(Under the Pink, 1994)
Amo’s sophomore release begins with the delicate piano notes that characterize this superior Tori song “Pretty Good Year”. The origins of this composition are rooted in a fan letter that Amos’ father forced her to read and respond to. The letter was sent from a boy (presumably named Greg) who explained to the singer that his girlfriend left him for his best friend. Amos responded with this song, and since then EVERY Tori fan has tried to relay sad stories to her in hopes that they are immortalized by her in one of her tunes. The song itself is a touching number meant to calm and empathize. To love Amos is to know that she always does her best to give back to her fans. She knows they’re loyal and committed to her, and although her fans may not always be receptive to how she’s trying to give back, her ability to empathize is always appreciated. “Pretty Good Year” is the epitome of Amos’ connection to her fans as a nurturing compassionate musical force: “And Greg he writes letters with his birthday pen / Sometimes he’s aware that they’re drawing him in / Lucy was pretty / Your best friend agreed / Still, a pretty good year”. It’s her way of calming, with an understanding that what you’ve been going through is difficult. You feel Amos’ love for you throughout every aspect of this song, like a good old friend telling you everything is going to be ok, even during the dramatic full-band crashes in the bridge where she screams “What’s it going to take / ‘Til my baby’s alright!”
(Little Earthquakes, 1992)
Although Amos has mentioned on occasion that From the Choirgirl Hotel is her favourite album, it’s undeniable that her solo debut Little Earthquakes is internationally recognized as a seminal record for almost all female solo artists. Hell, it’s a seminal record for any artist who understands music to be a purging catharsis of introspection of the self. This record is well-revered and consistently shows up in many “best of” lists. Regardless of the high praise Little Earthquakes receives, this album is a beautiful work of mastered artistry, which is best exemplified by this magnificent song. This track, as well as my number one pick, are rather interchangeable, but I’ve placed “Silent All These Years” second simply because the content of this number deals more specifically with finding your voice in spite of the interpersonal relationships you find yourself in, and is not as holistic as the number one track. However, it is still superbly poignant, especially as she sings: “Years go by / Will I still be waiting for somebody else to understand / Years go by / If I’m stripped of my beauty and the orange clouds / Raining in my head / Years go by / Will I choke on my tears ‘til finally there is nothing left / One more casualty, you know we’re too easy, easy, easy”. It’s a simple sentiment, one intelligently presented.
(Little Earthquakes, 1992)
This is not my favourite Tori Amos song, but I recognize that it is the best. What drew people to Amos in the first place was the cataclysmic energy she exuded in her examination of the self. Although she has done some back-pedaling as of late, explaining that this album wasn’t as personal as everyone believes it to be, there is no denying the genuine sincerity of her songwriting and performance throughout this record—none more so than on “Winter”. The song is an epic Tori song running just over five minutes long and detailing her struggle to love who she is, and not be afraid to move on with her life outside of the comfort and security that her family has given her. It’s a coming of age song, beautifully orchestrated and astutely written. She begins as a child, detailing her love of winter and her father, as he tries to explain to her how to be her own person, not reliant on his care and protection. Each verse chronicles a stage in Amos’ life, until the last verse where she fears that all the life lessons her father has tried to instill in her, have been learned too late: “Hair is grey and the fires are burning / So many dreams on the shelf / You say I wanted you to be proud of me / I always wanted that myself / He says: ‘When you gonna make up your mind?’ / ‘When you gonna love you as much as I do?’ / ‘When you gonna make up your mind?’ / ‘Cause things are gonna change so fast’ / ‘All the white horses have gone ahead’ / I tell you that I’ll always want you near / You say that things change, my dear”. The song is a summation of the fears we have as adolescents and adults, trying to cling to the past and afraid to move forward with our lives. It is why we love Tori Amos.