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Rocky Mountain Bullhorn (US)
Fort Collins, Colorado, alternative newsweekly
September 1, 2005
Marrying the Marys
On ner new album, Tori Amos examines the right-wing's harnessing of Jesus.
Tori Amos is mad about Jesus.
The politics of religion have always played a large role in the songwriting of Tori Amos. Now, it's the religion of politics that has sparked the interest of this alt singer/songwriter, who released her ninth album, The Beekeeper, this past winter. As the daughter of a Methodist minister, raised in the Bible Belt of North Carolina, the pianist is well versed in Christianity. And it was only when she looked around at the 21st century that she realized she didnt like what she saw.
The result was The Beekeeper, a convoluted allegory that details Amos' discovery of tangled lies, mythology and political manipulation of Christianity. This leads to the beekeeper character's creation of six gardens of experience, six being the magic number linking both the shape of a beehive's cells and the half-dozen days it took God to create the world in Genesis.
"The Beekeeper was responding to not the covert right-wing Christianity that we've known, but the overt right-wing Christianity of some of our leaders who have been harnessing Jesus' teachings to support their agendas," says Amos, calling from Florida. "Therefore, as a ministers daughter, I decided to go back to the source."
For Amos, that source for discovery led her to studying The Gnostic Gospels, additional teachings of Jesus discovered in Egypt 60 years ago, in relation to the New Testament. She said this was a jumping-off point for the direction of her new album. Already considered a cerebral singer and keen purveyor of melody and song, Amos says once she found her inspiration, the songs began to reveal themselves within a loose narrative.
"The Beekeeper, at its core, is marrying the Marys," Amos says. "The mother Mary, who was circumcised of her sexuality, and the Magdalene, who was stripped of her spirituality by the early fathers of the church. Not by Jesus, but by those who claimed his work and re-formed it to support their ideology"
Through this discovery, she felt a parallel between the misguided manipulation of power in the teaching of Christianity and the current political climate, whether it be related to a war or the role of women in society.
"An album is something that needs to be cohesive, even in an abstract strange manner," Amos says. "It needs to work together, and this was working because, at this time, sacred sexuality is not something that many women feel that they carry. I've gotten more letters from women over the past four years about this division within themselves. A lot of them have jobs and are going to college and have careers lined up but they feel that they either need to choose the sexual self or the spiritual self, and they don't know how to join the two."
Whereas Amos' 2002 album Scarlet's Walk was viewed as a return to a more accessible Amos, which included radio airplay, The Beekeeper has largely remained under the mainstream radar. While Amos says she doesn't bother herself with whether radio stations play her songs or not, she does believe her tackling of the political and religious aspects has resulted in a backlash from media corporations that are interconnected with the powers that be.
"This is not a time of equality but a time where the patriarchy is not truly holding up Jesus' teachings," Amos says. "So if you ask me, did I realize what I was getting myself into? Not as much as maybe I should have. I knew that I was playing with the honeybees, and I thought they would bring honey, but also the great thing about having the honeybees on your side is that they will sting those that try and control them."
Amos' hope is her upcoming September 5 show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre will open the eyes of her zealous fan base, of which she has been queen bee for nearly fifteen years.
"You know what, at a certain point, I'm a mom." Amos says. "I have a little girl and she's going to look at me in twenty years and say, 'What did you do? You call yourself a warrior and a fighter for rights and equality for men and women and children. So, where the fuck were you, Mom?' So, here I am."
Still a fighter, Amos has changed her songwriting in subtle but equally effective ways throughout her nine albums. Initially exorcising her own personal demons of dysfunction and experience, the red-haired chanteuse appears now to be more focused on the world around her.
This brings up the unique subject that all musicians must deal with at some point in their career -- how to relate to material dating from their angry youth when middle-age and perhaps domesticity has set in. For example, does the fire still burn for Amos when she sings the line "I've got the antichrist in the kitchen yelling at me again" from her classic "Silent All These Years." The track appears on her 1992 debut Little Earthquakes.
"Sure, all of the songs [from my past] are alive," Amos says. "The songs are timeless. It's we who come and visit them that might see different faces when we hear the songs. I do, anyways. Sometimes I see a different person than who I originally saw when I was originally singing it."
The antichrist reference gets to her, and Amos laughs briefly before continuing, "And in some cases, I still see the same faces. So to me, the songs are timeless. It's us that change."
As for her future endeavors, Amos writes continuously, beginning with anytime she's in the shower. With so much human injustice in the world, Amos believes she has a responsibility to push any boundaries she comes across.
"Of course, because I realize I change shapes with each album and I offer a different menu each time that the songs come to visit," Amos says. "The songs really aren't that bothered how people view them, because they know who they are, and I think that sometimes certain albums aren't as offensive to the masses as others, because of the ideologies. But you can't [think about that]. If you want to be a composer that chronicles time, you have to be brave."
Tori Amos will perform at Red Rocks in Morrison on Monday, September 5, at 7 p.m., with The Ditty Bops and The Like. Tickets range from $39.50 to $48.50 and are available at ticketmaster.com.
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