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Time Out (US)
newspaper insert; Thousand Oaks, California
February 11, 1994

Amos feeling in the "Pink"

Under the Pink is Tori Amos' just-released album on Atlantic Records.

by Bruce Britt

Tori Amos stormed onto the music scene in 1992 and practically dared music lovers not to notice her. Her revealing album Little Earthquakes was chock-full of exquisite neoclassical melodies and images of rape, religion and sex.

Her live show was equally audacious, with the singer writhing at her piano like someone in the throes of sexual ecstasy. Amos raised the stakes on her just-released Atlantic Records album, Under the Pink, which touches on themes such as patriarchal religion, betrayal and sexuality.

"There's a claiming of empowerment on this record," Amos said. "There are moments of 'Oh God, not again'-sort of desperation, but it's always honest. I'm not mincing words."

Amos pushes the envelope on "God," the first single to be culled from the album. Combining jazzy piano with hip-hop rhythms, she takes a defiant stab at patriarchal religion: "God sometimes you just don't come through/do you need a woman to look after you?"

"The God that we've been taught on this planet is very male," Amos said. "Whether it's Christianity or Judaism or Islam, it's all the patriarch to me. I'm tired of 'almighty father.' This almighty father is not necessarily my concept of God."

And what does Amos' father -- a Methodist preacher -- think of this? "Some things don't get talked about too much," Amos said with a laugh. Though Amos' lyrics certainly raise eyebrows, Under the Pink also marks a musical progression. Where Little Earthquakes was all gorgeous piano doodling, the new album possesses a stronger rhythmic thrust. Songs like "Space Dog" feature jaunty beats somewhere between hip-hop and reggae.

"I developed the tunes and built (rhythms) to go around them," Amos explained. "Just the whole idea of having an acoustic piano with an industrial-type rhythm was very exciting to me. It was like bringing two different cultures together."

Born in North Carolina, Amos was plunking out tunes on the piano by age 3 and composing by 4. But her devoutly religious parents were disappointed when their young daughter became enamored of pop radio.

"All the church hymns were coming through one ear, and the Beatles were coming through the other," Amos said. "I thought that if these are my two choices in life, then I definitely want what's behind door No. 2."

Amos trained at the prestigious Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore before being dismissed for what she calls "irreconcilable differences." Having tired of formal training, she began playing bars and hotels in the Washington, D.C.-Baltimore area. During the '80s, she recorded demo tapes centered around her lilting voice and pensive keyboard playing, which she promptly mailed out to the major record labels.

"The letters came back saying this girl-and-her-piano thing isn't going to happen, and after seven years of rejection I began to believe them," Amos said. "They said 'do dance music, do metal, do whatever.' So I tried whatever." Whatever turned out to be a 1988 dance-rock album titled Y Tori Kant Read, which was recorded after Amos relocated to Los Angeles. The album was greeted indifferently by critics and consumers, and its commercial failure left Amos devastated.

"I was prepared to do anything to show my dad that I didn't have to become a concert pianist to make a living," Amos recalled. "Then he reads a review in Billboard magazine where they called me a bimbo." Relocating to London, Amos began composing the confessional songs that would make up the Little Earthquakes album. The resulting album possessed the introspection of John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band and Sinead O'Connor's I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got.

Initial critical response to Amos' new album has been ambivalent -- most love the music, but are baffled by the impressionistic lyricism. But being misunderstood is a price Amos seems willing to pay for the rewards of self-discovery.


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