New York Times
September 9, 2001

Added September 9, 2001

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A review of "Strange Little Girls" appeared in the September 9, 2001 edition of the New York Times. You can read this review at the New York Times web site or below.

Ann Powers will be interviewing Tori at a special New York event on January 12, 2002. Click here for details about that.

Tori Amos Filters Male Rock Dreams

By Ann Powers

SONGS are intimate creations that become powerful creators, delivering one artist's perspective into the minds of countless listeners and turning it into a universal view. When the artist is male, which is most of the time, pop creates feminine icons that are really ventriloquists' dolls fulfilling men's fantasies. This is the principle behind Tori Amos's latest album, "Strange Little Girls" (Atlantic), which takes the art of musical interpretation into a new realm.

Twelve songs written by men dreaming of women give Ms. Amos a fertile field to repopulate with actual women's voices. Her version of Eminem's murder ballad "'97 Bonnie and Clyde" delicately dissects abuse as perverted devotion. It deserves all the attention it will get. But that's only the most brazen reworking among other songs by the Beatles, the Velvet Underground, Slayer, Tom Waits and more.

In the hands of Ms. Amos and her collaborators -- including her husband, the engineer Mark Hawley; her longtime drummer, Matt Chamberlain; and the guitarist Adrian Belew -- these "daughters" (as Ms. Amos always calls songs) are thoroughly adopted. Neil Young's plaintive "Heart of Gold" becomes a screaming James Bond theme, and Slayer's "Raining Blood" grows wistful, a sad oracle's tale. "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" goes beyond the gender theme to encompass the subject of gun control, unavoidable considering the song's originator, John Lennon.

Some choices, like "Enjoy the Silence" by Depeche Mode, are hard to grasp at first: what does this brooding bit of narcissism have to do with women? After a few listens to Ms. Amos's ear-ticklingly claustrophobic version, though, it makes sense: in pop, male aspirations are so grand, they often exclude all else. Even a gentle love song asserts dominance. "Strange Little Girls" exposes this reality as Ms. Amos gently but firmly pries open the male grasp until it gives.

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