Tori Talks About Boys For Pele
Tori's album, BOYS FOR PELE, is her most unusual and ambitious work to date. The reactions from critics and the fans have been very strong, and wide-ranging. Some fans love the album, while others express disappointment. Rolling Stone magazine trashed the album, while Spin gave it a glowing review. What has Tori said about this album? I have tried to summarize the interviews I have seen or read where she discusses BFP. If hearing Tori talk about her album and interpreting parts of it bothers you or will take away from your enjoyment of her music, then please stop reading now.
This album is a novel. Tori called her first album, LITTLE EARTHQUAKES, her diary, and her second album, UNDER THE PINK, an impressionist painting. BOYS FOR PELE is about a red-haired woman who is on a journey searching for her own fire and womanhood. This search was initiated after Tori ended her 8 year relationship with her boyfriend and producer, Eric Rosse. The album is divided into 14 major parts, which symbolize in Egyptian mythology the 14 pieces of Osiris that were gathered by the Goddess Isis. With this album Tori is descending in order to find the pieces of her womanhood, and to claim them. As Tori states, she "had a cup of tea" with Lucifer, and explored her shadow side looking for some answers. Tori stated in a radio interview with Michael Jackson, "This record is about the fragments that have been hidden...You don't follow your heart because you're afraid that you'll be outcast." In a biography that appears on the Atlantic records web page, she claims that the songs are "about the breaking down of the patriarchy within relationships and the idea of women claiming their own power." In an article in the Ft. Lauderdale Herald she says about the album:
"When we hit Muhammad you realize we've just taken a bend in the road. The first half of the record is about her descent in to the horror; she's got to find another way of looking at herself. On [the next song] Hey Jupiter, she knows the way she has looked at relationships with men and put them on a pedestal is over. There's a sense of incredible loss because I knew that I would never be able to see the same way again. It's freeing, and [yet] there's a sense of grieving with that."
The album has lyrics and imagery that can be pretty confusing on a casual listen. But close listening should lead to a better understanding. Tori has said that the FEELING evoked by the album should be easy to understand, even when the imagery is not. She says in a December 1995 Music Week article, "I truly believe you can taste and smell the feeling, the desire, the passion, the hurt, where we are going..." In the April 1996 Issue of Keyboard Review Tori says:
"It's a multi-layered work, and there are people that don't get that impression...But I think that's a reflection of them more than the work. I say: get a bottle of red and lie down... you know, the head gets in the way. My head wasn't in the way when I was crawling on my knees trying to find my womanhood."
Pele is a Volcano Goddess associated with both creation and destruction. Tori is seeking balance, whether it be between creation and destruction, lust or love, or male and female energy. Despite the title, Tori's primary purpose is not to throw all men over a cliff into the lava, though there is some of that on the record. Tori is revealing how she would steal fire or energy from the men in her life. "You just know you need energy from an outside source because you don't know how to access it for yourself", she says in the May 1996 Musician magazine. In Making Music she says:
"[Professional] Widow is my hunger for the energy I felt some of the men in my life possesseed: the ability to be king. I wasn't content just being a muse. I was the creative force. I was in relationships with different men where if they could honour that, they couldn't honour the woman, and if they could honour the woman, they couldn't honor the creative force..."
She says in a interview from the online magazine IGuide, "I became a vampire needing to feed, needing their energy...". In an article in Diva from Feb/Mar 1996, she states:
"I wrote this record because I was trying to fill the void any way I could...After nothing worked --men, food, incredible Chardonnay, shoes-- there was no anchor to hold on to, the old ways didn't work any more. I realised I'd supressed a lot of sides to myself to be loved and understood by men. I didn't want to play seductive little girl or ballbuster any more. With this record I played all those roles until I got to my heart. To find your fire as man or woman you have to take your torch and go to the shadows."
On Boys For Pele, Tori also continues to level criticism at traditional Christianity. The song Muhammed My Friend contains lyrics like "We both know it was a girl, back in Bethlehem" and "Moses I know, I know you've seen fire, but you've never seen fire, until you've seen Pele blow...". She harshly criticizes patriarchal Christianity because she feels with the ascension of Christianity came the death of the Goddess, or the female side of god. In Musician magazine, Tori feels the need to talk about "the Law of the Feminine that had been castrated with the birth of Christ." Tori believes that Jesus had a good balance between the female and the male, but this memory was not preserved. In a very recent interview in the Baltimore Sun she says:
"I wanted to know why the blueprint of the [Mary] Magdalene was not passed down..what was passed down was the whore that wiped Jesus' feet. We skipped the whole phase of the woman - having sexual desire, wisdom, passion. Being an equal to Jesus..."
Despite the fact that some critics and even fans have expressed criticisms or reservations about the new album, Tori is quite pleased with it. She feels that a work is no good if everyone likes it, and that a fiery album will bring out a passionate response, either positive or negative. She says in Making Music, "I'm ready to jump off a cliff, and if they're [the fans] ready to jump with me, we jump together, and its another journey. The woman's journey."
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