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Music / Tori Amos

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"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 (born Myra Ellen Amos, August 22, 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), country ("Not Dying Today", "Drive All Night") and even folk ("Wedding Day"). 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." Note that this description was tongue-in-cheek; 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 (1992). Little Earthquakes is considered one of the best albums by a female solo artist. Follow-up album Under the Pink (1994) also earned praise, while her third album Boys for Pele (1996) polarized critics and audiences though it has been Vindicated by History and is now regarded as a classic. from the choirgirl hotel (1998) and To Venus and Back (1999) were also successful. Scarlet's Walk (2002) would be her last album to achieve mainstream popularity, after it ran its course she more or less fell off the radar, though she still retains a devoted fanbase. Generally, her first three albume (Little Earthquakes, Under the Pink and Boys For Pele) are regarded as classics and they along with Scarlet's Walk are her most enduring works. Everything released after Scarlet's Walk is a mixed bag that doesn't seem to made much of an impact outside of her fanbase.

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 gay 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)
  • Native Invader (2017)
  • Ocean to Ocean (2021)


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


  • Pretty much the majority of her pre-digital era 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.
  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: Tori places accent on wrong syllables in 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 that it became almost unrecognizable. Compare this early performance to this recent one.
  • all lowercase letters: She writes her lyrics this way, and the title of from the choirgirl hotel is in all lowercase.
  • Anthology: 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.
  • Ascended Fridge Horror: '97 Bonnie & Clyde doesn't change the lyrics, but Tori sings it from the perspective of the dead woman in the trunk, echoing her murderous ex's words. So this woman is dead but able to see her ex strapping the baby into the car seat, playing with a bloody knife, and tying rocks to the corpse to toss into the lake.
  • Audience Participation Song: Audience is supposed to sing along in "Big Wheel"
    Tori: I-I-I am a M-I-L-F!
    Audience: Don't you for-get!
  • Author Avatar: A Decomposite Character variation with the dolls of American Doll Posse who all represent an aspect of Amos, with a hint of Self-Parody. Isabel is Amos's political side; Clyde is her "sad girl at the piano" persona; Pip is Tori the screaming banshee; and Santa is her sexy side. The doll named Tori is a more general caricature, but also emphasises Tori the Earth Mother.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: While Amos is very eccentric, she also has extraordinary musical talent; it has been suggested that her knowledge of music is on a genius level.
  • Christmas Songs: Her album Midwinter Graces largely consists of original songs based on, and containing lines from, traditional Christmas carols. Examples include "Star of Wonder" based on "We Three Kings", and "Jeanette, Isabella", based on "Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella".
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Amos' performing persona possesses a level of weirdness only rivaled by the likes of Lady Gaga and Buckethead. ‎"That was 'Toodles, Mr. Jim.' Mr. Jim died, two weeks ago. And he taught me how to pick cherries, and I punched his daughter in the nose because she was mean. Mr. Jim was good."
  • Concept Album: Amos often creates albums that are based around underpinning concepts that may prove elusive to those not already clued in. Such conceptual albums include 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).
  • 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.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: Invoked in her cover of "'97 Bonnie & Clyde". Tori pointed out in interviews that during this song that has a dance beat, a dead woman is bleeding out in the trunk of her abusive ex. Her cover is Darker and Edgier, with minor violin chords that echo the horror of the situation. Then said ex coerces his daughter into tossing the body into a lake with stones tied, and the narrator sounds more relieved that her daughter's trauma is over.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Y Kant Tori Read. Amos pretended for years that it had never happened, though later she has "made peace with it."
  • Epic Rocking: "Datura" (8:25). 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), "Unrepentant Geraldines" (6:57), "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).
  • Genre Mashup: While Tori's classified as an alt-rock musician, she's dipped in a variety of genres, from classical to soul to electronica. The song that most epitomizes this trope would be "Professional Widow", which 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 . Note the inherent pun: Tori Never Learned to Read Sheet Music, and the band was named for that illiteracy (with a side of Myspeld Rökband).
  • Intercourse with You: "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).
  • List Song:
    • "Datura": Amos lists the plants found in her garden.
    • "Bang": Amos lists the primary elements that humans are predominantly composed of to make the point that humans are all the same.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: Lonely piano pieces are a huge part of her repertoire.
