Tori Amos has an extraordinary fan base. It’s not unusual to hear her listeners
explain how a song changed their life, through its ability to alter perspective and
heal. Or even that a song might have saved their life. Since the release of her
debut Little Earthquakes 20 years ago in 1992, where she smashed apart
boundaries with her piano rock and raw, confessional poetry, Amos continues to
be adored, picking up new fans along the way, romanced by her messages of
empowerment, tenderness, acerbic assertiveness, and that utterly unique sound.
Even before her commercial breakthrough at 28, the enigmatic sides of her
personality were being realised: years of classical training at the Peabody
Conservatory in Baltimore, singing in clubs and bars from the age of 13 and, then,
fronting synthpop band Y Kant Tori Read. A taste for pushing limitations and
stretching her talent and imagination had already been planted.
Although her signature remains swelling, filigreed piano rock, she has
experimented with different musical styles and instruments over the last twenty
years, from the baroque dusk of Boys for Pele (1996), the electronic
experimentalism of From the Choirgirl Hotel (1998) and To Venus and Back
(1999) to her return to the classical world with the classically inspired song cycle
Night of Hunters (2011). She managed to achieve the rarely possible with a
successful concept album (American Doll Posse, 2007) and an acclaimed
Christmas record (Midwinter Graces, 2009) while retaining her artistic integrity.
Her 13th studio album, 2012’s Gold Dust, was a varied selection of works from
her songbook all newly arranged for vocals, piano and orchestra, recorded with
the Metropole Orchestra for Deutsche Grammophon/Mercury Classics.
Amos, never one to shy away from the reality of life in her lyrics, has tackled the
breadth of life's subjects over the last two decades. Although her writing is
confessional and she has famously put her own experiences, both positive and
harrowing, into song, the way she does it leaves the door open for the listener to
All of Amos’s albums have been layered with symbols, history and dimensions –
elements that make them stand out as true works of art. The Beekeeper (2005)
circles around topics of death, loss and adultery; Scarlet's Walk (2002) maps and
re-calibrates the American psyche after 9/11 seen through a prism of the writer's
Cherokee roots; Abnormally Attracted to Sin (2009) is accompanied by a set of
short films, each a visualisation of one of the albums songs, whilst Boys for Pele,
her first self-produced album, is a virile feminist totem through which she binned
the patriarchy and snatched back her independence.