Published May 09, 2014"50 is the new black." So says Tori Amos on "16 Shades of Blue," but it's difficult to imagine the singer cares at all about what's hot or not. Not because she's always been hot — as in hot-blooded, as in intense — but because this is not an artist who chases trends. Do you remember when she was called "the new Kate Bush"? Probably not, because that was 21 years ago now, back when Under the Pink first came out and nobody quite knew how else to describe her and her fiery piano confessionals (or the difference between a soprano and a mezzo-soprano). Today, at 50, she is her own genre now, practically, and hardly concerned with competing with our pop stars, even if the new album (her 14th) is her most pop in years.
Unrepentant Geraldines is personal and political and refreshingly void of marketing gimmicks or befuddling collaborations. Rather, Tori just comes bearing songs straight from the heart/head/hands/Hell. The first single imagines "trouble" as a young woman running from Satan through a swamp of Southern blues. "Giant's Rolling Pin" addresses NSRA spying scandals with a rollicking fable about magical pies. There's plenty of classic Tori, stripped at the piano keys: "Wild Ways" is a grenade disguised as a ballad, in which she turns "I hate you" into a love poem, which of course it usually is; "Promises," a duet with her 13-year-old daughter Natashya, is simply lovely. Her half-century of experiences come crashing together on the seven-minute title track, one of religion and resistance delivered with the yin/yang of breathy and bluster. "I'm going to free myself from opinions," she sings. Good advice at any age. (Universal Music Classics)