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Music: Tori Amos

"So my father said to me, 'Tori Ellen, I can't believe you wrote this song about me.' I said, 'I write everything about you, what are you surprised about?' He said, 'I'm really hurt by this one.' I said, 'Well which one is it?' He said, 'Well, you called me Satan.' I said, 'No! I was doing drugs with a South American shaman, and I really did visit the devil and, well, I had a journey.' He said, 'Oh, praise Jesus!'"
Tori, on "Father Lucifer" (VH1 Storytellers)

Tori Amos (1963-) is an American pianist and singer-songwriter. Her music walks the fine line between baroque pop & straightforward alternative rock. She has ventured off into other territories, like electronic (from the choirgirl hotel, To Venus and Back, Abnormally Attracted to Sin), funk/soul/gospel (The Beekeeper), big band ("Pink and Glitter"), adult contemporary (Scarlet's Walk, certain songs on The Beekeeper), and country ("Not Dying Today", "Drive All Night"). She has written about many topics, including rape, masturbation, war, religion, feminine sexuality, homosexuality (and related topics), betrayal, and...other things. Richard Croft said it best about the public's perception of her: "The image of Tori Amos most widely known in pop culture is sort of like an American Björk, a modern Kate Bush, a feminist icon, a screeching, red-haired banshee who flails wildly at the piano and sings all sorts of man-hating anthems for her throngs of similarly screeching, red-haired fans." Contrary to popular belief though, she is not misandric, and her fans have a variety of hair colors.

Before she started her solo career, she was in a band called Y Kant Tori Read. Their debut album flopped, and they broke up shortly after. Having to fulfill her contract with Atlantic, Tori made her first, and what most people consider her best, album called Little Earthquakes. Little Earthquakes is considered one of the best albums by a female solo artist. Under the Pink is also praised, but she fell off of critics' radars in the 21st century.

As a person, she is funny, talented, open-minded, kind, and very eccentric. She is known for having an obsession with fairies, and shocking people by breast-feeding a pig and saying things like "I have a 12-inch cock." She's known for having a very devoted fanbase and for being a queer icon.

She co-founded RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), America's largest anti-sexual-assault organization. She tours frequently and changes her setlist almost entirely every time she performs (though she has a few staples, and not just [or usually] the lead singles).

Studio album discography:

  • Little Earthquakes (1992)
  • Under the Pink (1994)
  • Boys for Pele (1996)
  • from the choirgirl hotel (1998)
  • To Venus and Back (1999, a double album; one disc was an album of new material, while the other disc was a live album)
  • Strange Little Girls (2001, a concept album of Amos covering and re-interpreting songs originally written and performed by men)
  • Scarlet's Walk (2002)
  • The Beekeeper (2005)
  • American Doll Posse (2007)
  • Abnormally Attracted to Sin (2009)
  • Midwinter Graces (2009, Amos's first seasonal record)
  • Night of Hunters (2011)
  • Gold Dust (2012; an album full of orchestral re-workings of older songs)
  • Unrepentant Geraldines (2014)

Compilations:

  • More Pink: The B-Sides (1994)
  • Tales of a Librarian (2003)
  • A Piano: The Collection (2006)

EPs:

  • pretty much the majority of her singles, the most famous EP being Crucify (1992)
  • Scarlet's Hidden Treasures (2004)
  • Exclusive Session (2005; a live EP released exclusively through iTunes)


Provides examples of:

