Request Magazine
May 1998

Added April 7, 1998

Toriphile Trent Vanegas made me aware of two articles on Tori that appear in the May 1998 issue of Request Magazine, available on newstands and for free at Sam Goody, Musicland and Media Play stores. The articles are labeled "underrated" and "overrated". These articles talk about Tori in general and do not cover the new album.


Here's a brain teaser: Why isn't Tori Amos as famous and well respected as Elton John? They both pound a piano. They've both written terrifically catchy songs. They each possess a flamboyant stage presence and supernatural hair. And religious fanatics hate them equally. So why is John beloved, knighted, and critically fawned over even in his lackluster later years, while Amos, at the height of her powers as a songwriter and provocateur, is only allotted praise when it's tempered by suspicion?

Maybe it's because she's a little too passionate. She looks like she sprang from the head of Zeus, and she riders her piano bench like it's a mechanical bull. All this arrests attention for its naughty bits, rather than for Amos' considerable skill at the keyboard. But a Tori Amos concert quickly moves from watching to listening, as this consummate artist unreels a catalog packed with remarkable songs that drive in through your ears and park themselves permanently in your brain. She writes a hell of a tune. "Winter" is as reflective and evocative as John's "Daniel", "Cornflake Girl" is as rollicking as his "Bennie and the Jets", and Amo's version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" uncovered Kurt Cobain's sensitive side long before Nirvana Unplugged. Her voice is the tempered instrument of a preacher's daughter, but with the crackling high reaches, moody low growls, and devious laughter the church choir would shudder to hear.

Amos lets the good times roll with the bad, and her bad is as bad as it gets: God, parents, crappy lovers, and her real-life rapist chillingly and deservedly come apart in her eviscerating songs. Not everyone is tough enough to hang with her in these moments. But we can't always have happy songs. Just ask Elton John.--Amy Weivoda


Ever since Tori Amos' 1991 album, Little Earthquakes, critics have raved about and fans have swooned over the flame-haired singer/songwriter/pianist whose confessionals set to music sear with sensuality, honesty, and passion. But the waif who prided herself on pure expression and artistic spontaneity has lost her way. What was once titillating and provocative has become hackneyed and repetitive. The music that initially sent temblors through the industry has grown self-indulgent, pretentious, and predictable. From her hip-thrusting piano-bench antics to album-cover photos of her suckling swine, Amos' increasingly contrived image has become as soggy as an old bowl of cornflakes.

The tortured artiste isn't the only persona Amos has created for herself. Once, she expressed her inner voice with hair spray, eyeliner, and plenty of lip-stick. On her ill-fated 1988 debut, Y Kant Tori Read, Amos pouted and posed with a hard-rockin' fervor. Certainly an artist can be forgiving for succumbing to outside pressures early in one's career. But why did she emphatically state in her liner notes for Y Kant Tori Read that it was an album she'd always wanted to make? To her credit, Amos eventually carved a more suitable niche for herself. And as long as she keeps pumping her piano, nursing farm animals, and littering her lyrics with erotic rhymes, those who are frightened of Patti Smith, not savvy enough for Kate Bush, and too old for the Spice Girls will savor her every utterance. Why mess with success? Besides, she's got nowhere to run. Where would she go now that Madonna has cornered the techno market?--Jennifer Schwartz

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