The consensus from loyal Tori Amos fans in their mid-to-late 30s is that the last memorable album they purchased by the pianist/singer was Boys for Pele (Atlantic, 1996). Even so, her Strange Little Girls (2001) collection of avant-garde, moody covers drew in new admirers. And her ninth studio album, American Doll Posse (Sony, 2007), takes the multiple character aspect of the latter album and rejuvenates the feminist ideal.
Far from militant about her views, Amos discovers five distinct parts of her personality — five aspects of the female persona — that combine into a whole. Rejecting the patriarchy through portraits of Amos from her wide album array, American Doll Posse is a collage of her music personified through females in Greek mythology.
The anti-war songs “Dark Side of the Sun” and “Yo George” stem from the character Isabel (a reflection of Artemis) — the “historical” one. Persephone sings through the idealistic, easily disappointed Clyde (“cliTORIdes”); whereas, Athena brings intensity to Pip (“expiraTORIcal”) on “Teenage Hustling.” Character four, Santa (“sanaTORIum”), like Aphrodite, is a mistress of love. She’s unpredictable and essentially feminine. But the story comes together as Amos herself, like parts Demeter and Dionysus, finds her character in Tori (“terraTORIdes”). Tori is both mother figure and leader — the male counterpart.
Amos’ new album has sparked more than just five fiery characters and their songs; she’s also inspired five wardrobes by fashion designers (topped with wigs and makeup changes), which fans can witness at her concerts. The album has also launched a multimedia project. Amos expresses her five “selves” through photos, songs and online journal blogs. It’s like embracing multiple personalities and then playing dress-up with them. Each stems from a different emotion and behavior, channeled to empower other women to do the same for themselves — look inward and appreciate the various aspects of the female icon.
But the former child piano prodigy (Amos was the youngest person to ever attend the Peabody Conservatory of Music) is most like the “Tori” character with her own first name. She jumps from Pip singing the harsh “Fat Slut” to Clyde singing a gingerly orchestrated “Girl Disappearing.” There’s everything on this album, from punk to rock to pop to even a mandolin- and ukulele-backed urban folk tune, “Devils and Gods,” sung by Amos as Isabel.
However, Amos’ album draws from all her roots: the lonely creator/artist, the defensive pessimist, the tragic failure, the open visionary and the passionate beauty. It’s all there. Maybe after listening to her new CD, you’ll also question the current administration’s policies or find the album a vehicle for experimental change. Catch Amos live at the Murat Theatre this Friday.