It might as well be a song about same-sex domestic abuse (also important; not what she was going for).

Am I saying that no one should ever write about rape or assault or any other violation because it might upset someone? No, of course not. But something as violent and vicious as that song, is going to be pretty high on the "trigger risk" scale, and you can't just handwave that by saying "the dead woman deserves a voice." Of course she does, but not at the cost of the listeners, and even if the odd listener doesn't matter much to a recording artist, they should to you.

Really?

You say you were 'not prepared' to hear Tori sing a song about sexual violence against women? When the 'old' Tori that you loved both wrote and performed 'Me and a Gun'?

"... if a scene in the book triggers a viewer/reader, THE INTENT DOESN'T MATTER AS MUCH AS THAT PERSON."

I don't quite understand- are you saying that the intent matters less than the person to the person, or in general? To everyone? Are you saying that to the odd person who feels triggered, the intent is irrelevant, or that the odd person who feels triggered matters more than the movie itself and should have considered in the creation of the movie?

Yeah...really, winged?

Last I checked this portion of the website was for leaving comments (of all types) discussing the posted article. From what I understand of what you posted, you're insisting that:

1. No one has a right to discuss or defend Tori Amos' cover of Bonnie &Clyde because it might upset a person who experienced trauma related to murder or abuse

2. Tori Amos herself should have refrained from covering the song out of concern that it might cause a fan to have to confront uncomfortable feelings related to said trauma

and 3. People are still allowed to write about "rape or assault or any other violation," as long as it's not "as violent and vicious as that song."

Nobody told me that Tori Amos was psychic....she should have known that somebody would get upset listening to her sing that cover, and not recorded it out of respect. I mean, she should have taken one look at it on the "trigger risk" scale and said, "Oh, I really shouldn't. It wouldn't be right." You know, because we live in a world where everyone should just be nice to each other, and anybody who doesn't is just a big meany!
Oh, and where's your vicious-ometer? Because I would love to run a few things by it to make sure they're PG enough for everyone to handle.

REALLY??

Rape is vicious, honey. Violence is vicious. Monstrosities exist and horrible things happen to people every day. It's a fact. Confronting it, especially in a public forum such as the music industry, is even more vicious. Did I want to vomit the first time I listened to Strange Little Girls and that song came on? Yes. But that's the point....it's shocking, and that makes it brilliant. I can't think of any other song that's ever made me want to vomit. (Well, from a sense of emotional confrontation, that is. Plenty of music makes me want to vomit, but for entirely different reasons...) I think Amos was perfectly aware of how the song would shock people. Moreover, it was the intended effect.

Anyway, back to the point, which is really that what you're suggesting is absolutely ludicrous, and the faster you bail from the victim-wagon, the better you'll end up in the long run. Seriously. Buck up. Get rid of the P.C. chip on your shoulder and think outside the couch.

Tori IS cool

No not really, but I have to say if you even had a website you were far FAR too into her, heading into the stalking territory.

Thank you

Thank you for this comment. I used to be a huge Tori-Fan in the 90s, but the first time I saw her live was in 2001 (Strange little Tour). I then saw her live three more times and always left her shows disappointed. Three attempts in which I hoped to understand the "best show ever" comments I read on fan websites. I am 40 now but I still go to pop/rock/indie concerts quite frequently, almost one in every month. I have to adminit, most artists are able to create a better atmosphere in concerts than Tori does - artist and audience could not be more disconnected than in the Tori concerts I attended. Maybe it is especially difficult with a piano player to interact with the audience - but then Ben Folds proves different. Maybe I went to the wrong venues. I have no explanation, really. I remember when one of her support acts, Howie Day, who sang to recorded guitar loops, was so much better than Tori herself :-(. Maybe her concerts are just not what I personally excpect a concert to be. I will not go again.

MWG was the first Tori record I did not buy. SW was the last of her records I really enjoyed. I can still see that most of her later work is good, maybe even brilliant. She is still an artist far above average. It is just that I am not able to follow her work anymore. I was and am a fan of her older work. And therefore I have to thank her.

I very much appreciate this discussion here. Very honest.

previous bitch coverage of Tori

I distinctly remember printing out an essay from the internet (possibly...in the days of AOL?!) in the late '90s that discussed how putting on Little Earthquakes was the fastest way to end a party when you wanted everyone to go home. I am also like 90% sure that it was from Bitch. Is that even possible? That article was great, and I have no idea how I would even go about finding it now.

Also, thanks so much for this, Sady.

It was Jane.

Liz, I believe that was Jane magazine, not Bitch -- I remember reading that article too.

____________
Andi Zeisler, cofounder and editorial/creative director

Comments Policy: Like to hear it? Here it go!

Jane?! How embarrassing. My

Jane?! How embarrassing. My apologies.

The Connection

For years I always wondered how Tori drew such a diverse crowd of fans, I was in the dark of course until I had a paranormal experience and then everything opened up to me and this time last year I finally understood it. The Goddess speaks through Tori, most who are connected or open (even unawares) to the shakti are drawn to T.

I do not like girly things, i do not like what this society stands for in terms of what it is to be a girl but Tori was always first and foremost a 'woman' and a raw woman at that and after studying Inanna I realise that it is the pure feminine speaking through her and it is absolute and not weak at all.

Now whether you recognise a female god figure or not there is a magic that channels that woman almost like a pure kundalini light that shoots out of all her chakras straight to your solar plexus. I can cry and laugh and be enlightened all at once.

So what if she's not cool, who gives a f*** about cool? What is cool in the end? I have met Tori a few times and she was pure love and radiance and always willing to listen and give advice even though she doesn't know you.

A hug from Tori was like coming home.

P.S And yes my real name is Ernestine.

@the connection

yes however Earnestine she used to be pure love and radiance have you seen or met her lately..wake up woman

Yeah as matter of fact I have

Yeah as matter of fact I have met her recently and she was gracious and generous with her time and attention.

People need to get a grip. I admit I was a baffled by her having work done but the story is getting old.
She did it and people need to suck it up because in the end is no one's business.

Some people are born with the "it", that special thing. And Tori is one of them.

The girl knows

LOVE IT!

A few thoughts on naysayers....

I agree. When I met her, there was no question, I knew I was in the presence of greatness.

As for the dissenters, I have some theories on the hidden meanings behind their complaints:

Complaint: "I miss the raw Tori."
Translation: "I hope Tori becomes sad again so I can identify with her easier."

Complaint; "'The Beekeeper' sucks."
Translation: "That Tash ruined everything!"

Complaint: "I miss the classic sound of old Tori"
Translation: "I miss the 1990's. I was younger then."

Complaint: "She needs to quit doing concept albums."
Translation: "I am too lazy to read about Greek Mythology or Native American history."

Complaint: "The new albums are too long."
Translation: "But if the extra-tracks were still called b-sides, I would be raving about them."

Complaint: "Tori had plastic surgery."
Translation: "I secretly wish I could afford it."

Thanx for this; it made me

Thanx for this; it made me smile. I am tired of people wanting "the old Tori" back, too. She herself has said many times that she is like a rolling train, you can get on her wagon or hop off at any time. Why don't these people hop off anyway?

They don't hop off because

They don't hop off because they're, to put it coarsely, mean-spirited, self-hating assholes.

Hopping off

People are hopping off probably more now than ever. I'm standing in the doorway pondering. I will always love Tori and she is a genius. However, when I want to just listen to good music, it's not new Tori. I co-hosted The Amos Sanctuary Hour (TASH) on the radio. I have been a true EWF. But I have never condoned blindly following a leader. Sorry, I hate it and wish it were not true but I'm questioning my allegiance these days.

