Monday, January 7, 2008

Everybody Else's Girl: My Love Affair with the Music of Tori Amos

When I was 15, I discovered the wonder that is Tori Amos. I hung around with my friends (who were sisters) Katie and Bonnie much of the time that year. One afternoon I came over to their house, walked into Katie's room, and heard this mysterious, magical, and very sad melody playing on her tape player. I was intrigued and discovered that it was the "God" single. Eventually I ended up buying the "God" single on CD, but to my dismay, the song I heard in Katie's room wasn't on it. It ended up being on another single (but I can't remember which one at the moment). Finally, I learned the name of the haunting song that served as my introduction to Tori Amos: "Sister Janet". I was 15 years old, and I fell head over heels with the music of Tori Amos.

I bought Little Earthquakes, her first album after the failure of her first artistic venture, Y Kant Tori Read. I listened to Little Earthquakes over and over. I was completely taken by her voice and the music, but I didn't really pay much attention to the meaning of the lyrics. Eventually I knew them all by heart, although I don't think I really understood what they meant to me until after I graduated from high school.

When I was 19, I went to my first Tori Amos concert (and my first concert ever, actually). It was in Austin, Texas, at The Backyard, and Tori was promoting her From the Choirgirl Hotel album (which is one of my all-time favorite albums). It was a completely amazing experience and a turning point in how I began to process her music. From that point on, I became a genuine Toriphile (or Ears with Feet, as Tori calls her fans).

Tori's music saw me through many dark days during my very angsty late teens/early 20s. She was able to put in words what I could not express. I felt she had written her songs with me in mind, and I felt so very close to her. (I know that sounds creepy, but rest assured, I wasn't a stalker or anything. I was just a really troubled woman-child who needed a hero.) I went to see her live 6 more times, sometimes with just her and her piano, sometimes with the band, sometimes with part of the band. Each time I saw her live was a magical experience. She was (and I'm sure she still is) an amazing performer.

I'm not sure what happened after that. Right around the years of 2001-2003, Tori's music began to go in a different direction. In my opinion, it became much more underdeveloped, so listening to it didn't really do anything for me anymore. I was sort of disappointed in her for not creating the complex music that she had once produced. I stopped buying/downloading her albums after Scarlet's Walk failed to really hold my attention. I haven't seen her live since 2002 or 2003.

But I still count myself a loyal fan, as I still love her older music and consider her as one of my favorite musical artists. I still think she is amazing, brave, beautiful, and heroic, even though I may not agree with some of her creative choices. As a matter of fact, I respect her that much more for always trying new things instead of continuing to produce the same thing over and over. Her music will always hold a very special place in my heart, because to forget her is to deny a huge part of my past. Watching her music evolve has been as rewarding as watching myself grow and change.

She's been everybody else's girl
Maybe one day she'll be her own

-Tori Amos, "Girl"

I'd say she's already there. And so am I. Thanks, Tori, for seeing me through.


Here's the video for one of my favorite Tori Amos songs, "Hey Jupiter":


ssinca said...

"hey jupiter" makes me want to cry! I used to love her stuff when I was in HS as well, but not so much anymore. I guess I'm not the only one.

Claire said...

Our music twin-ness continues...
Little Earthquakes was my BFF in high school, and I've recently rediscovered it and have been listening to it a lot.
I agree that during the past few years her work hasn't been as compelling. Frustrating. However, her cover of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" is stunning.

WeezerMonkey said...

Sorry, not a fan.

But I'm commenting, lest you think I'm boycotting you. ;)

Discombobulated said...

I love how our music interests evolve and how a certain artis can represent one thing for us at a given time, and something completely different, at another.
That is what Nirvana is, for me.

Brenda said...

Nice. Lisa Loeb did this for me in High School. I LOVED her music and her lyrics. Oh yeah, and I also looked up to her because she was cute and she wore glasses. :D

Kari said...

Scarlet's Walk is actually my second or third favorite Tori album. I didn't connect to it at first either and then it grew on me a lot. I think its a lyrical masterpiece and probably her most relevant and important work.

While I haven't really loved her last 2 albums, there are definitely worthwhile songs on them. Her last tour, dare I say, was her best in years.