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SunPost (US)
Miami, Florida, weekly newspaper
November 15, 2007

In Character

Tori Amos tour explores rock, female archetypes


By Alan Sculley

For an album very much about character types, Tori Amos' latest CD, American Doll Posse, ironically took the artist out of character in some major ways.

Thematically, the CD is consistent with Amos' past work. In American Doll Posse, the artist -- who has explored what it means to be a woman throughout a solo career that dates back to her multi-platinum 1992 debut CD, Little Earthquakes -- adopts four distinct female characters based on Greek mythology as a way to study and break down stereotypes of the contemporary woman.

Musically, however, the album is a different story.

That is apparent by the time Amos and her band unleash the crashing chords of "Teenage Hustling," the CD's fourth song. Although previous Amos albums (such as 2005's The Beekeeper and 2002's Scarlet's Walk) were known for their baroque and often delicate piano-centered pop, American Doll Posse quickly establishes itself as a rock album distinctly different from much of Amos' past work. It's melodic, musically smart and one of her most accessible CDs.

The female-centric concept of American Doll Posse actually played a big role in leading Amos to make this harder-hitting musical departure.

"As a scribe, you have to listen to what the songs want to be," Amos said in an early October phone interview. "It wasn't a typical singer-songwriter record, which the last one was really more of. This one was not that way at all. So because the narrative was very much about female character types, sonically the songs were saying we have to go to the rock gods. So I needed some testosterone, and I knew that."

More subtly, American Doll Posse forced Amos to yield some of her usual control as a singer-songwriter, especially when it came to the music.

"Mentally, the producer and composer were in the driver's seat, not the singer-songwriter persona," Amos explained. "I had to have a chat with Tori the singer-songwriter and say simply, 'I need you to agree to be a band member here, a player. These guys have to be given their [due]. They can't just be playing and be a support band. ... The piano might have to take a back seat in a lot of songs.'" The idea of exploring female archetypes was inspired by what Amos believes is a regression in the roles of women in American society. The situation, she said, is largely a result of the influence of the Christian conservative movement and the Bush administration.

"It seemed to me that the Christian right wing had done their job very well," Amos said. "They were able to distract the women from really looking at what the Bush administration [has done], from how the Bush administration views the place of women at the table of power. ... I thought, well, women are stepping into these stereotypes, and we need to rattle our own cages. So the way to do that is we have to expand these definitions of who we are. Then, in that way, maybe as we become more powerful and complete with ourselves, maybe we can look and see who the real aggressor to women being equal is."

The 23-song CD doesn't so much preach about rebelling against simplified and subservient stereotypes as it offers character studies, stories and, in a sense, a process that women can follow to get in touch with and become more of their authentic selves.

In creating American Doll Posse, Amos looked to Greek mythology, when the female was considered divine. She created four characters -- Isabel (based on Artemis, the most political of the characters), Clyde (drawn from Persephone, an idealistic and emotionally naked character), Pip (culled from Athena, a warrior) and Santa (based on Aphrodite, who is full of passion and sensuality).

The singer builds on those characters and the themes of American Doll Posse with blogs she created and in her live show.

Each evening, Amos comes on-stage dressed as Isabel, Clyde, Pip or Santa, and performs a few songs related to that character. She then shifts into herself as Tori Amos for the remainder of each two-hour show.

"It's a real blast because you don't know what the show is going to be until, I don't know, you have an hour before the show to change it," Amos said. "That's kind of exciting. And God knows, something might have happened at five o'clock that afternoon on the news in that town. And you say, 'We have to do Isabel tonight. It's a political issue. We have to do Isabel.' And those are the decisions that get made."

Tori Amos will perform at 8 p.m. Nov. 21 at the Raymond Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach. For tickets visit www.ticketmaster.com or call 800-572-8471.


[This article was also in The Columbian on November 30 and The Press-Enterprise on December 13.]


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