The Doorway solution

And now, my rebuttal:

I genuinely love all of Tori's albums. And I mean it. Oh yes, "The Beekeeper" inspired me to do a photography project. I love them all. I appreciate them on every level. They speak to my heart and a language I am not able to speak through my analytical mind. I will admit that it took "American Doll Posse" two years before it clicked; but when it clicked, it clicked. I call that "time release recognition".

However, just because I have an appreciation for every Tori Amos album does not make me, as you said, "a blind follower". What an elitist statement. My impression is you're saying, "If I don't like it, then it's inarguably bad, and anyone else who does like it lacks vision." I am not impressed by that impression.

Finally, Tori is a musician. Granted she is insightful and inspiring musician, but she is really a lady who plays a mean piano. She is not a leader. Perhaps that's why you're having such guilt issues in not liking her music. You forgot she is just a lady who plays a mean piano.

And, as a side note, you need to be careful with the way you phrase things. Implying that current fans are "blindly following a leader" is an allusion to fascism.

I think that it's time for you to get off the train.

If anyone is blindly

If anyone is blindly following Tori it is becoming clear it is is you. Take off the rose colored glasses and evaluate the more recent releases objectively rather than just fanning it up and loving them for the sake of them being simply Tori Amos releases.

Critical evaluation of music is part of listening to music, not simply sitting around being a sponge taking it all in and calling it gold.

If you think that the last 4 releases hold a candle to her first 4 you're not listening closely enough.

Hahaha love it!

Hahaha love it!

This comment was hilarious!

This comment was hilarious! It's SO TRUE!

That's right, Aaron

Legitimate criticism is impossible, because she's flawless, right?

Very healthy.

How she ever attracted the kind of authoritarian follower personalities who think this way is beyond me.

Anonymous

Anonymous,

I am not sure what you're trying to convey. Are you agreeing with me or are you attempting sarcasm?

It's sarcasm. Seriously

It's sarcasm. Seriously though, there's at least two different dimensions to appreciating music: intellectually and instinctively. Instinctively, early Tori is way better to my ears. Intellectually, they're about the same. Just because people wish for Tori to go back to the sound that defined her early years and stop doing concept material doesn't mean they're "too lazy to read about" anything, it means that they just straight up enjoy the format of her earlier work more deep in their bones. I don't miss 90's Tori because I was younger then, I miss it because I enjoy the raw energy that powered it more than the mellow reflection of her more recent releases.

And saying "Tori had plastic surgery" doesn't mean it's motivated by a desire to have it oneself. In my case, I kind of got the feeling from Tori's lyrics that she would be against plastic surgery and found it to be a bit of a discrepancy in her "image," but I understand that even principled people have insecurities. I'm just pointing out that there are a lot of different potential motivations behind any given statement, and dismissing any particular observation as being motivated by a specific reason gives discredit to the wild variety of human thought and emotion.

Your argument amounts to six

Your argument amounts to six ad-hominem attacks against strangers; I'm only about to make one.

Your use of the word "dissent" is histrionic. People dissent against junta colonels and cult leaders, not musicians. Ms. Amos doesn't demand your submission, and you're not morally bound to give it. I ate hard-boiled eggs constantly while pregnant, and now I can't stand them. Have I dissented against hard-boiled eggs?

I wonder that you feel it so sinful to criticize this woman. You're clearly no "casual Tori Amos fan", so I must assume that her music has affected your life profoundly. When you listened to The Beekeeper, was it guilt your first felt? How frantically did you struggle to convince yourself that you loved it? Did you dread the notion of turning your back on this woman, after all she'd done for you? Whose complaints are you really trying to answer?

Also, you forgot to address a couple "heresies":

Complaint: In an interview with NME. Tori freely admitted that her "kookiness" was an act.
Translation: I always just side with the music press.

Complaint: Tori's started cashing in on her fans: the Tori camera, the Tori makeup set...
Translation: I'm unemployed and can't afford them, but too lazy to get a job.

Complaint: Tori's voice sounds like shit today.
Translation: I secretly have throat cancer.

Imogen

I would try to explain satire to you, but you clearly don't have a sense of humor. But your play on my post is cute; imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I'm flattered that you like me so much!

As for guilt, nope, none at all. Like I said, I loved "The Beekeeper", in all it's sun-dappled, new mother, Hammond blasting glory!

-Psycho Homo Tori Follower

P.S. I am a photographer, and I bought the Lomo camera. So much fun!

P.P.S. Throat cancer? Really?

As a photographer, you must

As a photographer, you must have really enjoyed paying $200 after shipping and handling for a $50 camera + 2 CDs. For those that don't know, Lomography cameras are specifically built to be low-fidelity and inexpensively constructed. The fact that you, as a photographer, paid for that set means that you probably have a slightly biased viewpoint when it comes to Tori.

Isochronous

I did enjoy paying $200 considering the set included:

-A customized one-of-a kind Diana F+ Tori camera: $105.00 on it's own, but I will give it an an extra $50 for the uniqueness and collectibility.
A Wide Angle lense:$ 40.00
-A Close-up lense: $50
-The "Don't Think Just Shoot" Book-$60 (also stylized with Tori's name)

And then, of course, there is the signed double-disc live CD.

If bought seperately, everything should have totaled to $335. And, as a photographer, messing around with a Lomo is a blast and an artistic release from the very structured composition of 35mm and the utterly slacker world of digital film.

Sorry I had to burn you so bad.

-A

Actually, they're right. If

Actually, they're right. If Tori had self-styled a Diana at its real retail value, which is definitely not 105 except at the price Lomo puts out, perhaps that would be worth a few more dollars (I guess - what did she do, kiss the inside of each camera as it came off the assembly line? One assumes Tori didn't have much to do with these except thumbs up the design, if that). But none of those cameras/lenses would cost that, nor do the Diana F+'s produce as interesting results as you would have gotten had you actually bought a real Diana or clone off of ebay.

And I say this as someone who OWNS (and enjoys) a Diana F+, because I learned too late that I spent too much for limited functionality.

ahahaha love it!

Aaron that was too funny, reading that made my night. I have loved Tori since the 90s and have still been into her more recent albums. I'm tired of hearing the complaints so this was great!

k8lyn ann

It made my day to make your night!

LOL Aaron! What you said..

LOL Aaron! What you said.. right on my friend.

Nothing shows immaturity more

Nothing shows immaturity more clearly than choosing to reinterpret people's legitimate reasons for dissent in your own childish and narrow minded manner. People have every right to miss the music they have come to expect from a musician, just as that musician has every right to evolve and change and develop. I personally don't think there's been any real evolution from Tori, just a clinging attempt at creating something that will sell as well as her earlier works. Further,

I "hopped off the Tori train" as others have put it when she began publicly putting down other women artists in interviews. I don't care what kind of music she makes, if she chooses to downplay and mock the accomplishments of other people, she's not worth my time. Petty bickering and name calling is for the sad, empty, hate filled amongst us. I simply don't see her as the caring, intellectual, fascinating person I once did. Maybe I held her in too high esteem in my youth, or maybe I just grew up, but for whatever reason, I'm simply disillusioned with Ms. Amos. You can continue to love her all you want, but there's no reason to bitch about those who don't.

AMEN

This. THIS comment is what I wish I could come up with.

(I'll keep it in mind for the future.)

Not the T she used to B?

I am awake, wide awake infact. So awake that I take things for exactly what they are and don't ponder on what they are not or in this matter what they used to be. I met Tori in 2005, 2007, 2009 and last year and on EVERY occasion she was fantasic and glowing. Now I admit she has changed a bit but people do, don't they?

