Cornflake Girl, Interrupted

25 years ago today, Tori Amos released her classic third album Under the Pink

Tori Amos Under the Pink, Atlantic 1994

Tori Amos was already considered a singular talent by the time her sophomore set Under the Pink was released in the U.S. on February 1, 1994.

Her major label debut, Little Earthquakes, had preceded it and shook things up considerably after independent debut, Y Kant Tori Read, went virtually unnoticed. Little wonder then that Under the Pink had a lot to live up to. Amos’ songs betrayed her sense of self, but also evoked important issues, such as domestic violence and the emotions that accompany one’s loss of innocence and the coming of age.

Amos also offered a genuinely specific sound, flowing yet elusive piano-based melodies that reflected a somewhat reticent personality, a woman whose vulnerability could make her appear severely stricken at times. This writer recalls seeing her in concert and watching as she became so emotionally overwrought that she literally had to leave the stage. When she eventually returned, she coaxed a female friend out from the wings to sit on the stage beside her, holding her hand as she worked her way through the remainder of her songs.

Pink-era Tori

That was all part of her persona, a fragile nymph who conveyed her music with a patchouli-laced pastiche — part Joni Mitchell, part Kate Bush, part shadowy chanteuse, all wrapped in the shroud of her precious piano-based laments. The template varied, from the soft and subtle sounds of “Pretty Good Year,” “Baker Baker,” “Icicle”and “Bells For Her,” to the chaotic cacophony of “God” and “Past the Mission,” the harrowing happenstance providing the common bond.


Still, the album’s oddest entry was clearly “Yes, Anastasia,” a number supposedly inspired by Amos’ claim that Russian Czar Nicholas II’s daughter, Anastasia Romanova, came to her while she was in a sound check. Amos said she was ill at the time, but Romanova spoke to her and insisted she write a song about her plight because her story would resonate with Amos’ own.

Hmmm.

 

Granted, Tori is a sensitive soul, and while she may not have been the first female artist to speak so directly from a woman’s point of view, she certainly did her share to advance that perspective. Under the Pink is a forceful and forthright testament to tenacity and determination, and the fact that it emerged during an era where grunge still maintained its grip is significant as well. Amos’ dark and despondent tomes may have been illuminated by a keyboard caress, but they still spoke to the damaged psyches of America’s youth. While she didn’t necessarily howl with the same level of anguish and despair, the torment was clearly there. The difference was that her audiences had to lean in and listen.

Under The Pink magazine ad

Apparently they did. Under the Pink went on to sell some two million copies and earn a place on many a critic’s list of the most influential albums of the ‘90s. It propelled her to even greater heights later on, establishing her as a superstar that blazed a trail for others — Lady Ga Ga most notably among them. Amos had ambition and the work she created reflected that to the fullest.

 

 

Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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