Tori Amos – Jackie’s Strength
How does it make you feel when a beautiful ballad is transformed into a monster club banger? Me, I love it. I was never happier than when the Miami Mix of Madonna’s Don’t Cry For Me Argentina came out, because if you can’t dance to a song about a dying rich woman saying farewell to her downtrodden subjects, what can you dance to? It’s very easy to get too precious about pop and cry sacrilege whenever someone dares to remix a favourite record, but I tend to lock people like that in a room with the original version of Kelly Rowland’s Work on a loop and then ask them again in a couple of hours.
Which brings us neatly to Tori Amos, who caught the remix bug after Armand Van Helden reswizzled Professional Widow and handed her a surprise UK no.1 hit. Now, many pop stars would take offence at having their song so completely overhauled – the only remnant from the original being a couple of vocal samples – but Tori was nothing if not practical, and she would revisit the dance floor on several subsequent occasions.
1998’s From the Choirgirl Hotel contained several songs one might consider ripe for the remix treatment, but the one that really got those disco juices flowing was Jackie’s Strength. Like all Tori songs it’s quite unfathomable – something-something-Jackie Kennedy-something-flashing-your-arse-at-David Cassidy-something – but it does possess possibly her most beautiful melody, and in its original form it’s a wonderfully quiet and reflective loss-of-innocence type song.
When the album first came out this was the track I played over and over and over again. I’ve always had quite a complicated relationship with Tori Amos – there was the slight guilt (felt, I suspect, by a lot of Kate Bush fans) that one was somehow being unfaithful, and goodness me she had a tendency to go on a bit – but Jackie’s Strength had such a lovely tenderness to it, and it wasn’t overstuffed, overlong or overcomplicated (in production terms at least). In fact, it was pretty close to perfection. But it turns out that you can improve on that – by welding on a throbbing great beat and turning it into a gigantic club anthem:
Quite the transformation. But the funny thing is it actually becomes more emotive as a consequence of its remix – somehow that little bit more sad, with all those minor chords becoming more prominent and the strings lingering just a tad longer. And of course – as Alcazar taught us – crying at the discotheque is sadder than crying anywhere else because you’re supposed to be happy. I for one love dancing with tears in my eyes (the actual thing, the Ultravox song not so much) – letting go of all those pent up feelings is so much easier on the dance floor, and it’s cheaper than therapy.
Jackie’s Strength became a US no.1 on Billboard’s Dance Club Play chart, and I daresay it might have been a UK hit had it been serviced to radio – but by this point EastWest had apparently filed Tori under “hard sell” and left her to the whims of Q magazine readers. Which means I’ve never yet had the opportunity to “have a moment” at the disco to this particular song – a crying shame, as it were.
Who could sing this today and have a hit? Someone else with a Kennedy fascination – Lana Del Rey.