She's 47!

Well, I am glad that she's changed throughout the years. She is not the 28-29 year-old many fans (including myself) came to listen to in a way they hadn't listened to music prior to when "Little Earthquakes" came out. What's disheartening, in my point of view, is that so many who embraced her music over the 90s and dislike her now didn't "grow" with her. I know ... to each their own. But for me, I personally grow with her music with every new release.

Her most recent release, "Midwinter Graces," is the only winter holiday/solstice seasonal album I can feel comfortable listening to. Christmas/Holiday albums, which typically drench with over-produced sappiness of commercialism, are not my cup of tea, at all. That was, until I heard that.

As far as her looks are concerned, I don't care. Did she really have plastic surgery? It's none of my business and I doubt I will ever notice. When it comes to Tori, it's about the music, not the looks.

Tori Amos = Duran Duran? Really?

Holy hell, I can recall in the '90s thinking that Tori Amos's '80s equivalent MUST be Kate Bush because -- well, in the words of the brothers Doobie, listen to the music! But now I realize that Tori's REAL '80s equivalent is Duran Duran and it is blowing my everloving mind.

I must admit I'm not a big Tori fan or even so much of a "fan", but I do respect her and her music and was one of the millions of teenaged girls who owned Little Earthquakes. But my heart has belonged to Duran Duran since September 1991 and I've stuck with them through the entirety of the rollercoaster that is their career, and I can recall criticism being levied against Duran Duran that is almost identical to the criticism I'm reading about Tori Amos. The '80s fans complained that Duran Duran's music was changing. They were disappointed DD weren't recording another Rio nor were they the same young lions they were in ca. 1984. They bitched about Warren Cuccurullo because he was a Brooklynite with big muscles and took Duran Duran in avant-garde musical directions (well, hello, he was a Frank Zappa protege!), which didn't sit well with them because again, they wanted DD to record nothing but Rio clones for the rest of their recorded life and having DD go in more of a mellow direction with Notorious was bad enough, but having DD experiment with electronica and art rock touches in the '90s was beyond the pale for them. The '80s fans also didn't grow with Duran Duran as they branched out from New Wave rock/pop and into new directions; some of them might've come running back in the wake of The Wedding Album's comeback streak, but they couldn't handle DD not being pinup idols anymore and turned and ran by the time that faded away. Which is sad because the best album the band ever recorded was 1997's Medazzaland and they couldn't appreciate that brilliance.

Anyway, I was noticing all of these parallels between Tori Amos and Duran Duran and was understandably surprised that another musical artist's devoted fanbase were experiencing the same phenomenon I and my fellow Duranie devotees experienced in the '90s, gobsmacked there were so many similarities between the two phenomena, and wondering if this was just a case of one particular musical artist per decade experiencing this and Duran Duran and Tori Amos were just two of its victims (and wondering who might fit for the '60s, '70s, and '00s). But hopefully this means that Tori Amos will experience a comeback and revival of credibility sometime within the next decade, as DD experienced several years ago.

I love the perspective of yet

I love the perspective of yet another outsider. Kind of hard to make blanket statements and assumptions about a group of people and even Tori herself if you have never traveled to a few shows and hung out with those crazed fans. What I have found over the years is a group of people, who despite their differences are moved by intense music, lyrics, mysticism, energy, healing, power, spirituality and anything beyond the superficial BS that is played out on the airwaves daily.

Tori never sold herself out to industry. Neither have the fans. Most of us are ridiculed in some shape or form. Most of us also lead normal lives and actually do good things for other humans.

Not all of us are borderline personality disorders brought on by sexual trauma AND if we did suffer that very trauma, hurray for us for finding something or someone to help us move through enough pain that separates us from being useful to other human beings and carry on 'normal' relationships.

How many other artist can attest to being a vessel of profound movement of the human condition over such a sustained amount of time?

Some of the comments are vague and preconceived in nature. That is how we get into trouble in this world. I appreciate the article. Yes, Tori does allow and almost demand that we be who we are, take back our power and be responsible for our own healing.

Actually that comment was

Actually that comment was directed at a comment, actually a few. The writer did a decent job of defending. However I do think the issues that were addressed as to why most flock to her are superficial in nature. People flock for deeply personal reasons beyond the obvious.

Thoughts....

Thanks for the thoughtful and informative article Sady! I often wonder why Tori is so frequently mocked or completely ignored by the current musical press when many of her rock peers from the 90s are still getting lots of attention and praise. I have found that when people talk about who is "relevant" in current music, you can replace "relevant" with the word "cool" to understand what they are really trying to say. Ironically, Tori is ignored by most of the "indie" press even though she is the epitome of what "indie" stands for: a "do it yourself" punk philosophy, as she writes and produces her own music and maintains her artistic autonomy and integrity by never compromising her vision (as odd and complicated as it may be). Even though some of her recent albums were panned by many who thought they were way too long, she was unwavering in her commitment to them. She makes long albums because she wants to. A victim of her own stubborn genius? Perhaps, but I respect that. The word "indie" is essentially meaningless now, as it is just used as a marketing tool. The problem is, how do you market Tori? Especially in our androcentric, heterosexist music culture, where does Tori and her many female and gay fans fit in?

I've been a huge fan since Boys for Pele, and though my life and tastes have changed considerably in the last 15 years, I still love her and her music. It's not blind, pious devotion. Her music just speaks to me. I get annoyed when people complain about wanting the "old Tori." Artists evolve and change just like everyone else. It's like she's being held hostage by her early success and image. If she were writing and singing about the same things as she did in her 20's, people would be complaining that she's a one-trick pony. Many devoted fans feel personally betrayed by Tori's change in musical direction, which is ridiculous, If her music no longer speaks to you, acknowledge that and instead be grateful that it once did. Be happy that she is still a huge musical and emotional force for many people. If you don't like someone's music, it doesn't necessarily mean that the music is bad. People need to learn to separate their own personal tastes, arrogance and prejudices from a higher objective judgment. You can personally dislike music while acknowledging that the music is good. There is certainly no need to cut Tori down and take cheap shots at her appearance. She takes enough crap from the media already.

thank you

thank you for a great article. you described it very well what it means to see Tori live. She get's me every time. I cry and cry... But i must say that i was never ashamed of my love to her music or philosophy. I keep promoting her since 1996... this year she visited my home country for the first time. It was such an honor to be there right at the stage with my fellow EWF from all over the world...

Lovely

Having been a Tori fan since 1995, I found this article lovely, and it even made me tear-up alittle ;) Thanks!

Great article. I agree with

Great article. I agree with it for the most part, but you left out a type of a fan that I think makes up a good part of the fan-base. The ones that listen to Tori because of her musicianship. That's how I got into Tori. I play piano and gravitated towards any musician that did the same. And I have had many great discussions with other Tori fans about her ability. It always frustrates me how that aspect of her career is sometimes ignored. She's one of the greatest and most unique piano players (along with her songwriting ability and great sense of melody) in music and she never gets credit it for it, even though, in my opinion, it's quite obvious. Even if you aren't a fan, she should at least be given that recognition.

Very very true. She's a

Very very true. She's a musician's musician, one of the few in pop culture. I actually think that has brought her fans together more than anything.

I agree it's petty, and Tori

I agree it's petty, and Tori doesn't deserve it, but I really believe the reason fans recoil about the plastic surgery is because it was her very realness, her absolute authenticity, that you so admired. It was kind of shocking. You just didn't see it coming, Then when it did, it was really too obvious.

