I started listening to Tori Amos with “The Beekeeper” back in 2005, during one of my usual random album searches. I never actually got to dislike the album, since something about it sounded right from the get go, but there was also something about it that kept me from falling in love with it. It took me over 6 months to even begin to understand the album itself, and well over a year before I got anything else related to Tori Amos (The following Amos-related piece of work I got was “American Doll Posse”, several months after its release).
The fact that it took me so long to begin appreciating Amos’ music is no coincidence, though. Amos is a very abstract artist, with a style of music you almost have to learn to enjoy, and “The Beekeeper” isn’t precisely her most accessible album, or one that properly showcases her musical genius.
That’s not to say I didn’t notice any kind of genius in her music, though. I actually kept several of her songs around on my then very small music player, and I immediately connected with several of them, mainly the first few songs in the album (“Parasol”, “Sleeps with Butterflies”, “Jamaica Inn”). No matter what I did, I kept on being attracted to the material, not just because of the uncommon musical style the album had (“The Beekeeper” is actually a very odd album musically, and I don’t think I’ve heard anything like it anywhere else), but mainly because of the richness I found within the lyrics of the songs.
And that’s the truth, the thing that actually hooked me to “The Beekeeper” and to Amos was the prevalence of the lyrics over the music – Even when the overall concept that Amos tried to push with the album (A division in gardens where each of them was a world) wasn’t too clear on the record, “The Beekeeper” is an album that is near-flawless from a lyrical stand point. Each song tells its own story in the record, and most of them have, as usual with Amos, tens of possible interpretations, generally with a single one given by Amos, and tons of them created by her fan base. One of the lyrical highlights of the album (and actually a musical one too) is definitely the title song, which boasts dark lyrics hidden behind a simple metaphor about a beekeeper (In the artist’s interpretation, the Beekeeper is Death, and the queen bee is her mother). I actually was pleasantly surprised when once, while I listened to the album, the woman who helped clean my house came around to my bedroom and asked me what I was listening to, since she found it truly beautiful, even when she didn’t speak English and therefore couldn’t understand any of the lyrics. That alone should speak loads of how far this album can reach out to people.
However, the album is not without its flaws, and sadly I find it to be one of Amos’ most flawed works. “The Beekeeper” is an album plagued with masterpieces presented in a borderline unpleasant way. Even with its musical and lyrical beauty, the album has a huge flaw on the fact that an awful lot of the songs sound a little too alike for the human ear to discern them unless you’re actually paying attention – Which makes the album flow a little too well, and can easily turn it boring, especially after the tenth song or so kicks in and the appeal of the unique sound of the album starts wearing out.
It is very sad that the album becomes so repetitive so soon, since if taken separately from the album nearly every song in it could be considered a spotlight. I myself am guilty of having listened to the latter half of the album much less than the first half of it, except maybe the title track and “Toast”, the last track, simply because the album gets dull and boring after the first half has passed through, even when it is in the latter half where the lyrics to the song shine the most.
The bottom line for this album is simple: It is an album no Tori Amos fan should skip (That place is reserved for 2001’s “Strange Little Girls”), but anyone who might want to get into her music would do well by staying away from this. It is just too abstract, nearly a melodic version of “Boys for Pele”. I don’t share the same hate for the album some people and critics do (Specially the one who said the only way Amos would do any good music anymore would be if someone kidnapped and killed her daughter), but I do think this is musically Amos’ less varied work, and that fault weights horribly into the perceived overall quality of the album.
My recommendation: Get this if you’re already an Amos fan, looking for her more abstract work. If you’re new, stick to “Little Earthquakes” and “Scarlet’s Walk” at first. Starting with this album is the equivalent of learning to swim directly in the deep end of the pool, and the only worse place to start with Amos I can think of is “Boys for Pele”.
Final review rating: 3/5
Availability: The album is currently available on physical and digital form from Amazon.com
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