Tori Amos: ‘Playboy Mommy’

Tori AmosMy heart breaks for Tori Amos whenever I hear this song. For two reasons. The first should be obvious to anyone who pays the minimum amount of attention to lyrics. Yes, it’s biographical.

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The second reason probably requires some explanation. I was tempted to file this post in the ‘Classic tracks’ category, but I have to admit that at this point it doesn’t look like she’ll enter the hall of fame. I still root for her because she was one of my heroes in the 90s, along with Peter Gabriel, Sinéad O’Connor, Sting, Beck and other great singer-songwriters I was religiously listening to in my teens. Most of them held onto their cult status quite successfully, so I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of when talking about their influence on my life. But not Tori Amos.

She’s been really hard to like for the past decade, so much so that it’s begun to undermine her legacy as a composer and performer. These days, she’s very much frowned upon, and not without reason. This beautiful woman, who once was the lovable eccentric character breathing life into the most unusual lyrics, has become a caricature of the common misconception about the term ‘singer-songwriter’. And that’s not good.

She was always prone to overact the parts she wrote to herself, but most of the time the play itself was superb. Her early albums, especially ‘Boys for Pele’, were exquisite collections of very diverse and original songs, that could support such a larger-than-life alt-pop persona. But as the quality of Tori’s writing started to decline after the Atlantic years, this persona got more and more annoying. I have to admit that, despite having been a real fan, I cannot stand what she does anymore. Her act lacks substance. And that’s the second reason.

I’m really sorry for writing all this. ‘Playboy Mommy’ still moves me every time. I’d like to praise her as one of the best. But she’s not anymore.

One comment

  • November 24, 2013 - 8:29 pm | Permalink

    Totally agree. I adore Tori! Named my favorite kitty after her in the 90’s & named my daughter Anastasia after her song. But her music went downhill, I don’t like to admit it but its true. Her early records are masterpieces.

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