Song 321: Tori Amos, “A Sorta Fairytale” (2002)

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It’s hard to explain why I love this song, but let’s start with the combination of drums and piano. That duo is the first thing you hear when “A Sorta Fairytale” starts, and it immediately makes the song sound so agile. The drums are light and syncopated, and Tori Amos plays simple, high chords. The thing sounds like it could fly away at a moment’s notice.

The chorus doesn’t work as well, in my opinion—it’s a little muddy, for lack of a better word—but I love everything about the verses, which are just feisty enough to make an impression. Amos is best known for her piano-driven work, of course, but the way she sings with a full band here is impressive. Her vocals wrap around every beat and acoustic guitar thump, like she knows she’s a moving target. Listen especially for the way she sings “up on the 101,” noting the California freeway setting as if it’s the backdrop for high drama.

I like so much of Amos’s signature work, from “Silent All These Years” to “Winter,” but it’s this comparatively middle-of-the-road track I come back to most. I know it’s not as interesting as her earlier work, but I love the way it rolls along, punctuated by that agility.

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