Tori Amos fans not only use the word "fairy" as adults, but also spell it "faerie." They can select an out-of-context Tori lyric to justify melodramatic overreactions to any imaginable situation. They respond to fucking YouTube comments with sentences like "The sexist, misogynist specimens will ALWAYS feel threatened in the presence of the invoked Goddess." Delusional fantasy-kingdom inhabitants given to histrionics and wordy, self-impressed defenses of their deified heroine: Yeah, I'm sure these are the sort of people who take criticism well.
I once knew a Tori Amos fan who spent hours selecting a stuffed animal that she felt uniquely captured the singer's pig-suckling pixie poet aesthetic. She then spent days rehearsing the spiel of gratitude and devotion she'd deliver while tearfully delivering the plush dolphin or space dog or cement-wrapped kitten or whatever. When it came time for the post-concert meet-and-greet, she blurt-screamed "I love you" and clumsily shoved the gift in her idol's face.
The fan site Undented collects dozens of similar stories, people bemoaning how their attempts to deliver embarrassing speeches such as "Thank you for helping me open so many doors in my life and for looking out windows I did not even know were there" were thwarted by even more humiliating behavior such as crying, hyperventilating and (probably) pissing themselves. It's like a largely female premature-ejaculation support group. In all the anecdotes, Amos seems to be a remarkably good sport, but it's little wonder why she spends so much time in the studio, writing needlessly long records as a way to avoid uncomfortable interactions with drooling fanatics.
Abnormally Attracted to Sin is Tori Amos' fourth straight 70-plus-minute exercise in flabbergasting overkill. Previous efforts include a concept album about beekeeping and Gnostic mysticism, and an even fruitier concept album called American Doll Posse, in which Amos "inhabits five female personae based on Greek mythology."
For example, the "woman warrior" Pip takes the lead during the confrontational "Fat Slut," while the politically minded Isabel receives dubious credit for "Yo, George": I salute to you Commander and I sneeze/'cause I now have an allergy to your policies it seems. Each "doll" comes with its own wig-intensive fashion makeover. Tori's cosplay-caliber worshippers show their support by dressing up as these characters. This is all dumbfoundingly fucking true.
Before I go into detail about Abnormally Attracted to Sin, I'd like to mention the best things about Tori Amos' career. This isn't for the benefit of her fans, who already know all this stuff (and a disturbing excess of other Tori details) and have already left to start writing hate mail containing words like "heteronormativity," but instead for people who have always thought Tori Amos was potentially hilarious, but have shied away from typing her name into search boxes for fear that they'll sprout fairy wings as soon as they press enter.
- In 1988, Amos' first band Y Kant Tori Read released an unlistenable synth-rock album, which deservedly tanked. After Amos became popular, Tori fans paid thousands of dollars for it, and even now copies go for $30-$300 in various formats. The best part about these transactions is that everyone who pursues and purchases this record knows it's shitty. Also, they understand that buying an out-of-print album from used stores and auction sites in no way supports their beloved artist. Still, they feel compelled to own this abomination out of sheer psychotic obsessiveness.
- Tori supplied guest vocals to Tess Makes Good's "Distant Storm," a sappy tune that appears during the unassailable vigilante film China O'Brien ("she's out to stop crime -- cold," *China slams some redneck asshole's head with the freezer drawer*). Because of the aforementioned compulsiveness of Amos fans, this film has been sought and coveted by many people outside the martial-arts realm, thus raising recognition for a much cooler redhead, Cynthia Rothrock.
- Amos covered Slayer's "Raining Blood," recasting the best song ever as an ode to menstrual flow.
- In this video, Amos performs "Precious Things," a perfectly tenable ballad. However, I draw your attention to the 4:06 mark, when Amos starts grunting like the Other Sister, her tongue lolling violently as though she's receiving an unanaesthetized tonsillectomy. Then skip ahead to 6:16, when she's suddenly possessed by Rebecca De Mornay's Hand That Rocks The Cradle psycho. Normal people might perceive these spasms as bizarre blemishes in the performance, but Amos fans actually cite them as highlights, because to them freakish outbursts are synonymous with creative passion.
Anyway, Abnormally Attracted opens with "Give," a decent Portishead-style dirge. The album ends with a quality instrumental coda after Amos has stopped singing. "Maybe California" does a nice job with Tori's old piano-and-flittering-butterfly-vocals formula. That leaves 14 tracks and 60-something minutes of mostly filler.
It's hard to describe an album constructed in such a dumb manner. The Spinal Tap standby "shit sandwich" makes sense in a way, but the album's "meat" (or given the earthy demographic, gross vegan equivalent) isn't shit, exactly, more like something airy and light that yields diminishing returns when consumed by the pound.
Musically, only "Not Dying Today," a nauseating blend of new-age funk and spoken-jive vocals that deserves the damning tag "Ani DiFranco-esque," and "Police Me," a brutally repetitive snoozer with cheesy guitars, really offend. The rest of the stuff blends into a beigish haze of drowsy, Dido-style easy-electro-listening.
Two tracks ("Starling," "Fast Horse") apparently don't even exist, because no one has weighed in on the words at lyric-discussion sites such as Song Meanings, and Tori Amos fans will fucking discuss anything. I played these tunes a few times without anything registering: The only note I scrawled about them was "time suckage."
Amos enjoys a reputation for obtuseness, but she occasionally writes the most obvious shit possible. Once I watched some anonymous lump perform the lines "what if wrong was right, and right was left?" I concluded he was the worst lyricist I'd ever heard. But Amos comes close to echoing his idiocy with "I left the right man" and "I wronged the right man." She stoops to "Ophelia/I feel you" wordplay, and writes a song called "Mary Jane" about marijuana. Unlike previous "Mary Jane" songs, this one contains the phrase "Tetrahydrocannabinol Pure Isomer Dronabinol." This is not a positive development.
I applaud the direction Tori's career has taken, because I prefer spectacular failure to polite competence. Also, I appreciate that she's started to frustrate her odd parasitic following, who wants her to go back to writing stark piano songs about her personal tragedies so they can glean unearned emotional depth from feeling vicariously harrowed.