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Tori Amos is an unabashedly truthful songwriter and singer who builds her lyrics on personal experiences, uncertainties concerning religion and faith, and an undying desire to get in touch with her inner self. Amos’ song “Cooling” is a biography of one woman’s life from childhood to death, and ultimately the heroic journey for purity.
The first stanza of “Cooling” begins with Amos referring to the death of Speed Racer, a cartoon character. This image is essential in creating a childlike innocence shattered by the semi-realistic microcosm of adolescence. Amos, after moving swiftly through childhood and into the teenage chapters of this biography, uses phrases such as “fire thought she’d really rather be water instead” to establish the image of an unhappy teen girl who is willing to change on the turn of a dime to accommodate someone else’s needs. She then, in looking back at this pitiful chapter in her life, decides that this girl is not who she wants to be, and thus she decides to become who she, not anyone else, desires.
The most influential chapter in this song is that of adulthood. During the next few stanzas, Amos creates a character that fights to become a strong, independent woman who can withstand storms and brambles, but is not afraid to deeply, genuinely love another human being. Amos addresses love in a unique and unconquered manner. For example, logical men would look at a small island bearing a single pineapple tree as solitary blemish on the face of the ocean, but Amos sings that “this ocean is wrapped around that pineapple tree,” thus implying that the pineapple tree is commandeering the attention of the seas. She is giving importance to what is otherwise lost in the middle of a great expanse; metaphorically, she is addressing life. In essence, human beings are simple spots on this great expanse of earth, but instead of looking at the human race as a blemish, Amos addresses human life as burning and indispensable. After addressing childhood, young adulthood, womanhood, and the overall importance of life, Amos delves into the chorus of the song that is used to truly establish the message.
The title of the song, “Cooling,” may seem superficially simple, but through analysis of the song, one realizes that “cooling” represents life, death, and everything in between.
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The references to purity throughout “Cooling” are obvious. The images of fire, water, and snow represent cleansing and purifying elements that lend a physical purity to the song. Religious purity is also essential in “Cooling.” Amos repeatedly mentions Jesus, considered the purest human being created by God, and virginity. These issues help establish the spiritual purity as compared to physical. The image of the solitary island is also one of purity in the sense that it is an untouched speck of matter surrounded by the nothingness of water.
“Cooling” is a simple song, unmarked by heavy beats and pounding instruments. It is however marked by Amos’ deep confessional voice and spiritual piano playing that only help further her point of view of life and death. In addition, imagery and metaphors help establish Amos’ unique point of view concerning the cycle of life and death, and purity.