October 21, 2011

"I felt that women betraying each other was something I was investigating at the time."

Said Tori Amos, explaining the origin of the song "Cornflake Girl":
The idea of that, and how quote-unquote friends can really hurt each other deeply, and the idea that the enemy is out there somewhere, but really, where we get hurt usually comes from people we are close to. So “Cornflake Girl” really was about two women, that one felt that the other had really betrayed her.
The inspiration came from Alice Walker’s book "The Temple Of My Familiar":
In the book, they talked about how young girls would be taken to a place for female circumcision, whether it was out in the desert of Africa or what have you, usually by somebody they trusted. A mother, a grandmother, somebody they loved, and of course the person that was doing this to them, taking them to the whatever you want to call it, the hacker or the mutilator, thought that they were doing the right thing, or else the girl wouldn’t be able to get married. They justify their betrayal, and that was really what prompted the idea of “Cornflake Girl.”
But wait, says Adam (at Throwing Things), what about that story about how "she beat out Sarah Jessica Parker to star in an ad for Kellogg's Just Right cereal?"



Just Right cereal... female genital mutilation... it's hard to imagine a greater disparity in sources for a song. And yet... everything goes into the mix, doesn't it? You read books about all sorts of drastic and dramatic occurrences and your own life ticks on with its miniature but important-to-you events, it all swirls around in your poet-brain, and out pop a song (and, over the years, out pop stories about whether the song came from).

This isn't journalism. It's art, and the only test is: it's a great song.

33 comments:

edutcher said...

A friend of one of The Blonde's nephews says that girls in school add drama.

Maybe, but all that estrogen really complicates things.

Scott M said...

Tori was absolutely en fuego until Boys For Pele (which wasn't all that bad, but not up to her earlier work). Under The Pink was one of early 90's staples that I remember a lot of people into grudge were also listening to. It was an exceptional period of time musically.

Scott M said...

grudge = grunge (lol)

Sixty Grit said...
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rhhardin said...

Betraying is letting loose.
The tame caged fox is betrayed
To the hounds.


(Vicki Hearne)

madAsHell said...

Who is Tori Amos??

Paul said...

"it's a great song"

That is some lame pretentious shit there. You need a musical education but I'm afraid it's too late. Ah well you have a good gig at UW so all is not lost. But if I woke up tomorrow and heard music like you do I'd put a gun to my head.

Palladian said...

Tori Amos still makes me cringe after all these years.

Every self-satisfied chick with artistic pretensions that I met back in the 90s loved this piano-pounding mediocrity.

She's even more frightening now that she's had her face pulled taut; she looks like some terrible hybrid of Kate Pierson and Cher.

Ron said...

Why the Sarah Palin tag?

Michael E. Lopez said...

Scott-

BfP was sort of an early nadir... but Choirgirl Hotel is probably her best album, and some of the songs on Venus are really outstanding (I'm particularly thinking of Lust and Glory of the 80's). Venus had too many stinkers on it to be a great album though.

Posse and Beekeper are... inconstant at best, though.

Scott M said...

Posse and Beekeper are... inconstant at best, though.

Good points, all. I listened through Posse a couple of times, but never bothered with Beekeeper. One of the great things about Rhapsody vs iTunes, though, is that I can :) I'll do that this weekend, now that you've mentioned it.

Lauderdale Vet said...

I met her briefly in the early nineties, got a picture of us to keep as a souvenir. Yay! I told her that her Under the Pink album cover reminded me of Horton Hears a Who, which seemed to delight her. She hadn't thought of it that way.

Chris Althouse Cohen said...

All her albums are at least worth listening to and have some strong songs on. She has, in my opinion, five great albums: Little Earthquakes, Under the Pink, Boys for Pele, From the Choirgirl Hotel, and Scarlet's Walk. Of those, Pele is the least consistent. To Venus and Back, Night of Hunters (the new one), and American Doll Posse are very good but not at the level of the other ones I listed (Posse could have been excellent if it they had edited it down to the best 12-15 tracks instead of including 20+). The Beekeeper is ok but overlong and forgettable. And then her covers album Strange Little Girls is very inconsistent, ranging from some great covers (New Age, Enjoy the Silence) to one of the worst covers of all time (Happiness Is A Warm Gun).

Chris Althouse Cohen said...
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Chris Althouse Cohen said...

Pardon my grammar in that post. I knew I was forgetting an album, she put out another one called Abnormally Attracted To Sin a couple years ago. That one was ok, but I only really have strong feelings for three of it's ~20 songs (Give, Curtain Call, and Maybe California). Then she put out a holiday album called Midwinter Graces, which is the only Tori album I never listened to.

