For the better part of her 20-year career, piano-bench-straddling singer/songwriter Tori Amos has touched upon a wide range of loaded subjects — including sexuality, patriarchy and personal tragedy — over the course of her eight studio LPs. The redhead has also strongly criticized organized religion, specifically Christianity, through her impassioned lyrics. Now, she is setting her cerebral crosshairs on the realm of politics.
Of course, when it comes to taking a stand against the state of international affairs, it seems like there’s no time like the present, with artists like Björk, Nine Inch Nails and Muse — to name just a few — baring their fangs. Thanks to a certain someone — cough … President George W. Bush … cough — Amos couldn’t help herself to do the same.
“Frankly, as a woman, and as a woman who wrote ‘Silent All These Years’ [a song about rape that appeared on 1992's Little Earthquakes], I needed to stand up,” Amos explained. “It seemed to me that, sometimes, the material wanted to be overtly political. Sometimes the material wanted to be cheeky and seductive. Sometimes it wanted to be heartbreaking and deal with the inner world of women.
“The way to really combat the right wing is to not be subservient to them on any level, particularly when it comes to ideology,” she continued. “Therefore, you better offer up another ideology that can combat theirs, and as a preacher’s daughter, I understand their ideology inside and out. Frankly, they’ve all hijacked Jesus and his message. I’m sorry, but ‘Love thy neighbor as yourself’ is nowhere to be found, especially in our current regime, who, in the name of God, is sending our young men and women to die over there [in the Middle East].”
Amos’ American Doll Posse is due May 1 and leads off with “Yo George.” In the track, Amos wonders, “Where have we gone wrong, America?” and asks, “Is this just the madness of King George?” She then blasts the president’s job performance, singing ever so gently, “You have the whole nation on all fours.” The record-closing anti-war anthem “Dark Side of the Sun” asks, “How many young men have to lay down their life and their love of their woman for some sick promise of a heaven?”
“If for one minute the generation who is about old enough and eligible to vote thinks this is about one person, then we’re all very foolish,” Amos said. “We need to wake up and realize that just because we think we’re in a democracy, there is a little bit of a seduction there. They’re not overtly burning books and they’re not doing this and that, but they’re doing exactly what they want to do, and we’re distracted. It’s funny — they’re not burning books, they’re just throwing more information at us, and drowning us in it. You have to be able to think for yourself and not get manipulated.”
But in order to make her political statement, Amos called on “Isabel,” one of the four archetypes she developed for the disc. Each of these archetypes symbolizes a particular side of her musical personality, and each is based on one of the female constituents of the Greek pantheon. Isabel, Amos explained, is a photographer and a reflection of Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. Clyde, who was inspired by Persephone, the goddess of the underworld, embodies the singer’s emotional and idealistic side. There’s also Pip, the confrontational “warrior woman” based on Athena, and Santa, the sensual side of the artist, who was inspired by Aphrodite.
“Maybe they’ve been gestating inside of me for many years now, and it’s taken till I got to a certain place in order to be able to mine them and excavate them from the recesses of my unconscious,” Amos said of her multiple personas. “I don’t know the why of it, but I do know that usually, I make records that have one single thread and a theme coming from one narrative. [On] most of the records, there’s usually a center focus. But this was not that, and therefore, because there were so many varied styles coming in, I brought the band in early, knowing that we had to develop them from the ground up, and that some of these songs were much more guitar-biased than they were singer/songwriter-biased. I guess it was the producer in me that had to say, ‘OK, the singer/songwriter’s going to have to take a back seat some of the time here,’ and I was really fine with that. After so many records, it’s good to change it up.”
When Amos heads out on the road in support of American Doll Posse, she said she’ll step aside and let “all of these women” — each of whom has a specific look and fashion sense — take the stage. “So, the shows will start with one of the four women that isn’t Tori, and then Tori will take the stage about a third into the concert,” she explained.
More than anything, though, Amos said American Doll Posse is a psychological exploration.
“It’s not just, ‘I’m going to wake up and play dress-up today,’ ” she said. “I think it’s fair to say that all women are a different percentage of these archetypes, and each culture has different versions of these if you’re a rich culture. And if you were around before the monotheistic authority, [when] God came and then suppressed the power of the mother gods, these women at one time were powerful and autonomous and part of the pantheon as well as the male gods. Now, of course, there’s just one guy, and the women are subservient to him. I find this incredibly myopic. We have access to this rich culture as women, and we need to open ourselves up.”