After the success of her explosive debut solo album, Little Earthquakes, Tori Amos confronted a challenge many artists have faced before and since: what to do next? “Once your stories have gone out to the world and the people have responded, it’s never the same again for you as a writer,” she told this author in 2015. “What’s key is Little Earthquakes was written alone in a tiny room, behind a church in Hollywood, when I was still playing a piano bar to pay my rent, and Under The Pink was written while I realised my life had changed, but still grappling with some of [the same] subjects and exploring others that I hadn’t really talked about.”
Listen to ‘Under The Pink’ here.
“If you ripped everybody’s skin off, we’re all pink”
If the raw, confessional Little Earthquakes was a diary, Amos considered Under The Pink, which was released on 31 January 1994, to be closer to an impressionistic painting. Or, in another analogy she used, if she offered herself “naked” to the world in Little Earthquakes, Under The Pink involved putting on some clothes. That’s not to say her second album – which went on to hit the top spot in the UK charts and has sold more than two million copies – is not deeply personal. “If you ripped everybody’s skin off, we’re all pink, the way I see it,” Tori told Performing Songwriter in 1994. “And this is about what’s going on inside of that. That’s what I’m really interested in, not the outer world but the inner world.”
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To tap into the inner world, Tori and Eric Rosse – her then producer and partner – headed to New Mexico to record the album, where they set up in an old hacienda they called The Fishhouse. “Thanks to Bösendorfer for making the best pianos in the world, for sending one special ‘girl’ out to us in the desert,” Amos wrote in the album credits.
“You have to go through it to understand it”
While Little Earthquakes found Amos wearing her heart on her sleeve, listeners might have to work harder to deduce the meaning of Under The Pink. In a liner note for the 2015 deluxe release, Noah Michelson writes about the songs’ “intimately coded and sonically experimental mazes”. As Amos explained to Keyboard magazine: “I had this whole thing going where I liked codes and going with your senses. It was a bit of a maze, and you as a listener had to work to find out where we were going. Little Earthquakes was a bit more voyeuristic. You could sit back and watch this girl go through this stuff. You can’t on Under The Pink; you have to go through it to understand it.”