Atlantic's Amos Rerelease May Add Volume To Cut That's Been 'Silent All These Years'
March 29, 1997
Radio Programming Section
Air Waves Column
By Chuck Taylor
In the five years since her breakthrough, the heady musical footpath of Tori Amos has often aroused an effigy of the unorthodox, of a chanteuse whose appeal is perhaps too obscure to be bandied over the airwaves.
So while Amos has achieved platinum sales status in the U.S. for each of her three full-length albums and become one of the most collectible female artists of the CD era, the curious redhead who makes onstage love to a piano has yet to score a bona fide top 40 hit on the Hot 100 Singles Chart.
But Atlantic is now gunning for the singer/songwriter's biggest single success to date with the rerelease of the song that launched Amos' career, "Silent All These Years," from her first project, 1992's "Little Earthquakes." In its second week, the single holds at No. 71 on the Hot 100, with a slight lead in radio airplay over sales.
Rerelease of the track was employed to bring attention to Amos' headlining appearance at a benefit concert that aired on Lifetime in January, as well as to a yearlong campaign sponsored by Calvin Klein to spread the word. The concert was held for the non-profit organization that she founded in '94, Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN), which, among other things, operates a 24-hour toll-free sexual abuse hotline. Amos herself is a victim of such abuse, which she portrays in the song "Me And A Gun," also on "Little Earthquakes".
Atlantic serviced radio Jan. 24 with the original album version of "Silent All These Years," as well as a live version recorded during the concert the night before. The latter mix was also downloaded by ISDN lines to top 40, rock, modern rock, triple-A, alternative, and hot AC outlets nationwide. The song was simultaneously posted on the label's World Wide Web site for fans, utilizing RealAudio sound. A commercial single, meanwhile, with the album and live versions, hit the streets March 4.
Answers to the obvious questions-- Why this song now? Why again?-- roll easily from Atlantic executives, several of whom admit to maintaining vigilant passion for the cut since its first, less-successful outing.
"Five years ago, when we released this record, it cut me to my core," says Atlantic executive VP of national promotion Andrea Ganis. "It's an extraordinary meaningful song with unbelievable lyrics and exceptional production. You hear it, look into the speakers, and say, "Oh my God, what was that?'
"But for radio, it was too hard then, too strange lyrically and sonically," she says. "There weren't many alternative radio stations at that point, and we got shut out. Everyone just thought she was weird."
With the January '97 RAINN concert and the imminent high-profile retail and print status of the Calvin Klein tie-in, Atlantic surmised that "Silent All These Years" relevantly paralleled RAINN's "Unlock The Silence" theme.
"It's a timeless idea that people need to express themselves and find a voice and not be afraid of assertion. It was ahead of its time, but I think people are more willing to hear it with every passing year," says Davitt Sigerson, President/CEO of EMI Records and producer of the original track. "This song is so dear to my heart, I was thrilled that out of the things Tori has done, this seemed the right piece of music to tie to the project. I always thought it was a hit, in different ways, without radio."
So far, "Silent" is showing its greatest radio strength at adult top 40. Already, key outlets like KYSR (Star 98.7) Los Angeles, WALC (Alice) St. Louis, and WTMX (Mix 101.9) Chicago are spinning "Silent" 30-plus times a week.
"There's so much reaction to the song that's very emotional and very powerful. It's making a big statement," says Michael Newman, PD of KBBT (the Beat) Portland, Ore., which also has "Silent" in heavy rotation.
"Sometimes music comes out before its time, and that's what happened with this. Now it fits; now it has the right feel," he says. "This record has a huge, hip, underground appeal that the mass-appeal audience hasn't noticed until now. She needs one to cut through, and I think this could do it."
For Amos, a devout protector of art over commerce (she reportedly grilled Klein before accepting his sponsorship of RAINN), the rerelease signifies new light on an "old and dear friend. The song is one of the consistencies in my life," she explains.
Amos adds that "Silent" has come to symbolize personal triumph on terms of songwriting, giving her a confident base to return to when approaching subsequent works. Metaphorically referring to her songs as girls, she explains, "'Silent All These Years' helped usher a lot of new through the doorway. Now that ['Silent'] is getting attention, there's a lot of well-wishing from all the new girls, because she taught them how to put their lipstick on. Now that she's getting her picture taken, there is no jealousy amid the troops. That song is always there for me when I need her."
Amos says that the re-emergence of her founding musical friend will , at the least, offer her the opportunity to reach a wider audience. "I've had alternative radio support on and off at different times, but it really hasn't come in spades for me," she says. "People might be aware of something a journalist says, but they're not really aware of my work because I haven't had that kind of exposure that other contemporary artists have."
To date, Amos' biggest Hot 100 success is the No. 60 peak of "Caught A Lite Sneeze," from her most recent project, 1996's "Boys For Pele." Her only other Hot 100 appearance: 1994's No. 72 "God," from her second album, "Under The Pink."
But whether the rerelease ultimately rings the top 40 bell or not, Atlantic is poised to remain solidly behind "Silent" in the interest of building Amos' audience.
"We're not chart-chasing this one. We have the luxury of working this record in a leisurely way because it's not on a current album," says Atlantic senior VP Vicky Germaise. "This is gravy, and yet it could be the most meaningful thing that's happened in her career."
Germaise says that aside from its identification with RAINN, the song's greatest advantage-- hot or not-- will be spreading Amos' music to a demographic she hasn't reached with past efforts. "We're at top 40 radio, which is a completely new format for her. Wherever we're getting it on, we're having tremendous response," she says. "If it takes as long as it took Jewel to break, we're prepared to do that. This is an extended-momentum kind of thing."
Adds Ganis, "I don't care how many adds we get a week. I'm out of my mind on this one. I am dead serious, if it takes another five years, we'll work it for five years."
And might the resulting radio success impact Amos on future projects? Her answer is a resounding "no way."
"I'm already writing the next record. I'm not going to parties where actors scantily clad are going to be. I'm with the storks in the tropics experimenting with a whole new thing," she says.
"It feels like 'Earthquakes,' 'Pink,' and 'Pele' were a trilogy, and now a door has closed. A certain style ended for me. But as long as I honor wherever the music is going, whether or not radio plays it, then I think my audience will still be there. That is the most important thing to me."
Please give me feedback, comments, or suggestions about my site. Email me (Michael Whitehead) at firstname.lastname@example.org