One of the worst feelings a music fan can experience is a let-down by a favourite artist. When you’ve come to expect a quality offering every single time, only to receive the musical equivalent of No-Name bland spaghetti, it hurts a music junkie. When said artist has created music that has quite literally saved your life… it’s even worse.
Oh, Tori Amos. Tori and I became fast friends circa 1998. From The Choirgirl Hotel is my favourite album in the world, by anyone. The more of her back catalogue my greedy little ears consumed, the more entranced I became. Even now, as I write this, I blast her debut Little Earthquakes because today, I am in need of comfort. When I need comfort, she always comes to mind. There are some who criticize, who state that enjoying every album by an artist implies a lack of ability to critically evaluate the work. I disagree; if that were the case, I would like all of her albums “ZOMG the same!!!!” and be unable to choose a favourite or two. However, as I ventured into Toriland, I found the most intriguing thing about the woman’s music to be her ability to go somewhere different every time… and still impress me. The variety is what appeals to me. And so I merrily frolicked through Toriland, from her earthquakes to her cross-country walk…
And then, The Beekeeper happened.
From as far back as her 1999 release To Venus and Back, fans had been insisting she’d lost it, that they wanted ‘another Pele’ or ‘another Earthquakes’. I couldn’t understand that mentality at all. I would be bored with album after album of the same formula. I rank Scarlet’s Walk as my third favourite album of hers, and it was torn apart by many on release. But then, The Beekeeper happened. And I began to understand the feeling of being ‘let down’, the thoughts that Tori had ‘lost it’. I didn’t have internet access during the pre-album insanity and thus, I heard no clips, no leaks. I stumbled out to the store on release to buy the album, scurrying home eager to hear 18 new tracks. I was having a very bad week that week, and it seemed fitting to me that Tori was ‘coming through just in time’. I put the disc in and pressed play.
Parasol was great. I loved it. But then, Sweet The Sting… BAD. But I reassured myself; after all, I hate other Tori songs. One song? No big deal. But the album continued, and while there were hits (Witness, Barons of Suburbia, General Joy, Hoochie Woman and Marys of the Sea)… there were so many misses (Sweet The Sting, Jamaica Inn, Mother Revolution, Ireland…). This was rather unlike a Tori album. The CD ended, and instead of immediately chanting, ‘Again!’… I sat down, and quietly said, “Oh. Hmm. Maybe I should listen again?” No number of listens however made it okay. I liked certain songs, but overall… The album was just not good. Over time, some of the tracks have grown on me to the point of like; a couple have earned love. But I still find 1/3 of the album to be complete wretch, which just did not happen with Tori Amos albums. No no no. It was official: I felt let down, and Tori no longer had carte blanche ‘buy without hearing’ status.
It’s new album season in Toriland, and the news has been slow coming. I’ve been anxious, but willing to give the woman another go. After all, one semi-flop since 1991 is REALLY not that bad. But when my friend texted me today at work to tell me the new album title was American Doll Posse, I admit it: I became anxious, and envisioned the Pussycat Dolls. I feared an 0304 album (I’m sorry Jewel, but NO. One good song does not a good album make.) And then…. I came home to the picture. The beautiful wonderful delicious picture. And to this I say: faith restored. The title now makes sense, and is taking on dark tones I am quite enjoying.
There is so much at work here in this picture! How to dissect it all? The following initial thoughts are bastardized from a forum post of mine earlier…
Some have already been expressing the opinion that this looks very SLG in terms of Tori’s look. I think that’s the point; she’s taking aim at specific characters in society, from my gut reaction to the title and photo. I imagine the entire CD booklet will be similar pictures, either of this character or others… Dear Tori: Please wear clothes like this on tour. Thanks and love, Me. I miss 1998 glam Tori. If you examine the image on her hand, she’s written the word ‘shame’. Someone noticed that it’s actually written out as SHaME, which got me thinking: why emphasize the ‘a’? Think of The Scarlet Letter… a great big ol’ A on a woman’s chest…. The a is distinct, only it’s reversed; the word shame may be ‘said’ in the image with sarcasm. The bible is used to shame women by some; in the other hand, she has the word ‘shame’, with this obvious distinction. Shame (Bible) versus ‘shame’ (as in, I ought to be ashamed, but I’m really not)… Considering the visuals, I wouldn’t be surprised by this being at play.
The Desperate Housewives meets apocalypse description being bantered about fits perfectly for me. The picture perfect house is marred by the absence of blue skies and what appears to be ashes on the roof. The perfect housewife is marred by the blood on her legs (which can really go in multiple ways: menstruation, de-virginizing – ties nicely with shame- or rape/violence – also ties nicely). The slight tilt eyeward of her gaze sorta clinches the apocalypse vibe for me. The Housewife is failing to be perfect; she ‘should be ashamed’ of herself for failing to live up to expectation. The suburban perfect housewives and the world in which they live is exposed and falling apart, revealing its lies – its shame. I also feel as though the image of the two items in her hands is like a weighing of scales: the Bible seems to be laid upon her hand, balanced as opposed to held. Her hands are held such that the Bible has a slightly heavier ‘weight’. Her pose is almost Christ-like in terms of her hands. I LOVE it. The European dates look to be the first in the touring… Starting this tour in Rome feels perfect to me. She’s attacking the church and the standards it sets. Beautiful! I pray (ha!) that the album content makes the Vatican squirm.
This music junkie will of course have to reserve final judgement until the actual clips surface, but given the comments made by Tori and her ‘posse’ (you knew I’d go for that one), I think I can say this and be pretty damn certain: Welcome back, Tori. I missed you bitch.