Kensington said...

I always thought the way she straddled her piano bench and played sideways was really sexy.

Scott M said...

I just looked her up on Rhapsody to sample some of the more recent work I've not heard. HOLY SHIT she looks AWFUL.

Lucius said...

Tori Amos did a Cornflakes commercial?

All these girls in religious households doing 'musical careers' . . . .

I used to play the early albums quite a bit, but this was already after her peak fame of the earlier 90s. Like post-"Debut" (haha) Bjork, I wish she would've militated herself into a bit more formal rigour.

"Professional Widow" is my Nina Totenberg theme song, for what it's worth.

Scott M said...

I was going to go see the tour she did where it was just her and the piano. It sounded vaguely interesting until I talked to someone who had already seen it in another metro. They told me to skip it saying it "wore thin" quickly.

Ann Althouse said...

"Why the Sarah Palin tag?"

Bad autofill... always the reason for an inappropriate tag. I never made a Sarah Jessica Parker tag... and I'm not starting now.

Alex said...

Tori Amos' music is really great for those gurrls with serious grudges against men and Christianity. It's practically masturbatory material.

Alex said...

Every self-satisfied chick with artistic pretensions that I met back in the 90s loved this piano-pounding mediocrity.

She's arguably a great pianist for the genre...

jamboree said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ron said...

"Why the Sarah Palin tag?"

Bad autofill... always the reason for an inappropriate tag. I never made a Sarah Jessica Parker tag... and I'm not starting now.


Ha ha! I ran around like that proverbial headless chicken! Tori Amos was in Wasilla? Bristol got caught listening to 'Little Earthquakes' in that special way?

There could be a treasure hunt kind of game on a blog through the use of tags....

Kensington said...

@jamboree, I suspect the truth is more innocent than that. She straddled the piano bench so that she could face the audience as she played.

The fact that it was hot was probably incidental, which made it even hotter.

Methadras said...

This looks like a commercial white people would like. It has yuppie douche bag written all over it.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

Always loved Tori's amazing individuality and creativity. A friend turned me on to her in the early 90's.

Great video! Hadn't seen her in awhile...she's really good.

wv - flimonme

Don't Tread 2012 said...

Sixty Grit said

'Grudge rock - where can one hear such music? ;^)"

Hit Me With Your Best Shot - Pat Benatar

Love Stinks - J. Geils

I Hate Myself For Loving You - Joan Jett

You Oughta Know - Alanis Morrisette

Simon said...

"This isn't journalism. It's art, and the only test is: it's a great song."

It really is. That album was terrific. In January 1996, the first single off of Boys for Pele came out, and I was enraptured from the moment that I heard it on the radio—I was already a huge Mike Oldfield fan and it had the same feel—so I went out and bought the album, and that was terrific, so I went out and bought Little Earthquakes, and that was absolutely fucking brilliant. So I went out and bought Under the Pink, and it was really challenging. It wasn't something I was quite able to absorb, but what kept bringing me back was the arresting groove of Cornflake Girl and the brilliant, spiralling piano solo that you won't hear in the single version. And because these were the days of cassettes, you had to plow through the whole album to get to that well-placed song right in the middle, and the repeated listeningings engendered eventually dragged me into the rest of the album. Great song, great album. Great artist at that point. It's been hit and miss since then, alas.

I swear, when I was sixteen I was convinced that I was going to marry Tori Amos. Well, live and learn. I dodged a bullet on that one.

Simon said...

CXhris Althouse Cohen said...
"All her albums are at least worth listening to and have some strong songs on."

Concertina kept dragging me back to Venus before the advent of the MP3 era. I probably listen to that and Taxi Ride more than anything else from "band-era" Tori. It's easier to suspend disbelief when you're young enough to think that someone's idiosyncratic and interesting and you don't understand what people are like when they're high or liberal.

Simon said...

Scott M said...
"I was going to go see the tour she did where it was just her and the piano. It sounded vaguely interesting until I talked to someone who had already seen it in another metro. They told me to skip it saying it 'wore thin' quickly."

They all used to be that way. For me, it wore thin as soon as she recruited a backing band. "Tori as Stevie Nicks" just didn't work for me—I already owned Stevie's records and Fiona Apple's first couple of records did that schtick much better.

Lauderdale Vet said...

Mike Oldfield?

Actually, when I first heard Tori Amos, she reminded me of Kate Bush.

Simon said...

Well, Caught a Lite Sneeze had an Oldfield-ish feel to it—the vaguely celtic atmospherics, the cascading harpsichord loop, something about it made me think of Ommadawn.