Focus On The Family reviews "from the choirgirl hotel" -1998

Added June 17, 2000

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Toriphile Rob sent me a review of Tori's 1998 album "from the choirgirl hotel" from the christian organization Focus On The Family. The review appeared on their web site at one time. While I do not agree with much of what this organization says, the review is interesting (and amusing) reading.

ARTIST: Tori Amos
TITLE: From the Choirgirl Hotel
LABEL: Atlantic (Time Warner)
GENRE: Pop/Folk/Contemporary classical
CHART ACTION: New release [Note: Boys For Pele debuted at No. 2 on the pop chart. Little Earthquakes sold more than 2 million copies, as did Under the Pink.]

Advisory: Chartwatch Critiques may contain explicit content. Album reviews are not intended as an endorsement by Focus on the Family. They are provided as a service to families to assist them as they set their own standards for acceptable music entertainment in their homes.

Brief Overview/Artist Profile:

Myra Ellen Amos was born on August 22, 1963, in Newton, North Carolina. This daughter of Edison Amos, a Methodist minister, could play the piano by the age of two-and-a-half, and was composing musical scores by the age of four. "I was a freak child who had really good rhythm," she recalls. "I'd be invited to parties simply because I played the piano." By age five, she was packed off to the prestigious Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. Expelled at the age of eleven, Amos spent the next several years playing Gershwin standards in the gay bars and hotel lounges of Washington, D.C. and Baltimore (accompanied by her father). She changed her name to Tori at age 21.

Somewhere around 1988, Amos was kidnapped and raped (or "nearly raped" according to some accounts). In the aftermath, according to the singer, she was laying on her kitchen floor for six months, moping and depressed. To "releas[e] her pain," she began writing the songs that would eventually become her debut Atlantic album, Little Earthquakes. One website biography describes her music this way: "Her dyed flamed red hair almost reflects the fire that seems to be burning inside her; the flames of anger, pain and frustration, all combining to be released in her emotionally draining songs." Rolling Stone (2/8/96) says: ". . . it's a bit hard to muddle through the enigmatic artifice and fanciful metaphors that Amos wraps around her songs like so much obscuring gauze . . ." The singer herself says, "Even the Christians who listen to my songs know that I'm chasing the dark side of myself and at the same time chasing the dark side of Christianity." [The Inquirer, 5/3/98]

Amos seems to chase the dark side of everything. In the liner notes of her last CD, one photograph shows her breast-feeding a pig. In an interview with Spin (3/96), Amos offers insight into her deeply disturbing theological beliefs, some of which pop up on this CD as it has on past projects: "I wanted to marry Lucifer even though I had a crush on Jesus," says Amos. "On some of my darkest days, [Lucifer] is the one that comes and gives me ice-cream. I feel such a sadness from him. I cry and feel his presence with his music. I feel like he comes and sits on my piano." More recently, Amos has described Christianity as, " 'A religion without a penis' " (USA Today 10/1/99).

Pro-social/Neutral Content:

"Hotel," while not "pro-social" appears to be free of objectionable material and contains a line that subtly denounces fame as empty ("You say he's the biggest thing there'll be this year/I guess that what I'm seeking . . . isn't here").

Objectionable Content:

Commenting on her Boys CD, Rolling Stone magazine noted that Amos takes aim at God and the church: "God" [a song from Amos' Pink album that asks the Heavenly Father, 'Do you need a woman to look after you?'] was just the opening salvo in the war on religion that Amos wages full-scale on Boys for Pele . . . This time around she's criticizing not just her own Christian heritage but most of the world's major religions." The opening song on Choirgirl ("Spark") carries on that same tradition although not as harshly. Reeling from a recent miscarriage (mentioned in the Inquirer article and in the lyric, "She couldn't keep baby alive"), Amos disturbingly concludes, "If the Divine master plan is perfection/Maybe next I'll give Judas a try/Trusting my soul to the ice cream assassin").

On "Cruel," Amos plugs dancing "with the Sufis", a holistic healing practice associated with an offshoot of Islam that embraces Eastern mysticism ("Dance with the Sufis, celebrate your top ten in the charts of pain"). In addition, she claims, "I can be cruel" while criticizing a person for smoking only "peeled Havanas" instead of cigarettes ("No cigarettes, only peeled Havanas for you").

The singer appears to be promoting a modified reincarnation on "Black Dove (January)", one that holds to the belief that past lives were lived, not here on earth, but on other planets ("They don't know you've already lived on the other side of the galaxy").

Although veiled, Amos on "Raspberry Swirl" apparently is promoting foreplay as a necessary part of lovemaking ("If you want inside her/Well, boy, you better make her raspberry swirl"). A gender bending line also appears ("Everybody knows I'm her friend/Everybody knows I'm her man").

Several problematic lines, including one applauding witchcraft and another giving a nod to marijuana, are included on "Jackie's Strength": "My bridesmaids getting laid" "So I show you some more and I learn what black magic can do" "Sleep-overs, Beene's got some pot/You're only popular with anorexia so I turn myself inside out" "If you love enough, you'll lie a lot"

On "iieee," Amos laments that there is no ultimate hope in life ("I know we're dying and there's no sign of a parachute/We scream in cathedrals/Why can't it be beautiful?/Why does there gotta be a sacrifice [or Sacrifice?]").

Apparently the "she" on "Liquid Diamonds" is God, a person in Amos' view who "still grants forgiveness" but views mankind as a cosmic game ("I hear she still grants forgiveness/Although I willingly forgot her/The offering is molasses/*Calling for my soul/At the corners of the world/I know she's playing poker with the rest").

On "She's Your Cocaine," as the title suggests, a woman is compared to the white powder in a relatively positive context. Transsexual themes are also central, highlighting a "boy" who shaves his legs and wears makeup ("She's your cocaine/She's got you shaving your legs/You can suck anything/But you know you wanna be me/Put on your makeup, boy/*She's your cocaine/Your Exodus laughing/*Your sign Prince of Darkness/Try Squire of Dimness").

On the suggestive "Northern Lad," women are advised to let go of relationships when they get "only wet because of the rain." The artist inexcusably utilizes the f-word ("It gets so f---ing cold").

Amos, on "Playboy Mommy," sings from the perspective of a war-era prostitute asking her dead daughter to be accepting of her lifestyle ("You got a playboy mommy/*I never was there . . . when it counts/*You seem . . . ashamed that I was a good friend of American soldiers/I'll say it loud here by your grave/*Don't judge me so harsh[ly], little girl").


Amos told Rolling Stone (11/17/94), "I think our generation loves our pain, and if you dare f, ing take it away from us, we're going to kill you. We like our pain. And we're packaging it, and we're selling it." On Choirgirl, Amos proves once again she means it. Distorted theology. Emptiness. Sexual innuendo. Christian bashing. All combine to make yet another disturbing Amos project to avoid.

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