Amos recently celebrated a professional milestone.
On July 30, Jezebel.com had the honor of hosting the world premiere of Amos’ video for “Promise,” a new single from her latest album, “Unrepentant Geraldines,” and her first major collaboration with her daughter Natashya.
It’s been 22 years since Amos released her groundbreaking debut album, “Little Earthquakes,” which enjoyed bounteous critical success though it peaked outside the Top 50 on the Billboard 200.
Singles such as “Silent All These Years,” “China,” “Winter” and “Crucify” garnered attention initially on alternative radio programs. Videos for the singles entered the rotation on MTV and Amos appeared on television programs such as “Late Night with David Letterman,” “CBS This Morning” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”
Since then, Amos has sold more than 12 million albums. She has played more than a thousand shows and has won numerous awards. Amos continues to be adored, picking up new fans along the way, romanced by her messages of empowerment, tenderness, acerbic assertiveness and her utterly peerless sound.
“Unrepentant Geraldines,” released by Mercury Classics in May, continues that tradition. It is the sound of a singer-songwriter returning with elevating vigor to the intimate songwriting craftsmanship that illuminated her as a unique talent two decades ago.
Synthpop rocker to raisin girl
Success didn’t come overnight for Tori Amos.
Prior to her debut solo album “Little Earthquakes,” Amos fronted the synthpop band Y Kant Tori Read from 1984-89. Before that, she spent years in classical training at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. She began singing in clubs and bars at age 13.
“Little Earthquakes” displayed Amos’ piano rock and raw, confessional poetry. The same year that album came out, Amos also released “Crucify,” a five-song EP featuring two tracks from “Little Earthquakes” – “Crucify” and “Winter” – as well as three cover songs. Amos’ adaptations of The Rolling Stones’ “Angie,” the Led Zeppelin song “Thank You” and, particularly, Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” began getting modest airplay on alternate and community radio stations.
Amos’ second studio album, “Under the Pink,” was released in 1994. The album peaked at No. 12 in the United States and debuted at No. 1 in the UK. The album produced four singles, including “God,” “Cornflake Girl,” “Pretty Good Year” and “Past the Mission,” a song which featured backing vocals by Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor.
On the UK singles chart, “Cornflake Girl” hit No. 4 and was considered her most successful international hit of the 1990s. The song includes references to “cornflake girls” – those who are narrow-minded and generally intolerant – and “raisin’ girls” – those who are more likely to embrace diversity. Amos defines herself in the first line, singing “Never was a cornflake girl.”
Amos next released “Boys for Pele” in 1996. This album included the singles “Caught a Lite Sneeze,” “Talula,” “Professional Widow” and “Hey Jupiter.” Dance remixes of “Professional Widow” reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play charts in the United States. “In the Springtime of His Voodoo” was also remixed and released as a dance single.
Amos’ other studio albums include “From the Choirgirl Hotel” (1998), “To Venus and Back” (1999), “Strange Little Girls” (2001), “Scarlet’s Walk” (2002), “The Beekeeper” (2005), “American Doll Posse” (2007), “Abnormally Attracted to Sin” (2009), “Midwinter Graces” (2009), “Night of Hunters” (2011), “Gold Dust” (2012) and her new release, “Unrepentant Geraldines,” 2014.
According to her biography provided by Mercury Records, Amos – known best for multifaceted, filigreed piano rock – has routinely experimented with different musical styles and instruments during the course of her career. Her studio albums range from the baroque dusk of “Boys for Pele,” to the electronic experimentalism of “From the Choirgirl Hotel” and “To Venus and Back.” Her successful concept album “American Doll Posse” was followed by the acclaimed Christmas record “Midwinter Graces.”.
In 2011, she returned to the classical world with the classically inspired song cycle “Night of Hunters.” 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 confronts the reality of life’s many challenges through her lyrics and she has addressed a variety of poignant subjects over the last two decades. As her biography states, she has famously put her own experiences – both positive and harrowing – into song in a style that is both intimately autobiographical but simultaneously approachable and inspirational.
Tori Amos’ “Unrepentant Geraldines” – her 14th studio album – was released in May.
A press release from Mercury Classics announcing the new album described “Unrepentant Geraldines” as “a return to her core identity as a creator of contemporary songs of exquisite beauty following a series of more classically-inspired and innovative musical projects of the last four years.”
The album is pop/rock in both content and feel, and one step further in the evolution of one of the most successful and influential artists of her generation. The album debuted in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200. The first single, “Trouble’s Lament,” was followed by “Promise,” the track on which Amos' daughter appears as a duet partner.
A pioneer across multiple platforms, Amos was the first major label artist to offer a single for download. She has had her songs turned into graphic novels and has produced groundbreaking videos throughout her career. Amos is also a noted humanitarian and co-founder of RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network), which is the United States’ largest anti-sexual assault organization.
Right now, Amos is an artist working at the height of her powers.
Despite her busy recording and touring schedule, in 2013, she saw the opening in London of “The Light Princess,” a stage musical co-written by Amos and developed with the National Theatre. Amos first had the idea for the project in 2008, inspired by the 1864 story by Scottish author George MacDonald.
Working with a large creative team and cast, she was energized by the experience – a creative renaissance that is apparent on “Unrepentant Geraldines.”
Given that her current tour will see her give 80 performances in cities around the world, Amos clearly has no intention of slowing down at the moment.
Those who catch the show at Ruth Eckerd Hall Aug. 22 can expect to see Amos in classic form: just her, her piano, her songs and her voice.