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Star-Telegram (US)
Fort Worth, Texas, newspaper
November 2, 2001

Eating their words
Tori Amos' new covers turn the tables on men

By Mark Lowry, Star-Telegram Staff Writer

During her 10 years of making deeply personal and sometimes metaphorically indecipherable art rock, Tori Amos has often intrigued her fans with her unique take on other artists' songs. In concert and on B sides, she has covered many a tune, from Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit to the Police's Wrapped Around Your Finger.

With her new album Strange Little Girls, she takes that concept to a new extreme, giving a female perspective to 12 songs written by (and for) men.

"A lot of words out there in the late '90s by some heterosexual males were malicious towards women," Amos says. "When I started hearing some of them backpedal and say, 'They're only words,' I said 'OK, I'm going to show you that they're only words.'"

The songs include the Stranglers' Strange Little Girl, Neil Young's Heart of Gold, the Beatles' Happiness Is a Warm Gun, Slayer's Raining Blood, Lloyd Cole's Rattlesnakes and, in perhaps the album's most eye-opening track, Eminem's '97 Bonnie and Clyde, in which she's singing as the murdered mother who's about to be dumped off a bridge by her husband and young daughter.

To find the songs, she created a "Laboratory of Men," sonic, visual and research teams consisting of males.

"I knew that if I wanted to mine men's psyche, then I needed to be let in," she says, "and not just project to them what I thought men would listen to after they made love."

Some of the suggestions, such as the title song, were a surprise.

"I didn't know that the Stranglers were sort of a touchstone for men, in Europe anyway," she says. "I'm not talking about something they would play at their wedding, but when they'd be out together in a car. It's a different kind of thing than what they might be listening to with their girlfriend."

Others were more clear-cut.

"Heart of Gold, believe it or not, was a no-brainer, mainly because the stories the Laboratory of Men would tell around this song had my eyes rolling in the back of my head," she says. "They would say things like, 'This song is about looking for a woman who understands that I'm a player.' And I would say 'No. I don't think you have it right at all, you're not looking for a heart of gold, you're looking for a woman who's going to put up with your [bull.]"

Other songs, such as Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet, fell through the cracks due to limited recording space and time.

For each track, she was photographed as that song's character. All 13 photos (Heart of Gold features twins) appear in the CD jacket.

"[Each character] came intrinsically tied to the song," she says, "and they had all-access backstage passes to me." Meaning to the deepest parts of her psyche.

The current tour features her playing solo with her piano, the first time she has done that since 1994's Dew Drop Inn tour. Introspective singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright opens.


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