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Sing Us a Song, Piano Woman: Female Fans and the Music of Tori Amos

Boxx Magazine Sing Us a Song, Piano Woman: Female Fans and the Music of Tori Amos

Friday 25th December 2015,

News

Sing Us a Song, Piano Woman: Female Fans and the Music of Tori Amos (By Adrienne Trier-Bieniek)

Molly Lynch July 22, 2013

Sing us a Song Piano Woman

If the saying “you are the company you keep” is true, how does that translate to the relationships between musicians and the die-hard fans they acquire over the course of their careers? Does this mean that artists are likewise defined by the following they garner? In the case of singer-songwriter/prodigy pianist Tori Amos and her devoted legion of fans, the answer is: yes, absolutely.

In Sing Us a Song, Piano Woman: Female Fans and the Music of Tori Amos, sociologist Adrienne Trier-Bieniek examines the myriad ways in which fans—particularly women–identify with female singer-songwriters like Amos and how these fans turn to her music for therapeutic purposes. Through her own interviews with more than 40 fans, critical analysis of Amos’ lyrics and examination of the life experiences that shaped the artist (and person) Amos is today, the author attempts to unravel this phenomenon.

Trier-Bieniek was inspired to begin researching the topic after a traumatic experience in her own life; she was just weeks shy of receiving her master’s degree at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia when the April 16, 2007 campus shootings occurred, attracting national attention and deeply affecting the student body. Like the fans she would later interview, Trier-Bieniek turned to music as a coping mechanism and cites two Amos albums, The Beekeeper (2005) and American Doll Posse (2007), as influential components in helping her sort through the residual grief caused by the shooting. During this time, the writer began to wonder: What is it about these records that I connect with so deeply? Why am I looking to this particular musician’s songs to heal me? And what does this further say about the ways in which fans respond to Amos and other female artists?

Trier-Bieniek subsequently began studying other female fans’ reactions to (and relationship with) Amos’ music; research participants reported relying on the music for feelings of empowerment and solace and to help them cope with situations including physical abuse, eating disorders and dysfunctional relationships. Amos herself turned to music to help process her own sexual assault, penning the 1991 song “Me and a Gun” as a response to the knifepoint rape she suffered at age 21. That Amos is so willing to bravely share her own experiences is frequently cited as the very reason she resonates so deeply with her female fans.

The book focuses not just on the therapeutic uses of music, but also addresses the topics of gender, activism (such as Amos’ own involvement with RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) and the methods by which female performers navigate—and oppose—the many limiting stereotypes of women so prevalent in pop culture. Ultimately, Sing Us a Song, Piano Woman shines a spotlight on the motivation and experiences of female fans, an audience often overlooked in traditional studies of music and fandom.

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