  • A Cappella: "Me and a Gun" is a quiet vocal solo about her experience with rape.
  • Ac CENT Upon The Wrong Syl LA Ble: Tori does this with most of her songs to the point where it can sound like a different language. She had a more-or-less normal singing voice at the start of her career, but she started to change it over the years to the point that it became unrecognizable (not that that's bad). Compare this early performance to this recent one.
  • Action Girl: The cover of Y Kant Tori Read.
  • all lowercase letters: She writes her lyrics this way, and the title of from the choirgirl hotel is in all lowercase.
  • Anthology/Jukebox Musical: The graphic novel Comic Book Tattoo is a collection of short stories based on her music. As one can imagine, some of the stories are...stranger than others.
  • Audience Participation Song: "Big Wheel".
    Tori: I-I-I am a M-I-L-F!
    Audience: Don't you for-get!
  • Baroque Pop: Much of her early work qualifies. Given that she studied in a conservatory, it isn't too surprising.
    • It's just as well- I think it's a good idea to conserve a Tori! Nyuk nyuk nyuk!
  • Berserk Button: It's wise to not insult Tori in any way in front of an Ear With Feet.
    • For something personally related to T, if you call her an airy-fairy new age hippie waif, she will cut off your penis.
  • Bi the Way: Subverted. Tori has said that she would be bi, but she just "[doesn't] eat pussy".
  • Breakup Breakout: Tori went from the lead singer of a bargain-bin band (Y Kant Tori Read) to one of the most popular female singer-songwriters to exist.
  • Broken Bird: "Me and a Gun". The fact she throws in some really bitter snark into it just makes it more so.
    • Her first five albums are ultra-personal and therefore this trope.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: While Amos is a complete nutcase, she also has extraordinary musical talent; it has been suggested that her knowledge of music is on a genius level.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: While this trope definitely applies to Amos, was it her appearance on local access television in 1980 as the brunette Myra Ellen Amos performing her original song "Baltimore" for a Orioles theme song contest (which she won)? Her appearance in a 1985 commercial for Kellogg's Just Right breakfast cereal? Her appearance as a defendant in an episode of Trial by Jury? Or her commercially unsuccessful 1980s pop band, Y Kant Tori Read?
  • Child Prodigy: Amos is the youngest person ever admitted into the Peabody Conservatory of Music, being admitted at age 5. She was eventually kicked out.
    • Her parents claim that beginning at age 2, she would completely on her own walk up to the family piano and begin playing it, and that is was difficult to separate her from it.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Amos possesses a level of weirdness only rivaled by the likes of Lady Gaga and Buckethead.
    • ‎"That was 'Toodles, Mr. Jim.' Mr. Jim died, two weeksh ago. And he taught me how to pick cherriesh, and I punched his daughter in the nose because she was mean. Mr. Jim was good."
  • Comic Book Fantasy Casting: Delirium from The Sandman is sometimes based on her.
  • Concept Album: Under The Pink (why people of the same sex hate each other more than they do the opposite sex), Boys for Pele (songs revolving around her break-up with long-time boyfriend/producer Eric Rosse), from the choirgirl hotel (Tori's marriage and miscarriages), Strange Little Girls (cover songs originally written and performed by men that Tori reinterpreted from a female's point of view), Scarlet's Walk (the cross-country travels of Scarlet, a character loosely based on Amos, as well as the concept of America post-9/11), The Beekeeper (songs based on Gnostic Christianity and beekeeping), American Doll Posse (five female personae Amos developed based on Greek mythology), and Night of Hunters (a woman has to piece her life together after a horrendous break-up) qualify.
  • Country Music: She made some songs that have an obvious country influence ("Not Dying Today", "Drive All Night"). The radio version of "Strange" was country-fied.
  • Cover Versions: Not to mention the billions of straightforward covers she did, Tori did a variation of this for Night of Hunters. All of the songs are based (directly or indirectly, in the case of "Job's Coffin") on classical pieces.
  • The Cover Changes The Gender: Strange Little Girls.
  • The Cover Changes The Meaning: Strange Little Girls, again, especially with Eminem's "'97 Bonnie & Clyde", sung from the murdered wife's point of view as she mimics the words of her murderer.
