Top 10 Tori Amos Songs of All Time

Tori AmosTori Amos is an industry powerhouse. As a songwriter and performing artist she’s contributed 15 solo studio full lengths, 12 soundtracks, three greatest hit compilations, two live albums and countless bootlegs to the listening world. That’s not to mention the entourage of covers, b-sides and unreleased tracks which frequently make an appearance on her stage.

From 80s synth pop chanteuse to a classical composer, it’s no wonder this musically diverse pianist has touched the hearts of thousands of music fans. She’s emotionally intelligent and has used this gift to explore many different genres throughout her career. No matter which direction her head is turned in, Amos always seems to be accomplished in both business and musicianship.

Tori Amos first hit stores in 1988 with Y Kant Tori Read. Now approaching her 20th anniversary as a working artist, her trailblazing career will continue with her latest album Native Invader, due out 8th September 2017 via Decca Records. What better way to celebrate such a superior musical force than by ranking her 10 best songs of all time?

Read on to find out our Top 10 Tori Amos songs of all time:

"Cooling”

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This heartbreaking song is an underrated gem in Tori Amos’ back catalogue. Its weighty emotion perfectly captures the breakdown of a relationship and what feels like life-itself for the singer. This harrowing effect is achieved through characteristically allusive lyrics and a voice that would melt stone given half the chance. For that reason, it deserves far more attention from fans and the artist herself. Despite the craftmanship of the song it was strangely shelved for decades before getting committed to record. After a series of misadventures “Cooling” was finally featured on To Venus and Back in 1999.

“Tear in Your Hand”

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The production on “Tear in Your Hand” immediately gives away the release date of Tori Amos’ solo debut album, Little Earthquakes, which came out in 1992. Nostalgic and radio-friendly, it uses a buoyant keyboard melody which echoes the 1980s electro pop scene that first launched Tori’s pop career, influencing her former band Y Kant Tori Read. Best of all, the song’s lyrics include the bizarre accusation that her lover is leaving her because she “and Charles Manson like the same ice cream.” Atlantic Records chose to include the track at the end of Little Earthquakes as a lasting reminder of Amos’ arrival on the scene, and we can’t blame them for doing so.

“Pretty Good Year”

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“Pretty Good Year” is a beautifully low-key track that melt your heart – at least until 2:13, when you’ll wish you had turned the volume down on your headphones. The abrupt loud/quiet dynamic is a recurring feature on 1994’s sophomore album, Under the Pink. The album is full of different textures and soundscapes, and while “Pretty Good Year” is no exception to the rule, its lyrics help it to stand out. The track at first appears innocent because of its fairy tale vocal, but there’s more to Greg’s “birthday pen” than that description would imply. The theme of addressing taboo subjects such as masturbation is delicately introduced on “Pretty Good Year”, but that’s just another reason to love the song.

“IIEEE”

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In 1996, From the Choirgirl Hotel presented a clear indication of Tori Amos’ new, experimental direction. Her potential to sidetrack into previously unexplored territory was subtly hinted at on Boys for Pele two years earlier. The ambition was clearly realised for her fourth studio album, and embodied on “IIEEE”. The track leads the pack with jagged, rhythmic percussion and a bridge that exemplifies the lyrics: “We scream in cathedrals, why can’t I be beautiful?” Rumour has it the song addresses God as an arsonist, which wouldn’t go beyond the artist’s remit. Amos herself admits the song, “Came out of a sense of loss and sacrifice.”

“Talula”

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It’s not surprising that “Talula” - a single from her third studio album, Boys for Pele – made its way onto the soundtrack of blockbuster movie Twister. With the lyrics, “He’s chasing tornadoes, I’m just waiting calmly,” the match was made in heaven. But “Talula” was a landmark for Tori Amos even before its Hollywood venture. She released the track independently in 1996 and following chart success it was remixed and renamed “Talula (The Tornado Mix)”, ready for a reissue of Boys for Pele in 1997. This is a rare example of Amos conceding to a major label marketing move. Maybe because of this, “Talula” is often overshadowed by fellow hit singles “Cornflake Girl” and “Caught a Lite Sneeze”.