Tori Amos remains high among the best lyricists in history. Have you ever broken down the three simultaneous parts near the end of "Father Lucifer"? I won't pretend to understand the meaning, but I really can't imagine HOW she brought those words, those melodies, all together like that. It's wonderfully clever. How about "Icicle", with its good book, missing pages? "And not need more blood/ from the tip of your star". Never was/ one for a prissy girl/ Coquette/ calling for an ambulance. We'll see how brave you are. We're just impostors in this country, you know. A personal favorite: "Racing turtles, the grapefruit is winning". They go on and on. So full of life and wit and kick and breathing and blood. You don't always have to understand them in a rational way... you can simply *feel* them. Who else can really do that?!

My first Tori record was Under the Pink. Grade 9. Though I'd been very into music for years by then, it was as if I was hearing music for the first time. The way "Icicle" built upon itself to such a staggering conclusion, BLEW. MY. MIND. I listened to it a zillion times. (Btw when I saw her on the last tour she played Icicle with the band, it was so unexpected, and SO great). That's another thing. She is one HELL of a musician.

Me personally, I don't hold her recent efforts to the extremely high bar set by Pink, Boys, Choirgirl, Venus... that one artist made all of those records, is practically unbelievable. But yeah. Had no use for Mr. Bad Man. Could literally cut down the Abnormally songs by half, all of the videos, and miss nothing. For myself I've made peace with it.

Personally I am really looking forward to the musical. I hope it is a huge success for her. Really fascinated to see what's she created there.

too bad

she signed that contract to fame...only to be sent into the flames

so uncool

she signed that contract to fame...only to be sent into the flames
member those who signed you will always remember their names
signed in blood all for fame
they're not written in the book of life
they live today in recognition and strife
they are worshiped like the false idol explained
all in blood they signed their names..

"Racing turtles, the

"Racing turtles, the grapefruit is winning"

I love Tori's music..."Space Dog" is even one of my favorite songs, but be honest, her lyrics make no sense most of the time. And she knows it too, which is why she sings her lyrics in an unintelligible style. Rarely does anyone get her songs correctly without having to search for the lyrics. And when you find out what she's REALLY saying then you see that she's not a great lyricist. It doesn't stop me from loving her music though....her vocals flow nicely with her musical arrangements. I'd kill to play the piano like her, but I take her lyrics for what they really are....rather than twisting them into something magical like those delusional rabid fans.

"Racing turtles, the

"Racing turtles, the grapefruit is winning"

I love Tori's music..."Space Dog" is even one of my favorite songs, but be honest, her lyrics make no sense most of the time. And she knows it too, which is why she sings her lyrics in an unintelligible style. Rarely does anyone get her songs correctly without having to search for the lyrics. And when you find out what she's REALLY saying then you see that she's not a great lyricist. It doesn't stop me from loving her music though....her vocals flow nicely with her musical arrangements. I'd kill to play the piano like her, but I take her lyrics for what they really are....rather than twisting them into something magical like those delusional rabid fans.

No existe comparación con la

No existe comparación con la expresión pura de lso sentimientos de una persona, tori amos es una de las pocas personas que no tienen miedo a hacerlo

Can we just leave the debate for a mo and agree

that regardless of all opinions on T now, that she has brought something to our lives for the better in some way, whether it be 'raw' Tori era or present day Tori.

I myself am just grateful to have had some of the experiences and feelings that I maybe would not have had if it weren't for her.

So let's just accept Tori as she is (which is what she would do with us) and stop wasting energy on what she's not.

E.

Musician anyone?

Yes, why can't people just accept that she is a great MUSICIAN!

i don't have any major tragedies in my life that draw me to her. I think she is a brilliant artist who is able to re-create the songs she does live like no other person I have heard.
Her lyrics are amazing...yes...but so is her voice and musicality. You feel like floating in a dream when hearing her at times....it is otherworldly music.
She can break your heart with a sweet ballad and then rock your socks off with a hard hitting tune. To top it off she is very smart and the poetry in her music is very well written.

So, she brings hope and comfort to those who need it...but for those who just appreciate brilliant artists who can actually write and sing...there is no reason to feel "uncool" about anything. If you like music to be cool you need help. Tori is a great artist...period.

I will agree that the last

I will agree that the last couple Tori albums have not matched up to her earlier efforts. I noticed the change and her looks but never really gave it a whole lot more thought than that. Whether she were to ever give us a superb album again or not means nothing to me....Tori is THEE most polarizing live performer I have ever seen. I cannot think of another artists concert that I have attended that manages to enthrall me the way Tori does. It is a complete emotional experience like nothing I have ever felt before. Regardless of how you feel about her appearance or more recent work, I implore you to purchase tickets to her show the next time she is in the area, so you can see first hand what that voice and piano can do. It is incredible!!

Whatever

I was pretty much on board with everything you said in your article, until you referred to her gay and lesbian fans as nothing more than "queers." After that, you lost all respect and credibility, which was minuscule to start with, I was willing to give you.

If you can't respect all human beings for being human, then why do you think anybody should give you one iota of credence based on your words, which are probably meaningless to Tori anyway?

It's just another case of a mediocre journalist pretending to know what she's talking about when she has no clue what it means to be a fan, or, at the very least, a decent human being.

You should probably learn of

You should probably learn of something called "context"... "Queer" is not always utilized as a pejorative term and in fact is more and more embraced as an encompassing term by the GLBT culture; so much so that it is often now called the GLBTQ culture. It was glaringly obvious that 'queer' was meant in a positive way in this article, so maybe get a grip on your own issues that made you completely unable to use a little common sense...

So what

Look, I don't know how old you are, I don't know how long you've been a fan, but I grew up as a teenager in the early 90's when "queer," "homo," "fag," etc., etc WERE used pejoratively all the time.  In fact, that was the ONLY experience I ever had with words like that.Maybe it was -- or it is, different for you -- but don't take on some holier-than-thou attitude to try and say that it was all to do with a lack of understanding context or that my lack of understanding the "popularization" of such terms in recent years had something to do with my comment.We can "own" the words as much as we want to and say that we're reclaiming some sort of "power" back by doing so, but that only cheapens the negative connotations that bigoted people have subjected us to for decades and minimizes the experiences of those who have been witness to hearing those words used negatively.That's not fair.

It may be "cool" or "popular" to be called a queer, or to refer to yourself as one or use recently coined terms (like "brokeback" or "NoHomo"), but back in the early 90's, shortly after Tori made her debut, people were using those words to express their homophobia and 99.9% of the time, they were NOT using them in "a positive way."For you to act like it's not ok for me to not be ok with this author using a word like that -- regardless of whether you're ok with it or "get it," is not right.

We're all different and I'm not you.

Whenever I hear words like that, it's negative to ME, because that's how it was directed at me when I was growing up.  Is that enough "context" for you to understand the context of my previous comment?

I love how fiery some of

I love how fiery some of these comments are. First off, this article is great. It's also never an attack on her music, as some people percieve it to be. It's an analysis of what kind of people are typically attracted to her music (exceptions not withstanding) and how their general fanaticism affects the way pop culture looks at her.

What I also find funny and typical of Tori fans is the discussion about recent albums. People seem to forget that every Tori album, starting with Boys for Pele, has sparked a lot of discussion within her fanbase. She's done an incredible amount of very different albums. People are bound to prefer some things over others, this is part of human nature. But what I find most striking is that Tori albums age generally age incredibly well. It took me a good long while to get into Midwinter Graces, for example, but not I recognise that, while flawed, it holds Tori's genius as have all her previous records. Which you think the gems are is something only you can decide, but there isn't a single Tori album that consists out of purely "bad" songs. For someone who has touched so many lives so profoundly, that's an incredible feat. Even if she puts out records I'm not particularly into, I will probably buy her records until the day she stops recording, she dies or the day I die.

