Song Analysis


Thursday 8 September 2011, by Cécile Desbrun

(coming soon! In the meantime, read Tori’s quotes about the song.)

"There exists such a thing as boasting about misery. One sentence in Cruel deals with that, ’Dance with the Sufis celebrate your top ten in the charts of pain’. When I had a miscarriage, there were people who said, ’Yes, but you only lost an unborn child. Our son was murdered!’ For some people things aren’t bad enough as it is. And some hang on to the fact that The Most Terrible Thing happened to them; they entered at number one in the charts of pain. And then others are secretly jealous because they’re only at number six." (Humo, 1/98)

Was the reference to celebrating your Top Ten in the charts an ironic sideswipe at the ’Professional Widow’ remix?

"No, it’s about when you hear people listing their griefs, it can be become a bit like a Billboard chart. ’Hey, only your uncle abused you? I had 17 sailors and then my uncle!’ That’s what that was about.. I get a lot of letters from girls who don’t talk about what happened to them because they feel they have no right to speak up. So they become victims anonymous." (Vox, 6/98)

"You hear stories about angels that come and save certain people. They’re beautiful stories. But what about the mother whose kid gets taken away and never comes back? What were the angels smoking when that happened? What do you say? That their kid wasn’t worthy? That it’s all for the best? Or God has a plan? So these questions, of course, I was putting towards every deity I could find. I was quite vicious, and I think ’Cruel’ and ’iieee,’ especially, came out of that. It was almost liberating for me - that it’s all in order that I have anger towards the way of things, and just to say, ’Thine will be done’ just doesn’t work anymore. It’s hollow. There weren’t a lot of answers for why some mothers lose their children and other women are beating up theirs in the mall in front of you.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense sometimes. Especially when people call it ’God’s will.’ If that wasn’t the philosophy - if it were looked on as, ’Oh, well, it’s a feeble planet and there are no guarantees,’ that’s one thing. But if it’s God’s will that I lose mine, then why is it God’s will that these are being beaten? If that’s God’s will, I really need to have a margarita with him. When you start talking to people who have that kind of loss, somebody piping up going, ’Well the angels were there for us during this time,’ well that’s beautiful. But people have to understand that they’re not there for everybody all the time. They get lost on the way. That’s why in ’Cruel,’ when I say, ’I don’t know why,’ I really don’t know why I can be cruel. I don’t know why the angels aren’t there for everybody, but they’re not." (Alternative Press, 7/98)

"I think Cruel is my favorite. Whether anybody gets it or not, I demanded that it have its day in the sun. It’s one of those ones that’s really that underworld thing." (Dallas Morning News, 10/4/98)

"Each song would show me a certain side of herself because of what I was going through. So a song like ’Cruel’ came to me out of my anger." - Take To The Sky #12, 1998 and Next, 4/99

Tori describes Cruel as “very much a dark angel- very primitive, pig-Latin ghetto feminism.” (San Francisco Chronicle, May 4, 1998)