“Marianne”

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Another song from Boys for Pele, “Marianne” is a delicate, epic ballad that clocks in at over four minutes long. Its lyrics are unusually frank and address Amos’ experiences of miscarriage, which she sadly suffered several of throughout the 1990s. The song itself is named after and sung to a would-be child of the artist, with the disturbingly blunt inference that she was the “quickest girl in the frying pan.” Shockingly honest and barrier-breaking for its time, the heartbreaking subject is underpinned by a sweeping orchestral arrangement similar to that of “Yes, Anastasia” from Under the Pink. It’s a moving dedication to Amos’ personal sorrow and her connection with millions of women around the world.

“Cloud on My Tongue”

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Domestic violence is the name of the game on “Cloud on My Tongue”, another subject with which Tori Amos is sadly personally acquainted. With the exception of a few crescendos, the instrumentation is characteristically unassuming of a song that deals with such a difficult subject, and Tori plays the contrast extremely well. Singing in metaphors and using poetic license to describe the world around her doesn’t prevent Amos from deftly describing the what it’s like to be abused physically and emotionally by someone you love. Another essential contribution to a conversation that, in 1994, was only just beginning in the music world.

“Ireland”

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Following a long career with Atlantic Records, Tori Amos signed to Epic Records in 2002 and markedly changed her sound. The Beekeeper, from which “Ireland” is taken, was not the first full length the document this change, but it is the best. “Ireland” has a care free, modern approach that was missing from previous releases. Some might criticise the lyric’s simple narrative (which largely revolved around Tori “driving in my Saab on my way to Ireland”) but there’s something to be said for the chameleon way in which she incorporates aspects of gospel and Americana into the song.

“Space Dog”

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Who says you can’t dance to a Tori Amos song? Okay, it would be a funky kind of dance if you tried. However “Space Dog” nevertheless carries a bass line that accommodates a gentle jig, sitting somewhere between The Pink Panther soundtrack and a chart hit. That’s before the chorus breaks, and we’re thrown back into the delicate world of Under the Pink, the album from which the song is taken. The contrast is magnificent and it makes “Space Dog” a must-hear for any Tori Amos newbie.

“Rattlesnakes”

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Tori Amos may have penned more original songs that you can count before you go to sleep, but she’s recorded some brilliant covers, too. In fact the pianist made a career out of singing other peoples’ songs in the late 90s, which undoubtedly influenced her decision to record Strange Little Girls in 2001. This cover album included 12 classic songs sung from the perspective of their female protagonist. “Rattlesnakes”, the central track, was originally recorded and released by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions in 1984, and Tori sings it like its her own.

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2 Responses to “Top 10 Tori Amos Songs of All Time”

  1. Rob 23/09/2017 at 2:14 am #

    Cloud on my tongue has nothing to do with domestic violence – where did that come from?
    Cooling was first realeased in 98 (spark b side Ltd edition) just 2 yrs after being written and recorded in the pele sessions. Not decades.
    Where on earth did you get masturbation from in pretty good year?
    Marianne is about a dead friend in high school, not her lost child.
    Thanks,
    tori nerd

    • Tiffany Daniels 23/09/2017 at 2:51 pm #

      Hey Rob,

      Re Cloud on my Tongue: I read about it in an interview with Tori where she referenced abuse. Up for interpretation though, obviously, so I don’t think anyone can say the meaning behind a song is ‘wrong’.

      Re Cooling: my apologies, I was going off the information Tori gave from stage in the recording of “Cooling” for To Venus and Back. I hadn’t realised it was a b-side previously (and by the sounds of it, Tori had also forgotten!).

      Re Pretty Good Year: “Greg he writes letters, with his birthday pen, sometimes he’s aware that they’re drawing him in.”

      Re Marianne: mixed meaning here I think. She’s referenced her childhood friend but also claimed the underlying topic is the miscarriages she suffered throughout the 90s.

      Tiffany/Also a Tori nerd

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