  • Darker and Edgier - Many of the songs on Strange Little Girls are darker and more troubling than the originals. Notable examples include "Raining Blood" and "'97 Bonnie and Clyde", which freaked out the original performers.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: "Icicle". Which, for Christians and females both (for utterly unrelated reasons), is Nightmare Fuel as well. You see, the date is with the icicle, and it is a substitutionary device for Jesus'... uh... icicle.
    • If you want an... er... less religious interpretation, the song would just be about a girl's church-bred guilt about sex and frigidity melting like an icicle so she finally feels free to please herself.
    • The Icicle is a metaphor for her cold fingers... you know what the "hiding place" would be then, right?
    • At a concert, she described how when she discovered masturbation at a young age, she was all to eager to tell the other girls at church what she just discovered she can do...who subsequently told her pastor father and got her in quite a bit of trouble.
  • Do Not Call Me Paul: Don't call her Myra Ellen if you want to be her friend.
  • Doorstopper: Comic Book Tattoo.
  • Epic Rocking: "Datura". How the song progresses may represent a trip on datura. Tori has made a lot more epics, including "Yes, Anastasia" (9:33), "Little Earthquakes" (6:53), "Apollo's Frock" (8:14), "Lady in Blue" (7:12), "Garlands" (8:21), "Battle of Trees" (8:42), "Star Whisperer" (9:53), and "Happiness is a Warm Gun" (9:55).
  • Even the Girls Want Her
  • Fading into the Next Song: "Josephine" → "Riot Poof" (on To Venus and Back) and "Give" → "Welcome to England" (on Abnormally Attracted to Sin).
  • Fiery Redhead: The EPITOME of this trope!
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: There are NEVER Explicit Lyrics labels on her albums. This includes Boys for Pele, where she sings "slag shit", "starfucker just like my daddy", and "peace, love, and a hard cock" in just one song. Sadly, for a live DVD she put out a couple of years back, she was forced to bleep all of the cursing from "Professional Widow" so as to get Wal-Mart to carry the DVD.
    • And yet, they didn't censor "Precious Things", Tori flipping the audience off during "Father Lucifer", or a bonus interview, so the fact that only "Professional Widow" was censored doesn't make sense.
  • God-Is-Love Songs: Tori parodies this with "Icicle", where she sings about a teen masturbating to fantasies of Jesus while her pastor father leads prayer groups downstairs. The song is autobiographical.
  • Gratuitous Panning: A lot of Tori's songs fall under this trope, most notably in "Josephine". The drums and bass are to the right, and the piano and guitars are to the left.
  • Happily Married: Tori Amos has commented on her happy marriage with her sound engineer Mark Hawley lots of times.
  • Have You Seen My God?: In "God", Tori bemoans "sometimes you just don't come through" and asks "why you always go when the wind blows?".
  • Inherited Illiteracy Title: Y Kant Tori Read and "Caught a Lite Sneeze".
  • Instrumentals: "Over It" and "All the Girls Hate Her". Also, "Seven Sisters" from Night of Hunters, her first instrumental on seventeen years and the first one that's not a b-side.
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: "Fat Slut".
  • Intercourse with You: "Icicle" (it's about masturbation, though), "Raspberry Swirl": there's a lot of theories on what this song's about, from orgasms to having sex with a woman on her period to cunnilingus, and to being about how women are there for their girlfriends when men are not (whether that's sexual or not is up to you), "Leather", and probably a lot more songs if you're able to decipher them.
  • Lighter and Softer: Some of her fans (or ex-fans) claim that this has happened after Tori became a mother. Although it wasn't until Midwinter Graces that she had released an album with more-or-less upbeat lyrics (in this case, they were solstice-themed).
  • Lonely Piano Piece
  • Lyrical Dissonance:
    • "Spark" doesn't sound like it's about a miscarriage.
    • "Icicle" doesn't sound like it's about getting off to Jesus.
    • The Beekeeper doesn't sound like an album about betrayal, adultery, politics, and other nasty subjects.
    • "Happy Phantom" is, in spite of its cheery title and sound, the thought of someone contemplating suicide.
    • "Cornflake Girl" (one of her most radio-friendly songs) is about constant betrayal and disappointment and almost all of the tracks she calls her "Silly Songs" (such as the brief interludes for Boys for Pele) offer up enough psychedelic imagery to constitute legitimate Nightmare Fuel. invoked
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Most of her music falls into levels 1 - 3, but some songs can fall into levels 4 or 5 (like "She's Your Cocaine" & "Teenage Hustling"). The above-linked version of "Cruel" might rate a 6, but that's as high as she gets.