Tori

Thank you for the thoughtful essay and interesting comments, I was introduced to Tori's music when a friend loaned me Under The Pink in 1997. Thank you, Cammy. As a now 55 year old male I was a bit shy at first about attending one of her concerts, but once I did, I felt like there were just two people there -- Tori singing directly to my soul. Yes, I do prefer Pink and Pele to her more recent works. This is like saying I like Beethoven's Fifth Symphony more than his Eighth. She is a brilliant musician, lyricist and performer and my life is richer and happier for it.

genius artist but a hideous fan base

I think Tori Amos continues to be a formidable musical and artistic talent, and a great intellect. But I think the biggest irony of her career is her horrible fan base.

I don't see the point of an article in the defence of 'the Tori Amos fan' when those exact same fans can spend their lives on forums trashing Amos with some of the most narrow-minded, intolerant, ignorant, self-absorbed, self-righteous, self-fulfilling, unintelligent, sexist; at times, casually racist and hideous negativity I have ever come across! Not only that, they actually pat themselves and each other on the back, thinking they are intelligent and articulate for being in full agreement with each one another on unfounded claims and misinformation (perhaps generating disinformation?) about the artist and, at times, astonishing pig-headedness in their deliberate misinterpretation of anything and everything the woman puts on her albums or says in interview.

I think articles such as this one are pointless, hypocritical and, quite frankly, yet another exercise in fan masturbation. Someone should really look into the psychology of Tori Amos fans as individuals and into the group psychology of these people. Because, over and over and over again, one never fails to the same thing on all the forums from the majority of the people regularly posting there - in addition to all these unpleasant traits, they also seem to be extremely aggressive when they cannot have their way, insecure and sensitive. Most forums are run like feudal states for crying out loud! Unbelievable...

The simultaneous intense devotion and intense hatred that these people feel toward Amos is astonishing. And they can flip between those two extremes seemingly from one day to the next, one album to the next, one tour to the next. It's also very interesting to observe how they project onto her, vicariously seem to live through her but then also try to defecate on every move she makes or not makes in what seems to be an attempt to place themselves above her. Completely delusional.

I am so glad that I have distanced myself from these people a couple of years ago. I don't know what I was thinking trying to be part of this community.

Thank you Tori for all the thought-provoking music. Even if I don't always love all of it equally, or think all of it is or must be a masterpiece, you always manage to challenge me one way or the other.

(PS: Oh, and why would anyone need to defend their fandom anyway??? Who cares! Whether you personally are a Tori fan or not is of no consequence to the rest of the world. LOL!)

Wow. This is exactly my

Wow. This is exactly my experience with the community as well. It was so bad that the negativity could actually affect one's enjoyment of the music. Had to unplug from the fans. Way better ride.

adult contemporary pop

I don't want "the old Tori" back. But I surely don't need the current one, either.

She used to be an interesting, unique artist and has become adult contemporary pop. She simply is of no relevance anymore, she releases the same type of music since a few albums already. Her appearance speaks volumes for itself, no need to translate it. I wouldn't mind those looks if the music was still somehow as new and challenging as it was, but I guess Mrs Amos has lost interest in exploring new territories. She seems to be set in her ways, and while I agree her albums are still better than most stuff that's on the mainstream radio today, it bores the shit out of me.

In defense of the woman and the music

Early in the 90's there were all those angry grunge and riot grrl types who hated Amos because unlike them she didnt have to express her emotions and feelings by banging instruments together and screaming "we are not victims, it never happened to us, we are tough rocker chicks who can pull back glaciers". While tori amos was owning her shadow through creative expression,and honing a lyrical style brilliantly incomparable to anyone else at the time and still now. Many of her harsher critics namely WOMEN were hating on tori because of her raw honesty and musical delivery they could not emulate for themselves. Unlike these 'angry" girls Tori amos was a woman able to be all things FEMININE and Feminist,. She did not have to scream her pain away or deny it by banging loud drums and creating distortion around her angst and vulnerabilities. She never lost her femininity for the sake of being taken seriosuly like those girls who claim to challenge patriarchy and then "look and act patriarchy". I believe the media and especially women were moved by her unashamed vulnerability but were unable to reconcile that with their own pain because of a need to be the 'ANTI TORI AMOS" and not be the vulnerable looking girl. There was something definetly vulnerable about tori amos and her style but all strength comes from that source and there was nothing weak about Amos.. Tori was viscerally powerful, and utterly moving unlike the riot ggrl and grunge types and haters who instead of trully owning their pain and abuses dealt with themselves by being "hard', "loud" and covering their scars up with really bad poetry. Tori amos never had to take herself so seriously or be cool by denying her pain and covering it all up in tough chick swagger and other politics. All it took was a voice, a piano and a commitment to being intimate with herself, her muse and her audience. Since dealing with her abuse she has MOVED THE HELL ON unlike her critics who after 15 years label her a "cut your wrists type artist" even now as she writes songs about motherhood and critiques fundamentalist religion like only a wild ministers daughter can. Tori Amos is a woman who has remained loyal to her fanbase as she has been loyal to her own muse and her evolving style is testament to that. It's a shame only a few people can listen to her music beyond the politics and misconceptions. But misconceptions people will always have as we are human after all.

fuck-up family tree

Thank you for publishing this article about Tori, and her fans. I was a confused and borderline suicidal 11 year old girl when I was introduced to Tori Amos' music by another 14 year old girl. 17 years later, I'm still a fan, though some of Tori's recent albums have "lost" me. And thank you for mentioning Fiona Apple in the category of "shrieking female" - I've been lucky enough to see both Tori and Fiona perform live in concert, and both are able to tap into their inner emotional earthquakes and mental volcanic eruptions in order to give a truly electrifying performance that penetrates to the veins.

Spoken like a truly tragic poet, right?

Thanks.

I've been a Tori Amos fan

I've been a Tori Amos fan since about 1994. I was never a rabid fan and only ever went to one of her concerts, but I do have all of her albums. Back in the 90s, when I was in college, I identified with some of the emotions in her lyrics. Today, in my 30s, I have a huge amount of respect for Tori's musicianship and continued urge to grow and change and explore new avenues.

I find it funny when people say they miss the old Tori. She's still there, in countless songs and YouTubes. Go back and revisit, if you like. But any artist worth her salt is going to change, and most great artists don't appeal to everyone all the time. This happens time and again. It happened when the Beatles changed their moptop image. It happened when Dylan went electric. Okay, so you don't like 2011 Tori Amos. Well, 2012 Tori Amos might do something you really love. She's still got the gift.

I also find it funny when people say that the Tori of the 90s would never have plastic surgery. Fans are projecting what they think Tori Amos is. She has always been insecure--her lyrics reveal that. She has always cared about fashion and image. Okay, so she had plastic surgery. So she likes expensive clothes and shoes. It doesn't make her brain any less extraordinary, her musicianship any less prodigious, or her thoughts any less worthy of analysis. If she hid the things that others (YOU) didn't like, she wouldn't be Tori Amos, now would she?

I think Tori Amos continues to be a rare treasure in the music industry.

Yes I remember Tori of the

Yes I remember Tori of the 90's saying saying her favorite performing shoes were Prada. I was disappointed she felt she had to have so much work done, but you're right she has always revealed her insecurities.

Really?

Maybe I just hung out with a bunch of nerds because Tori Amos was considered cool. She sang with The Boys: Trent Reznor and Maynard Keenan. People even went so far as to do that adolescent thing where the pretend they like it, even when they weren't that familiar with her music. I would say she isn't considered cool now because she has a cult fanbase who are really strange, and her music is no longer as "edgy" as it was before.
This is a great essay though, I just don't agree with the premise.

