Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
This is Tori Amos. I have loved Tori Amos with something fierce and passionate, and I admit this as a guy who isn’t trying to establish his sensitivity credentials to impress women.
Have I ever? Yes and no. I may have, on occasion, in high school and college, openly stated my affection for Tori’s music in the hopes of gaining a mutual talking point with a particularly attractive member of the opposite sex. This never led to anything, but I was by no means a smooth individual to begin with.
It was, I will insist, Love. It was beyond mere idealization. It went beyond admiration for her work, it cut to something closer to my core. Those of you who have seen her live may understand. You watch her straddle the bench and watch her fingers meld with the keys of her piano and are rapt to the communion of it. The impossible intimacy of hundreds of people at once; it is the intimacy of one woman and her mass hypnosis.
It was, I will insist, Love.
I do not know what did it, if it was any one thing.
It might be the hair. I’m an absolute sucker for redheads.
It might be the eyes, which I once read described as the color of “raindrops,” and I have been unable to consider any other adjectives suitable since.
It might be the smile, which always seemed so wry and coquetteish, a smile that was part smirk. A smile that was both warm and yet too worldly to fall into the treacly trap of being “warm,” of being “comfortable.” A smile of mischief, of trickery, a smile that let you know something truly devilish had just occurred and maybe-I-know-something-maybe-I-don’t.
It is almost definitely the music. I keep rediscovering that. Thought processes set to strange sonic experiments, intertwined with the swooping crystalline lilt of her voice. Mercurial and occasionally impenetrable, occasionally deceptive; her music reminds me of storm clouds in the shape of creatures you won’t recognize until you dream of them later.
Much has been written of her ethereal qualities, of her de facto role as rock’s Faery Queen, but there is more to it than that. Yes, she channels Titania, but not the whitewashed Titania of conservative interpretations of Shakespeare–her Titania is not the unreachable spirit, hovering above mortals and only consorting with a donkey-faced actor because she doesn’t know any better. Her Titania ravishes Bottom and enjoys every moment of it, her Titania in fact remembers everything and feels no revulsion after the fact, instead chalking it up to an unusual life experience. In quiet moments, she emits a placid smile of satisfaction and refuses to tell Oberon what she finds so interesting. She enjoys his frustration. She takes what should have been a fatally humbling experience and makes it her weapon against those who wronged her, because that is the character of a Queen.
Because that is the sort of rape survivor Tori Amos is, the sort of person who took a horrible event in her life and transformed it into “Me and a Gun,” into the RAINN national network, who took violence against her body and soul and transformed it into power.
And transformed that power into art.
She intimidates me. She challenges me. Her haunting, cryptic “Sister Janet” remains the only song that inspired me to write a short story based upon what I took directly from the lyrics; a piece called Retribution that only a few people in the world still own a copy of and I am not one of them.
I keep taking long separations from her albums and then coming back to them, wondering at that time why it was I ever let them go at all. I have tried to convince myself, perhaps, that Tori was a part of my Tortured Black Teenage Years, the music I listened to while I contemplated both eternal adoration of uninterested classmates, and suicide. That I had outgrown her music and no longer had need of it.
This was incorrect. I did not outgrow her music, I simply grew into somebody who was now capable of understanding it on a different and deeper level. I find that songs I have known for years were actually waiting for me to arrive, that they were never where I thought they were when I first heard them.
Ten years from now I expect to discover the same thing. This is the marvel of Tori Amos. This is her magic.
This is why I Love her.