  • Mondegreen: Sometimes, what you hear makes more sense than what it actually is. For example, there's a line in "Crucify" that sounds like 'I have a bullet hole in my stomach'. It's actually 'I have a bowling ball in my stomach. Also, there's a line in "Police Me" that sounds like 'you are storing blackberry girl?'. This makes it seem that someone kidnapped a girl. It's actually a combination of two lyrics '...you are storming. Blackberry girl...'.
    • In "Playboy Mommy," the line "talking 'bout Hosannah" sounds like nothing else so much as "talking 'bout whores and nuns." Tori Amos being Tori Amos, this does not provoke a confused reaction.
    • Tori is even #12 on Am I Right's Groups With Most Misheard Lyrics!
  • Mood Whiplash: On Boys for Pele, the nonsensical and silly "Mr. Zebra" is followed by "Marianne", a gloomy song about the death of the titular girl.
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Her song "Professional Widow" combines elements of blues, industrial, medieval, classical, and rock. In other words, imagine an alternative rock song with a harpsichord instead of an electric guitar. The song goes from harpsichord rock to bluesy piano ballad once during the song.
    • This can be said about all of her music. No one can agree on whether she's alternative rock, baroque pop (though it's a subgenre of alt-rock), or something else. She has flirted with country, electronica, dance, gospel, big band, orchestral, soul, and funk.
  • Never Heard That One Before: The joke that Tori really is a cornflake girl (since she appeared in a Kellog's Just Right commercial pre-fame).
  • New Sound Album
    • Boys for Pele was much more minimal in instrumentation than her previous two albums. She introduced more instruments to her repertoire (most notably the harpsichord), and she also sang in a more experimental manner.
    • from the choirgirl hotel flirted with electronica, and the genre was more pronounced in To Venus and Back and Abnormally Attracted to Sin.
    • Scarlet's Walk was adult contemporary. The Beekeeper was adult contemporary with a little soul and funk in the mix.
    • American Doll Posse was more straightforward rock than her usual fare. Many of the songs featured electric guitars.
    • Midwinter Graces was quite orchestral, and Night of Hunters was a straight-up classical album.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Professional Widow", among others.
  • Not Christian Rock: Subverted. She tends to write songs with religious references in them, but since it's Tori Amos, nobody ever thinks that her music is Christian in any way.
  • Odd Friendship: A friend of Tori's (and one of her biggest fans) is professional wrestler Mick Foley.
  • Older than They Look: Tori looked like she was in her 20s when she was really in her 30s. Then, she looked like she was in her 30s, when she was in her 40s. In 2007, she looked completely different (most suspect she got plastic surgery) and sorta inverted this trope.
  • One-Woman Wail: Most notably on Boys for Pele.
  • One Woman Song: "Mary", "Talula", "Ophelia", "Marianne", and "Josephine".
    • Subverted with "Mary Jane". It's not about a girl.
  • Platonic Life Partners: With Neil Gaiman. She had a similar friendship with Trent Reznor but admits They grew apart.
  • Preacher's Kid: Amos' father is a Methodist minister.
  • Rape as Drama: Tori Amos was raped once, and her song "Me and a Gun" (and probably many more after that) is based on her sexual assault.
  • Rearrange the Song:
    • The Dakota Version of "Hey Jupiter", which added more instruments and verses.
    • The Merry Widow Version of "Professional Widow", which transformed the song into a harmonium-driven dirge and had altered lyrics.
    • The Tornado Mix of "Talula", which replaced the intro with a new verse (which also became the outro) and gave the song a backing drum machine beat.
    • The majority of Tori's songs get rearranged one way or another, because she has toured three ways: solo, with a traditional rock band, and with a string quartet (additionally, one show was done with an orchestra and a tour with an orchestra is planned for 2012). Some notable examples are the solo jazzy piano rearrangement of "Sweet the Sting", the rock rearrangement of "Me and a Gun" and the string arrangements of "Cruel" and "Suede".
  • Refrain from Assuming: Tori never released a song called "Starfucker." It's "Professional Widow."
  • Religion Rant Song: "God" (Type 1), "Crucify" (type 2), "Icicle" (type 2/3 with side of Take That by way of A Date with Rosie Palms).
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: "Riot Poof" is often misspelled as "Riot Proof".
  • Shout Out: Music: Tori Amos has given shout outs to Neil Gaiman in many of her songs:
    • "If you need me, me and Neil'll be hangin' out with the DREAM KING / Neil says hi by the way," in "Tear in Your Hand"