Everybody talks about how

Everybody talks about how Tori MUST'VE had surgery, but all I've seen posted on forums are photos that people have very carefully selected where Tori did not photograph well as their evidence. And then they say the proof lies in the fact that it's not a flattering photo! Surely this is mitigated by a bias? You believe she had surgery, then you go find photos where she didn't photograph well and say that's the evidence.

What's really interesting is that when Tori was recently interviewed wearing no make-up and no wig/weave, people complained that she looked bad! Just go on youtube. The two-part Undercover 2009 video. Read the comments.

This is a classic case of how the bias about surgery works - they are able to observe the fact that it is the LIGHTS that MAKE IT LOOK AS IF she's losing hair. But no one was motivated to talk much about the obvious signs of surgery?!?!?! I mean, here you have the woman under GLARING lights! No make up, no wig/weave!!!!!

But there was nothing "odd" about her face in these videos, right? So the thought of surgery never crossed their minds...

Fucking bizarre.

The eyes

The "hoodies" on her eyelids are gone. Eye lift. It really changed her look. But who cares, right? The woman is brilliant. She has earned the right to do as she damn well pleases.

What I really want to know is

What I really want to know is how the creepy Tori cult, that group of people who go to EVERY single show and are at EVERY single meet and greet, get front row tickets to EVERY single show.

But in all seriousness, it's this group I find for me personally its what turns me off about specific Tori fans and what I think turns off a lot of other people. I don't know what it is, it's not their admiration for the wonderful woman, but there is something that makes me roll my eyes every time I see them at a show calling Tori " The GOdESS" and themselves "Ears with Feet." It's this obsessive quality that seems like a little bit too much. I get especially annoyed with how seriously fans take the whole "Ears with Feet" thing, I personally find it silly to call myself simply legs and ears and not consider the fundamental part that I find is needed to take in Tori for all her music is and that's ones lovely consciousness. Ears with feet just sounds robotic and I know Tori said it, but still there is something about it that just sounds so mechanical. But its these sort of fans that take everything far too seriously and obsessively that it's almost as if they are blurring the lines of being a fan of someone and their art and wanting to perhaps define themselves through the other person and their art work, again I suppose that is ok but I feel like some of these fans just take it a step too far because at the end of the day Tori Amos is just a human being like the rest of us, her shit still stinks and as we have seen the last few years she isn't perfect and certainly not a godess but a rather a woman, a terribly unique one, but a woman nonetheless and I think people often forget that. And yes, I'm sure every artists has overtly fanatical fans, but I do find there are a lot more Tori ones and I do think it's because she is such a kind person who opens herself up to them like many other artists do not, through the meet and greets etc, which I admire in her a lot, but it's going to get a lot of shudders from others I believe.

Lyllith Fair

Good article/essay but I am almost positive Tori did Lyllith Fair (sorry I spelled it wrong) in the early to mid 90's.

Lillith Fair

Actually, Tori was approached to do Lillith Fair but turned it down. She never performed in any of those shows.

So many untruths in this article

I think that this article has many unfounded judgements and generalizations in it. I have been a Tori Amos fan for over a decade, and i have never been sexually abused or raped. I also know many people who are fans of hers who have never had that kind of trauma. And i have never heard anyone have a negative opinion about her either, even if they werent necessarily fans. I dont know where you got this idea that its "Uncool" to like her, or something to be ashamed of. I know that some of her fans have had sexual traumas and can relate to her because she shares her process with that in some of her music, but to say all the people who like her music have been victims of rape is a huge generalization that is just not true. Its like saying that everyone who listens to 50 cent is a gangster, because that was how he lived part of his life. The truth is, people love her music because its amazing, some of the most beautiful, passionate, original music out there. And she only sings about her rape in a few songs, its so narrow minded to judge all of her music on that. She has over ten albums, and loads of B-sides, with a wide range of subjects. She is one of the most versatile artists out there, people pigeon hole her because theyve only heard one or two of her songs. They are not all weepy ballads by a long shot. She has done dance, pop, rock, alternative, and many other styles that defy categorization. The person who wrote this article must not know her work very well, or else they wouldnt have had so many misconceptions. And its a shame because now everyone who reads it will be influenced by it without finding out the truth themselves. Please dont take someone elses opinion for truth, listen to the music yourself and make up your own mind. Toris music is the last of a dying breed, she is a true artist. Her voice is incredble, the depth, range, passion and pure beauty of it is very rare. Her honesty and fearlessness is also rare these days, she doesnt sell out to try to have a #1 hit, she expresses her creativity fully without censoring it. And the melodies and intricacies of her music are genuis, so much of todays music is cookie cutter crap, souless and overproduced, devoid of any real emotion or artistry. Its too bad that people judge and label what they cant understand

The music isn't good anymore. Period.

This is not really a good article, it is full of generic feminist sentiments and has no real insight into Tori's decline. And when I say decline, I mean artistic, not in popularity or 'coolness'. So much is written about 90s female musicians from a politicized, feminist perspective but not in terms of artistic quality.

Tori's artistic peak was in the 1990s. Nothing she has written before or after matches the best of her work during that decade. It doesn't matter how much you 'like' the stuff she's written in this past decade; her compositions are nowhere near as strong as they were in the 1990s, purely on a musical level. Aside from having some memorable pop melodies, she also had some excellent piano arrangements. Now, her music is relatively forgettable, and not as complex as some of her best compositions.

Of course, most of the stars of 'alternative rock' of the 1990s have also declined since those days as well, so this isn't exclusive to Tori Amos. It doesn't matter if you're talking about Billy Corgan or Bjork or Liz Phair, none of them are as good as when they peaked in the 1990s.

Bjork is not hanging out on the 90's plateau.

Of artists you listed that are in decline I would disagree on Bjork. She's recently done very interesting things. Not too long ago she's worked with Antony (of Antony and the Johnson's) on a few songs. She's scored films etc etc. She is just the right cocktail of talented/odd to continue to explore unfolded corners of the musical page.

You stated it well when you wrote that the article was "full of generic feminist statements."

It reminded me of articles steeped in over-simplification that show up in Flavorpill etc. Seems they just want to put a couple paragraphs down and hope the actual/less stereotypical discourse comes from the comments. Or that someone did not know what to write, so they quickly perused a couple blogs and churned out a categorical assessment of a trend.

Anyway, It has been interesting reading all the comments.

Derivative Dreck

It helps that Kate Bush was off in a mansion getting stoned for almost all the 90's allowing her style to be utterly ripped off by an inferior talent.

LOL

LOL

Wonderful article!

Wonderful article!

tori

The mere fact that a person like Tori Amos exists in this world gives me a sense of comfort. She is truly unique and her music will always be a soundtrack to my teenage years. She makes you feel ok to say whatever craziness you're thinking. She's an icon for sure. I agree that Pele is one of the BEST break up cds ever. ...:)

i think with tori, shes doing

i think with tori, shes doing what she does best. shes being an artist, and an artists job is to evolve.

yeah alright, the new material is balls and overcomplicated for some of us, i think its BS to say oh go read some herodotus and THEN tell me shes not a genius. im sure she is, never said shes not. or that shes shit. just dont feel the new songs. she still KILLS live shows.

............shit, imagine her playing what we WANTED her to. "please sing sadder, and more of those twinkly bits" its insanely boring listening to listener-voted-top-ten-whatevers on the radio.

i dunno, and with the surgery/whateverOMGsheknowsGUCCIexists, honestly, who gives a shit? thats your own home made disappointment, deal with it.

