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The Times (UK)
November 9, 2001
Time Out Music
Amos puts female spin on male-written lyrics
by Paul Freeman
Tori Amos has never been one to shy away from raw emotion. On her new album, "Strange Little Girls," she takes a different route but still winds up very much on the edge.
The concept involves taking songs penned by men -- including cuts from Eminem, Neil Young, the Stranglers, Lou Reed, Depeche Mode and Slayer -- an delivering them from the perspectives of different female characters she conceived. These aren't covers as much as reinterpretations.
Amos, who lives in England with her husband and 1-year old daughter, says of the project's origin, "One of my thoughts was of men as the song mothers. I liked that idea, mainly because some of my guy friends were pretty curious about the birth of my daughter, not from a being-a-father perspective, but what was it like to carry life. Some of them would be good host organisms. That was actually a sweet thought I had about the men."
Of course, she also explores the darker side of the male. "Around that same time, I was being exposed to a lot of thought out there that had a lot of malice towards women, wanting to do them harm, cutting them up, glamorizing the whole thing," Amos says. "I couldn't understand where this rage was coming from. Where did it it take root and what was behind it? People must be fertile or artists can't tap into that. It just doesn't take hold on the mass consciousness, if the mass consciousness isn't ripe and resonating with it anyway.
"I felt like I had something to say, and the best way to say it was by using men's words, to show them how important and powerful words are. And also to show everybody that perspective is a very powerful thing, and you can't control how anther person hears your words."
She knew she would be treading on thin ice. "It was very dangerous. Cover records can end a career. But I knew that it had to be done. Once certain artists, men, have said, 'Look, it's only words. I don't know what everybody's going on about,' that was a gauntlet I had to pick up. I had to say, 'Oh, I'll show you how powerful your words are, because I'm going to take them.'
"You take a man's word, you take his seed. Is there a bit of invasion going on? Yes, there is. I took the seed, and I planted it in the woman's voice. I have taken a skill that has been in male DNA since the beginning of time, which is invasion/penetration."
The exploration extends beyond misogyny. Amos attempts to delve deeply into varied aspects of the male psyche. The album contains Tom Waits' "Time" and Lloyd Cole's "Rattlesnakes," as well as Slayer's "Raining Blood." "There's a real compassion to the record, as well as violence, as well as passion," she says.
Amos hoped the project would create a healthy exchange. "I wanted to build bridges so that women could go hang in the heads of the men and that men could crawl back inside, into the skin of these women and hear what their words sound like in a woman's body."
The characters she Brough forth ranged from the fetishist of 10cc's "I'm Not in Love" to a female Texas Ranger in the Boomtown Rats' "I Don't Like Mondays" to the image of a call girl servicing John Lennon's killer, Mark David Chapman, set to the Beatles' "Happiness Is a Warm Gun." The CD booklet offers striking photos of Amos portraying each of the distinctively different females.
The most disturbing portrayal comes in Eminem's "'97 Bonnie & Clyde." In chilling fashion, Amos presents the victim's point of view. "He wrote a very powerful work on domestic violence. But the way he wrote it, the wife doesn't have a strong character. She's voiceless in her death. When I heard it, her hand reached out of that trunk and pulled me in within seconds and said, 'You need to hear how I'm hearing this.' She is the mother who will be dead within minutes. And the final thing she is hearing is her husband weaving her daughter into this."
Photo caption: "I FELT LIKE I had something to say, and the best way to say it as by using men's words, to show them how important and powerful words are," says Tori Amos of her new CD, "Strange Little Girls."
Who: Tori Amos
When: 8 p.m. Sunday and Monday
Where: Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland
How Much: Both shows are sold out
[transcribed by Spencer Keywood]
[scan by Laurahey]
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