Admittedly, Brooke, I’m biased.

Sixteen years ago this August, an astonishing flame-haired raven name of Tori Amos cajoled her incomparably seductive self into my life and instantaneously hurled my very being straight and plumb off its axis. For reasons that aren’t remotely relevant to this particular conversation — though they merit (and will almost certainly eventually win) their own future blog post — 1992 remains, in its own way, the single most important and noteworthy of my 32 years on this planet. Thanks wholly to unrequited, emotionally draining crushes on Craig Doughten and Annie Lennox — and, all these eons later, it remains a fair toss-up which of those two people was more unattainable, despite my daily access to no fewer than one of them — it was the first year I got really serious both about writing and about music appreciation. Quite true, I had always loved music — hey, I still remember, and with the fondest grace in my heart’s most sacred quadrant, Dad driving his downright giddy eight year old son up to the TG&Y to buy anything that contained “Karma Chameleon,” and trust me here if nowhere else: yes, Brooke, an eight year old’s palms can sweat, honey — but ’92 tore across my mind like a gale, like an huracán.

Nothing was left standing.

The lead rider on that storm: the aforementioned Amos. May brought Little Earthquakes, Tori’s full-length solo debut. (Three years earlier, a self-titled record from her band Y Kant Tori Read had become one of the most disastrous — and most storied, natch — bellyflops in the history of Atlantic Records.) By August, the record’s second single, the deftly confident “Crucify,” was starting to generate the teeniest bit of heat at radio, to the point that Amarillo’s top 40 station, the ever-missed Z-93, decided to take a chance on it. While in the middle of some silly project, I happened to catch “Crucify” playing one Sunday evening (which was the night Z-93 always showcased their new playlist entries), then proceeded to stay up all night trying — successfully, it would turn out — to catch it again. I hadn’t the foggiest clue what I was hearing, but I just knew, somehow, that it was special. It was different. It was real, and it was good. I was instantly enraptured.

Short of a week later, I happened to run across Amos’ name in the TV Guide. She was to be a guest on Dennis Miller’s old late night talk show. I promptly cleared my entire schedule in anticipation of this; there was no way in hell I was missing it. I couldn’t wait: I wanted to watch her lips move, I wanted to know what she looked like, I wanted to see her eyes.

The show floored me, demolished me. In the course of mere days, Amos had shattered urry vestige of my quivering soul and, in its lingering footprint, refashioned — no, rebuilt — a stronger, wiser model, one more perceptive and one much more re-ceptive.

In order to complete me, she first had to level me.

She did just that, on one unforgettable hot August night. Armed with nothing more than a piano and an unwavering will to succeed, Amos sang two songs for Dennis’ audience that night: “Crucify,” the then-current single (which, to be perfectly honest, didn’t hold up in a stripped-down arrangement; it’s one of Amos’ few tracks that actually needs all the bells and whistles in order to comfortably hit its cruising altitude); and, most crucially, “Silent All These Years,” a heartbreakingly cathartic tune that — to blatantly steal a sentiment from the peerless Glenn McDonald, whose own (all-but-defunct) blog, The War Against Silence, set a standard for excellence and for probing profundity that this silly trifle you’re currently reading can only meekly hope to even approach one day — is so surreally strong, the mind strains to accept that a mere mortal composed it. (Thanks to the irreplaceable brilliance of YouTube, a video of the performance can be found here; don’t fail to recognize the incredible way Amos — her fingers, her eyes, and her throat working in flawless concert — infuses this song (an epic that unfurls in four minutes flat) with erotic rage, with shattering regret, and ultimately with palpable, poignant hope.)

Instantly and forever, witnessing this stunning spectacle, I lost my heart to a simple idea: I fell hopelessly in love with the girl, any girl, brave and crazy enough to sidle up to her piano and spill her secrets.

Hundreds upon hundreds of such women have brushed across my life in the ensuing sixteen years (in what may well be the Freudian slip of the year, I actually typed “hears” before catching and correcting the error), and set ’em up, Joe: from Sarah Mack to Heather Nova to Chantal Kreviazuk to Kami Lyle to Alana Davis to Jann Arden to Rachael Yamagata to Vonda Shepard to Paula Cole, I’ve sunk like a stone for them all.

Which brings us, with lumbering heart, to you, Brooke White, tonight’s “American Idol” castoff.

Brooke, my love, yours this evening may well be the most sincerely wrenching display of raw, unfettered emotion I’ve ever witnessed, and as your eyes glazed over with the thought that America seems to prefer that haplessly flippant boho freak Jason Castro and that coldly detached automaton David Archuleta over you — a young lady whose heart never once slipped from her sleeve, and whose peformances, literally to a note, were neither timid nor shallow — and as the cascade of hot tears rained down your impossibly breathtaking face, my soul bled for you. It was all I could do not to weep with you. (And, hell, for you.)

You were my favorite from the very start, Brooke. (Sherry Ann’s bitchy response when we commiserated over this year’s “Idol” crop and I proclaimed my top pick: “Well, of course you love her!” And yes, before you ask, A had an eerily similar response. Do these people know me, or what?!) With your arresting take on Neil Diamond’s “I Am, I Said” last night, you not only turned in the performance of your life, but also — maybe, just maybe — the performance of the “Idol” year. The nimble way you navigated that song’s key lyric — “L.A. is fine / but it ain’t home / Arizona’s home / but it ain’t mine / no more…” — was astounding in its virgin purity; that ever-so-slight catch in your throat as you launched into the back half of the chorus, sexy as sin in its humane scholarship.

You intoxicated me. You stunned me. You riveted me.

The vote didn’t go our way tonight, dear Brooke (and that was almost certainly preordained long before today, as the inevitable season-long march toward an all-David finale has been positively merciless with its friendly fire casualty rate), but don’t allow the pain you feel right now to smother the truth: you are a treasure, my darling. A diamond.

May you immediately proceed (do not pass go, do not…) to New York, or Nashville, or Vegas, or Dublin, or anywhere, and prove irrevocably wrong all your critics — all the people who scoff at me, literally teeming with contemptuous incredulity, when I (with utmost integrity) insist that you have the goods to become this generation’s Carly Simon.

You are the future, Brooke White. Don’t forget it, and don’t forestall it. The future — your future — begins now.

Truly yours,

a big fan.

2 responses to “she is, I cried (or: sweaty palms know no age)”

  1. the buzz from Em:

    Ah… Craig. We all wanted him.

  2. the buzz from Mike:

    Well, I guess you’ll get to see if Brooke is truly worthy of your adoration soon enough:

    On what her own album would be like: “I would love to write, or at least co-write, and kind of build an album around that organic sound — keep real, keep it raw, keep it fresh. I know it’s 2008, so you’ve got to make it current, but I definitely think that’s my avenue. I want to play the piano, I want to play the guitar and I want to be very involved with the music and just connect with people on a very honest level.”