Tori IS Irreplaceable!

In 1993 a friend let me "borrow" her Tori Amos Little Earthquakes CD or was it a tape? I don't remember but I do know that I had to go out and buy my own copy because she asked for me to return it after I had kept it for several months. Here we are almost twenty years later and no other artist has had a more significant influence on my life than Tori. Her music literally kept me from committing suicide several times. Listening to her helped me cry it out instead of acting out something that I really didn't want to do. I am definitely part of that 98% that finds emotional support in her music.

Tori Amos has outlasted all the cool things that were when she first came out and everything that has come since. I will forever buy anything she creates. She is timeless. She is effortless. She is everything that I think it is to be a woman in my opinion because she is fierce yet vulnerable. I could go on and on. I have a lot of cool music, good music and even great music on my iPod but the soundtrack of my life was written and song by Tori Amos.

Thank you for this lovely article. It has reminded me that along my journey I have never been one of the "cool" girls or much less a girl that "fits" any label. That might be what I love about Tori most...I cannot describe her and I can't neatly put her into a box...she is irreplaceable and so is her influence on women like me. =)

I didn't know Tori Amos was

I didn't know Tori Amos was so uncool. The many male and female fans that I have met seem like regular people. People that appreciate music and intelligent, unusual lyrics. People that like music that -feels- like something. This article seemed to be mean, dismissive, stereotyping, to say that everyone that likes Tori Amos is 'uncool' and any man that likes her is queer. I recently read this interview reprint from 1994 and while its author is creepy and dismissive in bits, it at least lets the artists talk and doesn't dismiss them based on who likes them, and it doesn't round up every handy insult to apply to their fans. http://www.yessaid.com/interviews/94-05Q.html

"Be yourself was always the

"Be yourself was always the message of the work, and she’s been nothing but for almost 20 years."

And yet the reason why some Tori Amos' fans are so uncool, which is so achingly close to being understood in this one single line, slips out of the author's grasp all the same.

Tori Amos is not you. She is not your theories on feminism. She is not your assaults and your triggers. She is not the personification of the disappointment of your teenage self. She is not your dreams and she is not your demons. She is Tori Amos. Her own woman, for better and for worse.

And what makes her fans so sometimes completely alienating and infuriating, which drives them out of every social scene except their own, is that a large percentage of them are completely unable to understand anything except uncritical adoration of all of the things they think she epitomizes, things which match their own beliefs precisely because they are being projected onto Tori...

Let me put it this way; if Tori Amos were a landmark, she'd be Glastonbury Tor, a comparison Tori would probably love. And fans such as the author of this article and many in the comments would be the streets around Glastonbury village; filled with absolutely enormous amounts of completely contradictory philosophies based on nothing more than personal testimony, often drawn from which type of genitals and nature/nurture balances you were gifted with, no two of which even match each other, but all worshipping the one work of art that towers above them as if it exemplified your beliefs individually and precisely.

But heaven help you if you point out that the actual historical record is of a rather less romanticised era: the Tor has a Medieval Christian church on it, something none of you actually are, even those who share the overall same Christy-bits; and anything beyond that is archaeology at best, wild supposition and nonsense at worst... because suddenly every single radically different sect will turn on you and rip you apart as if you are talking about bulldozing the entire site. Because they are completely incapable of separating out the personal experience from the symbol.

Look, let's be totally honest here; Tori Amos has given more joy to the world than I ever will. And that makes me a little jealous yes, because her talent opens my heart to what the world could have contained instead, had I similar gift in turn. And her music still moves me, even an extreme metal heterosexual male to tears sometimes. I don't even mind admitting that, as a teenager discovering Under The Pink I fell somewhat in love with her... yeah, macho metal man crushing on a pop star, right? And she's always been Earth-Mother-Kooky, even back on Y Kant Tori Read (Etienne is about imagining she's a reincarnation of a woman who fled with Bonny Prince Charlie). But I can still be objective about her; she's not always released music that works, or has any sort of coherent overarching theme to her works. And yes, her plastic surgery is disappointing, especially for those of us who believe love goes deeper than skin, and transcends age.... and possibly in cases of extreme talent, even gender; Freddy Mercury could have tempted me to be gay, I have no problem admitting!

And I can even admit that, as someone for whom Tori's work has often disappointed me intensely, since let's say Choirgirl, her latest album Night of Hunters is actually quite good. It would have been so much easier to say it wasn't, and not have to re-assess my own assumptions. But I can also retain enough rationality to see why that may be the case; no doubt it's because she had to work within 400 years of defined history and alongside equally talented instrumentalists; We like to imagine Genius as self contained, when it's actually a combination of talent and calm editing and guided self improvement... even Shakespeare forged his works in the crucible of public performance over time, his plays didn't just pop out of his incredible mind perfectly formed. And for a long, long time Tori has been outside the reach of external influences, except those who worship her unquestioningly as a manifestation of a Female Goddess; when what she has really needed was a good editor.

And it's not to denigrate all she has given to the world to point out this out. You can still listen to and enjoy her music in a most emotional way, no one is trying to take away the music, just as you can still climb the Tor, even if you are doing so in a haze of emotions too.

You know, I remember the first, and last Tori concert I went to. Nottingham Playhouse, back in er... 1996, for the Pele tour. I still have the tour book around somewhere. And I remember how uncomfortable I felt when the audience responded to slow ballad, and pounding rocker, and quirky b side with the exact same response; standing up, wild adulation, screaming... when to me the whole point of a wide range of talent is to capture a wide range of moods; the more honest response to some would be to sit quietly and sniff "Yeah girl, that's how it is". And boy did she capture so many moods that day. But the audience would brook no response other than just one. In the end, I found myself refusing to stand up and applaud, even though the audience around started glaring at me; because it felt like I was getting trapped in a Nuremberg Rally sort of dynamic...

You may find that offensive as a comparison. But ask yourself this; as long as someone genuinely gains something from Tori Amos, what does it matter how they express that, or even if they don't appreciate everything about her? Do you really want listening to Tori to not just be a religious experience, but a doctrinal test and a Religion too?

So take the Fairy Jack Boots off for once; and you'd better believe me, remember that we're all human, just human instead. We all age. We all decline eventually. Sometimes we get better for a while. But there's no shame in not being perfect, in being different from each other, and not living up to all we might dream about. Invite those flaws and imperfections into your awareness and, as Shakespeare said,

"And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

I agreed with much of what

I agreed with much of what your wrote. I don't think all of her admirers are fanatics. I recently introduced her to a resistant young male music partner of mine, and after listening he had to admit to the skill and emotion. I am not a rabid fan but a musician who from the first time I listened to "Little Earthquakes" was in awe of such expressive musicianship along with deeply personal lyrics. A piano led pop performer! I don't believe anyone had mentioned female masturbation or a personal description of rape in a pop like that before Tori Amos did. However after "Choir Girl Hotel" I think her musicianship has started to decrease and most of her songs are passable but not anything to get excited about. Her concerts have been incredible every time I go. If she isn't cool, which is pretty subjective, I don't think very many people are then. I think Trent Rezor is musically similar both in lyrical content and even musicianship- I wonder if she had decided to use a sythn 20 years ago if the title of this would read "Tori Amos" and The Birth of Female Cool, because really every one of the pop icon women who followed her certainly took from her example.

Um no

Tori Amos wasn't cool to some people because she didn't try to fit into any genre or trend, she always
Did her own thing, she was too busy making genius music to care about wether or not she was
Considered cool. THIS, has made her one of the largest and most devoted fan bases ever, and that's
Brilliant! she's one of the smartest and most talented artists out there today , Still.
You're wrong about Tori Amos not Being cool, actually cool is something you become without
Trying, and she is definitely that! Your article should read, why Tori Amos is not a trending disappearing act.

