Y Kan't Tori Not B Preetensuss?

I'm saying up front that this post is totally biased because I hate Tori Amos with the white-hot passion of a thousand suns. Her smug, pseudo-intellectual performance art; her rapturous, pseudo-sexual piano playing; her pouty pseudo-feminist posturing...she's just so fucking overdramatic and so, so proud of herself. Not to mention she's behind the worst cover of all time—that godforsaken version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit"—that made me want to douse myself with gasoline and turn myself into a human bonfire. It's something I can't even talk about.

I also generally hate concept albums, which always spell trouble because I really don't want my rock stars to think that damn hard about any one topic. Give me all the hate, sorrow and angst you want, but show me your descent into madness in the tabloids.

So I bet you'll be stunned to hear that lil' Tori has just cranked one of these babies out. Make way for the American Doll Posse! If that title alone doesn't make you want to swallow a stick pin, wait until you hear the "concept." Tori performs the songs as five alter-ego characters, each inspired by a Greek goddess. So avant-garde! Just in case you weren't bludgeoned with the Sledgehammer of Meaning, each one of the characters is meant to illustrate a deeper aspect of Tori's oh-so-complicated psyche. If that isn't enough, Tori has ALSO selected five words to match up with each member of the posse, with some deeper meaning of course, and also containing the word Tori: hisTORIcal, terriTORIes, expiraTORIal, sanaTORIum and, naturally, cliTORIdes. It's all just so vaginal that even Maude Lebowski is starting to get a bit uncomfortable.

So without further ado, let's meet these bitches, shall we?:

• Isobel, a photographer/political activist based on Artemis; has a terrifying blonde bowl cut and dresses like Dorothy on The Golden Girls; quote: "The place I hold in a group of women is that of a Lens. [sic] A lens that records an actual happening. Objectivity can only be attained if you are open to another perception, even one that is contrary to your own."

• Clyde, a pouty art gallery drone with orange shadow, who "wears her emotional wounds on her sleeve," based on Persephone; quote: "When I meet a person I try and see not their mask, with it’s [sic] defenses, but what’s underneath...if no one sees their potential then they may not ever see it themselves and that would be tragic."

• Santa, a passionately sensual white-haired cheetah based on passionate goddess Aphrodite who is passionate about being a woman and is also really, really senusal; quote: "No one gets to be born a butterfly, not even Butterflies. [sic] The only way then to achieve beauty is through slime."

Pip, a "confrontational warrior woman" with punk-via-the-Ashlee-Simpson hair and Toni Basil for a stylist based on the goddess Athena; quote: "To think that some cheerleaders don’t have razors in their snatch [sic] is to be foolishly unarmed." (OK, WHAT?? Aww, sounds like someone got cut from varsity!)

The final doll is Tori herself—a complex embodiment of all of these characters! And with such great hair! Maybe she can take Britney wig shopping some time.

I bet you're wondering where I got quotes from each of these ladies. Surprise! Each character has "her" own blog! And even though they are all meant to be separate entities with their own ideas, they are all relentlessly wordy, incoherant and lack the same basic understanding of punctuation, capitalization and sentence structure.

Of course, Tori has some complicated, existential explaination for all of this absurdity: "What I'm trying to tell other women is they have their own version of the compartmentalised feminine which may have been repressed in each one of them. For many years I have been an image; that isn’t necessarily who I am completely. I have made certain choices and that doesn’t mean that those choices are the whole story. I think these women are showing me that I have not explored honest extensions of the self who are now as real as the redhead." Wow, that, like, blew my mind! I'm a bitch, I'm a lover, I'm a child, I'm a mother! This totally stupid quote illustrates one of the things I hate the most about Tori: her fake feminism. In case you haven't noticed, Tori is attractive. And skinny. And loves to have her picture taken in super-high-fashion getups, looking smugly pleased with herself. Kinda negates all of her pooh-poohing of the fashion industry, criticism of cheerleaders and whatnot. When you strip it all down, Tori is just a music-world version of CosmoGirl: gussied up as some ostentatious prom-queen revolutionary who is fighting for women while simultaneously embodying every stereotype she claims to be against. Plus, didn't she do all this I'm-A-Complicated-Woman-Look-At-All-My-Facets-And-Let's-Play-Dress-Up-At-The-Cover-Shoot already?

