Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Sin-Full Thoughts: Tori's Title

So a new Amos album title to chew over … Abnormally Attracted To Sin is growing on me - it suggests a painting, or an installation of some kind, appropriate in the light of the visuals she’s developing - and I like it especially in the context of the entire Guys and Dolls quote, Sarah’s cynical response to Sky’s come-on (“You’re not the first man to try that approach, Mr. Masterson”). The tension of being “abnormally attracted to sin, and therefore abnormally afraid of it” sounds like a productive one: tensions, paradoxes and ambiguities being the life-blood of Tori’s best art. She’s become increasingly brilliant at incorporating dialogue and conversation into her lyrics, too, but then “the way we communicate” has always been a major, major concern. I think she’s our most undervalued great artist these days, and it’s sad but I guess inevitable that her work now receives less press interest and acclaim than that of ridiculous Yank-fakers like Winehouse and Duffy, overrated icons of blandness like Cat Power and Feist, or purveyors of musical wallpaper such as Goldfrapp, who seem to me to release work that is, consistently, about absolutely nothing at all. The negative, sceptical comments posted by some of her “fans” about the title are all too predictable as well: at this point “Nothing I do is good enough for you” is a line she could sing at rather than for much of her fan-base, so many of them weirdly dedicated to pulling apart everything she does, says, wears, or releases. It’s dispiriting, evidence that people are so easily led by the press and just aren’t up for the album-as-experience that she so brilliantly provides. Sometimes I wonder if the Internet hasn’t entirely spoilt the way people experience recorded music - it all seems to be about trying to hear a song before anyone else, making some shallow snap judgment based on the most cursory listen, and then moving on to something else. Internet culture at its worst … And can there be any two Western countries that are more mortally afraid of ideas - especially (whisper it) feminist ideas - than England and America? For me Tori continues to produce work that’s fuller of feeling, interest, ambition, emotion and thought than any other artist. She’s an inspirationally hard worker, and I for one am glad that she continues to follow her own path, not taking the sadly predictable steps of collaborating with Timbaland or duetting with Antony. I can't see how her music could be any richer or more expansive if she did widen her circle of collaborators to include those currently in vogue, and the multi-media elements she incorporates strike me as bold and daring and original. The brilliance of ADP was its exploration of what you can do with your identity, its deconstruction of stereotypes, labels and pigeonholes. So, can’t wait for AATS.

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