Totally!

Just have to agree, Amos has always been about being the servant of a brilliant muse, and that's all. An excellent essay on how her music and personality touched contemporary issues - women (and men) were going through the same things she was, and her music's loved because it expresses the pain and confusion of (the sensitive part of) a generation.

Tori Amos Outlook The Same As Fiona Apple?

In reading this bit about Tori Amos, I couldn't help but think of Fiona Apple as well. Her music, like Amos' is depicts an extremely accessible pathway to her emotions. Does anyone agree with that? Both are very talented artists but is Fiona Apple "uncool" just as Tori Amos has been deemed "uncool" ? Doesn't anyone else find her incessant LONGGG album titles fun?? lol. Anyway, her new album has a 21-word title. It comes out 6/19 can't wait to hear it in the full.

I liked Tori Amos in the 90s.

I liked Tori Amos in the 90s. I had her first four albums but I just lost interest after To Venus and Back. It happened naturally. But thinking back, it was curious that the only people I knew who liked her were girls and gays. I think it happened twice where a straight guy mentioned liking one of her songs. The impression I always got of Tori's fans were that they were overly goo-ey over her, or mushy . . .what's the right word? ''oh Tori, we love you!'' ''Tori's looking so creamy and pretty in that picture'' . . .I once danced with a girl who had Tori's face tattooed on her arm (this was in 1998, around her 'peak'). Anyway, maybe in the long run I subconciously stopped liking Tori because I never wanted to be a cliché (I'm gay). But hell, I always liked Sinéad O'Connor a lot better, if you want to put the music in gender/style categories. And I got more into trip-hop and chill out music. I never did see Tori live though. By the time I was old and independent enough to easily see shows, I had lost interest (when I was around 20, I suppose).

/ t

Well, as a genuine EWF, I'd

Well, as a genuine EWF, I'd rather be Uncool, than cool and UNknowing ;)... great article!

Response to "legacy"mention

She did say early on that she wanted to be a legend, and that she has achieved.

Tori Amos is an attention whore

Also, her rape crisis line sucks and is filled with politicized garbage. Tori Amos exploits rape survivors and she is a selfish cunt. Period.

Birth of the Uncool | Bitch Media

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eww, the arrogance!

It really makes my head spin to hear the way people not only judge tori's musical output in the second half of her career, but also the people who love that work!! How arrogant! One particularly aggressive former-fan even asks a current fan: "How many times did you have to listen to the Beekeeper before you convinced yourself that you liked it?" Wow. I wonder how this "former-fan" would respond to the MANY people who write off "Boys For Pele" as self-indulgent nonsense... would they just nod in agreement and say, "you're right, it must all be in my head! I have deluded myself into thinking i enjoy this music!" How DARE another person make such assumptions about somebody's musical tastes.

My experience with Tori's albums is that there has never been an album i loved immediately. In fact, many repulsed me. None more so than Pele, initially. However, Pele eventually became my favorite album. These days, I find myself continually drawn to her recent albums, MUCH more often than her earlier work. In fact, I rarely listen to anything off LE anymore. And if I do, it's usually the TALES versions, or the new orchestrations on GOLD DUST, which are absolutely divine. In fact, the original Flying Dutchman pales in comparison to the new one. Anyway, the pay-offs increase every time I listen to one of her recent albums. What I have discovered is that her song structures are deceptively complex. She has become such a brilliant sonic architect, that her transitions from one section to the next are so smooth, it may take several listens before you notice certain shifts. The manic changes in songs like "Past the mission," "Hotel," "Space dog" ... I could go on and on... have been refined, replaced with more graceful ones. The brilliance in her recent work lies in the subtleties. I admit, I was once guilty of holding Tori hostage to MY expectations of each subsequent album... but the sooner I let go of those expectations and embraced the works AS THEY ARE, the more rewarding the experience. I really can't say enough good things about these albums.

Also, she looks incredible these days. I think she may have used a little botox at one stage, but it looks like it's worn off, and she looks all the better for it! OH AND BTW, Tori has ALWAYS been open about her vanity!! She has always taken care in her appearance. Not only with the lip gloss, but with every album's concept, the fashion has always been a huge element. So if people think she has only just recently become concerned with her appearance, then clearly these people are delusional. There seems to exist a belief that physical insecurities and a spiritual lifestyle or outlook are incompatible, or contradictory, which is certainly not the case.

And I'm not saying these things in the hope of converting those who disagree, I say them so that those who do agree, and relate to my experience, can hear and take comfort, amongst the sound of all the squealing pigs fighting to make the loudest noise with their hatred and judgment.

Birth of the Uncool | Bitch Media

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None of us can stay the same...

This article is nearly 3 years old, so I am decidedly late to the party, but I feel compelled to chime in. I appreciated this article and the effort to get under what it is that makes a Tori fan a Tori fan. I have the distinction of falling neatly into the category of "straight man who listens to Tori who is not a victim of any sort of abuse or childhood trauma."

I did not need Tori Amos to heal me. At the time I discovered her, I heard "God" on the radio, followed by "Cornflake Girl," and decided I liked what I was hearing. At the time, I was pretty much limited to Jane's Addiction, Rage Against the Machine, Smashing Pumpkins, the Breeders, the Chili Peppers, the Cult, Guns n Roses, and Hip-hop. I say this so any reader can appreciate how she mixed with the aforementioned artists. What drew me to her was the fact that the woman flat out rocked. (I have since seen comments from various metalheads on YouTube who seem to have been struck the same way as I was... Mastodon, Irom Maiden, King Diamond, Behemoth, and Tori Amos.)

I listened to Pink and after I heard "Bells for Her" I was pretty much staring at the stereo all the way through "Yes, Anastasia" in disbelief at what this woman was doing. I liked the rest of the album even better than the 2 songs I had bought it for, so my fate was pretty much sealed. I quickly made up ground with Earthquakes, B-Sides (Sister Janet!) and joined, much to the amazement of my male peers, the throng of girls awaiting Pele. (The girls loved this.)

I say all this to point out one simple fact: Fans like me who question her later work (let's say from Beekeeper on) and yearn for the Tori of days gone by are missing the fact that we are getting older, too! Everyone has that "song of youth" connection to music that had a resonance for us at a time when raging hormones and the coming of age / stumbling into one's place in society had a very real (and scary) meaning. Unfortunately, unless you were just recently introduced to Tori's early work by a hip aunt or mother, we are all (hopefully) past that point and well into adulthood. Even if she was still singing what we think we want to hear, it wouldn't be the same. Those albums were made, and hit each of us at the right time.

I will continue to buy everything the woman puts out. I disliked Beekeeper. I thought ADP was up and down. I listened to Holly, Ivy, and Rose about 300 times back to back for a week. I thought AATS was a bit safe, but I have no problem throwing it in. Night of Hunters made me marvel at her all over again.

Just remember folks, Tori's not the only one getting older. Our own relationship with music in general is aging, too.

I'm looking forward to Unrepentant Geraldines.

Your essay about Tori Amos is

Your essay about Tori Amos is not actually a defense of her but rather a celebration of how unique she is and yet lives in reality that in our aim to be different, we end up just like everyone else - because we all strive to be not the shadow of someone else. - Marl of Why is it important to write a good essay?.

She's considered "uncool"

She's considered "uncool" because her vocal delivery and mannerisms on stage are just way too melodramatic. That's about it. She doesn't come across as an earnest musician.