There is something always so familiar about Tori Amos that keeps me coming back to her over the years and that is her unwavering spirit.
As a surprisingly candid singer songwriter that writes often from personal experience, we feel her strength and vulnerability as a woman through an amazing back catalogue beginning with Little Earthquakes released in 1991. Her controversial lead single Me And A Gun about her harrowing sexual assault when she was 21, set in motion an artistic awakening seldomly rivalled by her contemporaries. Then came arguably her greatest triumph Cornflake Girl her first single from the album Under The Pink that had critics spellbound and fans singing along with its anthemic chorus, despite its vague references to sexual oppression, female adolescences and betrayal.
The inspiration for “Cornflake Girl” was taken from Alice Walker’s Possessing the Secret of Joy, a novel about a tragic story about a young African woman struggling with the aftermath of going through the ritual of female genital mutilation. Moreover, in further conversations with a close friend, Amos expressed her anger at the idea of female circumcision, especially the notion that a matriarchal figure, like a mother could force her daughter to take part in such an abominable act.
This idea of betrayal between women in turn became the underlying theme of Amos song. Interestingly, in the song ‘cornflake girls’ are portrayed as hurtful, untrustworthy, fake women who deceive and manipulate their friends. Of interest too, ‘raisin girls’ which are lyrically mentioned in the first verse are the opposing factions of women that other women can put their faith in.
In early 1994 Cornflake Girl peaked as high as number seven on Billboards single charts. Around the world it also received favourable airplay helping consolidate Amos status as a wildly inventive piano pop virtuoso. Fast forward to 2021, Cornflake Girl might not be seen by some critics as the best song Amos has ever written, but it certainly still has a spellbinding charm about it. With its wonderful cascading piano and Amos beautiful mezzo-soprano wail in the chorus beginning with the line ‘You bet your life it is’ there is no denying this is a classic song for the ages.
Fun Fact: The music video was released with two different versions, a UK and a US version. Both share similar images of betrayal and rebellion. Check out the UK version here and the US version via You Tube.