I’m at a birthday party for a young, startlingly successful female writer. As I move through conversation in a huge Brooklyn loft, I keep trying to talk about Tori Amos. People sit on windowsills, all cigarettes and weed-smoke and fern-y, people lounge on velvet sofas and they all squint when I ask: Did you know that Tori Amos just came out with a new album? Did you know that Little Earthquakes was released 20 years ago?
Ash-the-cigarette. No one cares. When I bring up Fiona Apple, people have more to say. They had heard about her being arrested for possession of hashish. People had read that profile a male journalist wrote about hanging out with Fiona, the one that had stuff about her reading books on child rearing and about how he got to smoke her hashish.
But there were things in my head that I wanted to say. Things like… this year Fiona put out an album that Pitchfork gave a 9.0. “Best New Music.” The site has never reviewed a Tori Amos album. When Fiona emerged in 1997 every music journalist had to mention Tori when writing about her. But I guess the Tori vs. Fiona debate is no longer relevant. And I want to ask questions like…What does it mean to age as a woman in the public eye? As an artist?
Why can’t Tori have the come-back that Fiona is enjoying?
Or maybe “enjoying.” I realize I might be going off on a tangent here but y’know. Fiona has been described as looking bony and miserable and all feral-deer-like on this tour. The same as when she first came out. Did you know that when Fiona was signed, she had never played a live show or even played with other musicians? The record company wasn’t even sure what she wanted to sound like. Her manager took her record shopping and she picked out Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald and hip hop, things like Wu Tang, Biggie.
Fiona was 19 when Tidal was finished but before the album could come she needed a single. In order to please the record company, Fiona wrote “Criminal.” It took her five minutes. And then there was the video, Fiona is her underwear, underweight and pouty. She gave it to them.
Has Tori ever given them what they wanted? I have realized by talking with people at hip Brooklyn parties that the name Tori Amos elicits a specific cringe. A cringe that says if Fiona Apple is female self destruction glamorized (all anorexia and cutting) Tori Amos is closer to bulimia. The Courage to Heal. The things you are supposed to hide. Tori is a Survivor not a Victim. Tori is not sexualized.
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