As if this contrived mess weren't mind-boggling enough, we are also treated to a barrage of grandious artsy-fartsy lyrics, including the profound gems "I am a MILF/Don't you forget", "Victory is an elusive whore", and "I salute to you, commander, and I sneeze, 'cause I have now an allergy to your policies it seems". She's kidding, right? People consider this woman a genius? Well, I guess she did rhyme "sneeze" with "seems", so what do I know?

The album has been getting decent reviews, but with a few delicious slags thrown in. From Entertainment Weekly: "Posse is a conceptual wreck." From Stylus, who rated it D+: "Downright stifiling...Talking about 'girls' was reasonable ten years ago, but Amos’s strain to identify with the twenties decade of life or obsess over her own gets old after nine albums. It would be refreshing to hear honest talk about one’s forties instead of glamorous, plastic doll-face parodies of it." From NOW: "Emotive ivory tickler Tori Amos once again proves she's the musical equivalent of your one friend who just says the same shit over and over whenever you have a conversation. That is to say, on her latest the angsty icon has all but phoned in an unbalanced, redundant and unnecessarily bloated 68-minute album." My personal favorite comes from The Onion AV Club, which brilliantly compares each of the dolls to the Spice Girls and Tori to Garth Brooks' infamous alter-ego Chris Gaines! Ah, you can always count on the Onion to put the tchotches in their place!

Fun fact: Tori's real name is Myra Ellen Amos, which is far catchier than her adopted "I really, really, REALLY wanted to be a cheerleader!" moniker. Poor Tori: so self-involved, so unable to laugh at herself, so obsessed with appearing creative and intellectual. When your id overrides your super-ego, this is the result. Have a laugh and see what happens...and for the love of god, stay away from the Nirvana!


Paul said...

Tori Amos has always sat unwell with me as one of my admired performers. I remember listening to "Crucify" on my Walkman as I mowed lawns back in middle school -- an unlikely tape to mow lawns to, sure, but an album that opened me up to a wealth of music I didn't know about at the time. Remember 1992? Bon Jovi, Sophie B. Hawkins, etc. clogging the airwaves? Amos was the antithesis to all that.

Whatever the case, Tori's music has always struck me as musically intelligent (always inviting) while trying too hard to be relevant with its Catholic trappings and lyrics that aren't feminist so much as brazenly standoffish and pretentious.

While I won't go so far as to say her cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is "godforsaken," her voice supersedes her music, if that makes any sense. She is a talent, to be sure, but I have a hard time discerning her music from what she's trying to say. In fact, when I saw the early promo art for "Posse," Tori was standing in front of a house with a Bible and blood running down her thigh, I think. It's a galvanizing image, certainly -- but one that's so heavy-handed and a decade behind the curve that it's shocking in a way that I'm sure Tori's PR department didn't think.

Like many, Tori Amos is a skilled, talented performer who shouldn't be bridled by what the music industry expects. She becomes "Tori Amos" (trademark) in this respect; when I saw her perform after Ben Folds in Cleveland back in '03, I was reminded that, given a piano, she's a genuine force to be reckoned with. Packaged with a blog concept and the increasing irrelevance of her posturings, the genuine Tori Amos is at the mercy of the trademarked version of herself.

Little Centaur said...

A bit of a late reply but I just stumbled upon this blog via a Google search. THANK YOU for articulating so beautifully and amusingly everything that I've fucking despised about this unbelievably smug, precious, beyond-pretentious moron ever since I first heard her.

Tori has become a bit of a litmus test for me too - I can't ever really be friends with people who are big Tori Amos fans. Because it doesn't mean we just have a difference of opinion about one thing, it means we probably stand miles apart on everything else too. Just look at what she said about covering Smells Like Teen Spirit: "That song is their song. And with every measure that I was putting down on tape, I was very clear that she was their baby. She just hung around with me for awhile like a friend. Seeing that there's another side to that male rage which was being expressed, because within all that male rage there's something ripped up. There's something sliced open. I mean that's obvious."

And this: "Beck's bass player (Justin Meldal-Johnsen) suggested I do a cover of Slayer's 'Raining Blood," she says applying strawberry lib balm with her pinkie. "I was reading about what was going on in Afghanistan--the way women were being oppressed, the destruction of religious statues. And when I heard that song, I just imagined a huge juicy vagina coming out of the sky, raining blood over all those racist, misogynist fuckers."


Anonymous said...

"made me want to douse myself with gasoline and turn myself into a human bonfire"

A phenomenally wonderful idea... go right ahead!

Anonymous said...

hear hear. well said. specially loved the 1st paragraph. can't stand her. she makes me want to puke