  • Lyrical Dissonance:
    • "Spark" doesn't sound like it's about a miscarriage until you get to the lyric "She's convinced she could hold back a glacier/but she couldn't keep baby alive/doubting if there's a woman in there somewhere."
    • "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
    • 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
  • Lyrics/Video Mismatch: "Glory of the 80's', a Nostalgia Filter song about Amos remembering her twenties carries a video consisting of a shuriken freeing a trapped Amos from a cage while she turns into a baby, crow and a fox.
  • 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.
  • 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. Night of Hunters and Gold Dust where a straight-up classical album.
  • One-Woman Song:
    • "Mary"
    • "Talula"
    • "Ophelia"
    • "Marianne"
    • "Josephine".
    • Subverted with "Mary Jane". It's not about a girl.
    • Genderflipped with "Etienne" and "Benjamin", both One Man Songs.
  • Rape as Drama: Tori was raped as a young woman, and her song "Me and a Gun" (and probably many more after that) is based on her sexual assault. This led her to co-found RAINN and she has put uncountable hours and a significant portion of her money into the organization.
    In the song, I say it was Me and a Gun but it wasn't a gun. It was a knife he had. And the idea was to take me to his friends and cut me up, and he kept telling me that, for hours. And if he hadn't needed more drugs I would have been just one more news report, where you see the parents grieving for their daughter.
  • 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.
    • DJ Armand Van Helden remixed the song "Professional Widow" into a far more upbeat and danceable number with his Star Trunk Funkin' Mix - which ended up as a number 1 in the UK!
    • 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".
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: "Riot Poof" is often misspelled as "Riot Proof".
  • Seduction Lyric: "Body And Soul" has the singer straightforwardly offering herself to someone who is evidently a good Catholic boy, and very possibly a priest, arguing that sex isn't as sinful as he's been taught.
  • Self-Parody: Around the American Doll Posse era, Tori was essentially playing a drag queen version of herself.
  • Shout-Out:
    • 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). She would later actually play the role in The BBC Audio Adaptation.
      • "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.
      • "Sister Despair, Sister Despair. Can you bring the Dream King to me?" in "Mary's Eyes" refers to Desire's sister.
      • "Where are the Velvets?" in "Hotel" refer to characters from Neverwhere.
      • " 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 to Nine Inch Nails:
      • A shoutout 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."
    • "Is she still pissing in the river now?" from "Space Dog".
  • Softer and Slower Cover: Most of her covers are transformed into piano-driven ballads.
  • The Something Song: "Chocolate 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" from Reign in 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.
  • Subdued Section: "Pretty Good Year" inverts this; being a quiet piano ballad until the bridge when she raises her voice and the drums kick in for about 15 seconds before reverting back.
  • 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" manages to be more surreal than all of Björk's music videos combined!
    • "A Sorta Fairytale" features Tori's head attached directly to her high-heel clad leg. Hopping through the city, she meets a handsome young man who's also just a head attached to a burly arm. The two are attracted, but when the young man-head giggles at Tori's ugly toes, she hitches a ride on a passing skateboard and takes off through the city. Eventually the young man's head catches up to her, and they both grow bodies. Just...just go look, okay?
    • 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 80's" which is up there with "No Scrubs" by TLC for having absolutely nothing to do with the song.
    • "Raspberry Swirl" is an extended Alice Allusion that manages to be even more trippy than the source material.
  • 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.
    • "Professional Widow" - it's kinda obvious that the song's about Courtney... and more pointedly her father, perennial gossip Hank Harrison.
    • The b-side "Sweet Dreams" is about George H.W. Bush.
  • Technician Versus Performer: Tori herself has admitted she's "not a technician" despite her skill on the piano. Her inability to read sheet music got her kicked out of Peabody, but she went on to develop a very original and personal style of music.
  • Textless Album Cover: from the choirgirl hotel
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: In "The Waitress", Tori shouts "I believe in peace, bitch!".
  • 12-Bar Blues: The concept is played with in "Glory of the 80's". While the verses follow the conventional I-VI-I structure for the first eight lines. The chorus, making the final four lines, deviates to follow V-VI-VII-I for the ninth and tenth line, then the more conventional V-VI-I for the final two.
  • 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! As her career has progressed, her lyrics have gone from slightly hard to figure out to some stuff that's almost like tone poems set to music.
  • Word Salad Title: "In the Springtime of His Voodoo".
  • Write What You Know: "'97 Bonnie & Clyde": Your ex murders you, hides you in the trunk and makes your baby complicit in getting rid of the body all the while admitting they'll go to jail, prison, and hell. The original song was based on Eminem's tumultuous relationship with his wife.