But you never have seen fire, until you've seen Pele blow"
-Tori Amos / Muhammad My Friend
In college, a friend recommended I listen to Tori Amos’s breakthrough album Little Earthquakes. I didn’t want to. I was resistant to something beyond my comfort zone. Looking back, this had more to do with me and the comfort zone I hadn’t yet shed—both as a person and as a creative voice. My friend kept insisting, and finally I gave in. Upon first listen, I was hooked. How could I have avoided such great music for so long?
I quickly purchased the rest of her albums, including her latest release at the time, Boys for Pele. At first glance, the album was wild—a cacophony of musical styles stirred together. The album included short tracks that, as in classical music, served as interludes leading to the next "movement." Although there were upbeat songs tempo-wise, much of the album was dark. I still remember hearing "Professional Widow"for the first time and being taken aback by those fiery opening chords. The artwork for the album was as haunting as the music.
It was an assault of the senses for a young college student who was wide-eyed and naïve in the world, and after my first listen, I wasn’t sure what to make of all of it. Needless to say, that all changed very quickly.
With music and lyrics open to interpretation rolling around in my head, I started decoding, discovering a love for a different kind of art form—the kind that requires a listener’s (or viewer’s) participation as opposed to having everything spelled out in clear, unquestionable terms. And that appreciation kept growing and growing every time I played the album. Before I knew it, I was in love. That is a love that continues today.
Twenty years ago, this album and the artist who made it left its indelible mark on me. For those of you who have not yet had the thrill of taking part, I encourage you to dive in. A 20th anniversary edition is being released later this year. Do not be deceived by your first impressions should they be similar to my own. As you begin to form your own interpretation (something we’re not encouraged to do enough of at this moment in popular culture), I suspect you will find the same thing I did—an unforgettable album that is now one of my dearest friends.