Tori Amos is best known for her brutally honest, often opaque original songs, like “Silent All These Years” and “Caught a Lite Sneeze,” but longtime fans also know her to be a consummate interpreter of other musicians’ work. In 2001, Amos released Strange Little Girls, a collection of songs originally written and performed by men, and she’s covered the music of everyone from Joni Mitchell to Metallica during her live shows. The crimson-haired singer-songwriter’s Unrepentant Geraldines Tour features a segment coined the Lizard Lounge, in which she performs covers selected by fans, and her Tori-fied renditions of Radiohead’s “Creep” and Madonna’s “Frozen,” not to mention a mashup of songs by feuding songstresses Sinéad O’Connor and Miley Cyrus, recently got the blogosphere buzzing. Amos, who celebrates her 51st birthday tomorrow, wraps up the North American leg of her tour in the great state of Florida this weekend, and while there’s bound to be more gems given the straddled-piano-bench treatment when she hits Australia in November (our pick: Aussie pop icon Kylie Minogue’s “Slow”), here are our favorites from 2014 so far.
10. Rihanna, “We Found Love.” Tori Amos is no stranger to dance music: She was a fixture on the club charts in the mid-to-late ’90s, and she recently scored another chart-topper with remixes of her single “Flavor” in 2012. But rather than replicate producer Calvin Harris’s Eurotrash beats, she reinvents “We Found Love” with a dark synth-pop arrangement befitting the cynical undertones of the song’s lyrics.
9. Nine Inch Nails, “Something I Can Never Have.” Whatever their current status as friends, rumored former lovers, or simply mutual fans, Amos still appears to admire Reznor’s work, as evidenced by her recent cover of NIN’s “Something I Can Never Have”—though the singer’s campy performance suggests she might view the Pretty Hate Machine track to be the angst-ridden work of a man with the emotional capacity of a hyper-sexed adolescent.
8. Björk, “Hyperballad.” What with Björk’s elongated syllables and quirky English, “Hyperballad” is a surprisingly good fit for Amos, who often seems like she speaks another language and whose own hyper ballad, “Cloud on My Tongue,” segues flawlessly from the Icelandic singer’s alpine daydream.
7. Kate Bush, “Running Up That Hill.” Amos has been plagued by comparisons to Kate Bush for her entire career. The influence is, of course, undeniable, as Amos herself as acknowledged many times in concert by mashing up Bush’s 1985 single “Running Up That Hill” (which was, notably, originally titled “A Deal with God”) with “God,” her own exploration of gender relations from nearly a decade later.
6. PJ Harvey, “We Float.” “I guess you go too far when pianos try to be guitars,” Amos once sang on her song “Northern Lad.” But she’s spent much of her career treating her instrument like it’s something else, so rather than play “good lady” PJ Harvey’s piano-driven “We Float” straight last night, she used her synth keyboard to approximate the crunchy textures and electric guitars of To Bring You My Love-era Polly Jean.