The ever polarizing and troubling Tori Amos. A goddess to some, a screeching banshee to others. I’m somewhere in the middle with her, leaning towards coolness. On one hand, she has been undeniably important to me in the past, if only on the strength of one album. On the other, I haven’t liked a lot things she’s done since, and don’t really keep track anymore. If I had to sum it up very plainly, she’s important but irritating. I think that’s the standard summary of her work, actually. However, I do feel curious about her recent work. She is, after all, 50 years old, and she must have some insights to share about that. When she became famous in the early 90’s she was an angry young woman eager to shine a light on all the ugly dark places that young women are forced to go to as a result of being young women. There’s a reason you can’t mention Tori Amos without mentioning 90’s feminism, or vice-versa. She’s one of a wave of female singers, including Sinead O’Connor and Kathleen Hanna, whose unapologetic real talk opened an avenue of honest conversation about women’s issues and inspired a generation of girls (and boys) to be stronger, more empowered and more aware. At some point since then, that kind of blunt frankness and open anger fell out of favor and we collectively forgot to keep having that conversation. Now, with a new generation of internet-based activists stepping forward to express all that same anger and frustration, the conversation is back and stronger than ever. Young girls armed with laptops are more articulate, well-informed and hopping-mad than I ever was at their age, and it’s the most inspiring thing ever. It makes me happy that we’re finally, loudly and coherently and bravely, talking about the things that, in 1992 Tori Amos made us start talking about. About rape and abuse and survival and the strength you need to continue being a whole, autonomous person in the face of a world that is relentlessly out to get you. And meanwhile Tori herself is almost 51, an elder statesman if you will. What has she been up to? She’s not the same person she was in ’92, that’s for sure. I’m becoming more and more eager to know what she’s talking about now. I’m about to download her new album and you should too.