    • "Get me Neil on the line. No, I can't hold. Have him read 'Snow Glass Apples' where nothing is what it seems," in "Carbon" refers to Gaiman's short story, "Snow, Glass, Apples"
    • "Seems I keep getting this story twisted so where's Neil when you need him," in "Space Dog"
    • "and if there is a way to find you, I will find you. but will you find me if Neil makes me a tree," in "Horses" refers to a deal between Tori and Gaiman during his writing of Stardust wherein he gave her a cameo as a tree (with red leaves, of course)
    • "Got a sister named Desire...Teach me about them old worlds big brother," in "A Sister Named Desire" is a reference to the characters of Desire and Dream from The Sandman
    • "Where are the Velvets?" in "Hotel" refer to characters from Neverwhere
    • "Wednesday...so we go from year to year with secrets we've been keeping..." in "Wednesday," referring to the character in American Gods
    • "Neil is thrilled he can claim he's mammalian/'But the bad news,' he said, 'Girl, you're a dandelion.'" in "Not Dying Today"
    • She also includes him in the album credits of From the Choirgirl Hotel, Scarlet's Walk, Strange Little Girls, Under the Pink, and To Venus and Back.
    • Also, a shoutout to Nine Inch Nails in "Precious Things": "With their nine inch nails and little fascist panties..."
      • Again in "Caught a Lite Sneeze": "Make my own pretty hate machine."
      • Trent Reznor himself provided backup vocals on "Past the Mission."
  • Softer And Slower Cover: Most of her covers are transformed into piano-driven ballads.
  • The Something Song: "Doughnut Song", "Dolphin Song", "Hungarian Wedding Song", and "Song for Eric".
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Her covers, which drastically change the genre of the original song. Like her cover of Slayer's "Raining Blood", in which she changes the metal song into a slow song with only a piano and a weird bass synthesizer.
  • Spelling Song: Tori spells out MILF in "Big Wheel".
  • Stage Names: Averted. Myra Ellen legally changed her name to Tori before she got famous.
  • Studio Chatter: "Samurai" and "Amazing Grace - til the Chicken", two b-sides from the Boys for Pele era, have this.
    • The "pilot" voices at the beginning of "Not The Red Baron" are actually Tori's sound engineers communicating with each other and her. The song is something of an improv, recorded in a single take, which makes the whole thing totally serendipitous and cool.
  • Super Window Jump: In the music video for "Pretty Good Year," Tori randomly jumps through a window into the building.
  • Surreal Music Video: "Caught a Lite Sneeze" and "A Sorta Fairytale", especially the former. "Caught a Lite Sneeze" manages to be more surreal than all of Björk's music videos combined!
    • The black and white version of "Cornflake Girl" wasn't released in the US because it was too surreal.
    • Same deal for "Glory of the 80s" which is up there with "No Scrubs" by TLC for having absolutely nothing to do with the song.
  • Take That: It's been said that "She's Your Cocaine" is Tori's response to the fact that her close friend Trent Reznor was foolish enough to bed Courtney Love and not expect trouble.
    • Let's not forget "Professional Widow"! It's kinda obvious that the song's about her... and more pointedly her father, perennial gossip Hank Harrison.
    • Actually, if you pay attention, Tori Amos makes fun of Trent a lot. (Trent returns the favor on Nine Inch Nails albums.)
  • Textless Album Cover: from the choirgirl hotel
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch! / Precision F-Strike: In "The Waitress", Tori shouts "I believe in peace, bitch!".
    • Also, Pip's improvs in "Cruel" and "Teenage Hustling"
  • Urban Legends: One particularly mean-spirited urban legend that has floated around over the years is the rumor that after "Y Kant Tori Read" flopped, Tori ended up sleeping with a record executive in order to get the chance to record Little Earthquakes.
  • Visual Innuendo: Watch any random live performance of hers, and there's a chance she'll look like she's about to get it on with the microphone. Many YouTube commenters also wish to be reincarnated as her piano bench.
  • The Walrus Was Paul: Strangely enough, she tends to offer more of an explanation for her weirder songs.
  • Where Everybody Knows Your Flame: Tori started her career as a musician by playing in gay bars.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Boys for Pele was even panned by critics for its hard-to-decipher lyrics. One critic said that Gravity's Rainbow in Greek would be easier to understand!
  • Word Salad Title: "In the Springtime of His Voodoo".

AmorphisMusic Of The 1990sAnd One
Alt-JMusicians/Alternative IndieAnalog Rebellion

alternative title(s): Tori Amos
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