STRANGE LITTLE GIRLS, the new studio album from Tori Amos, is an assemblage of songs written by men, but performed by Tori from the perspectives of a diverse cast of female characters. Songs composed by such artists as Neil Young, the Stranglers, Eminem, Depeche Mode, Slayer, Lou Reed, Lennon/McCartney, and others are taken apart and put back together darkly, gently, and in an uncompromising fashion. In crafting the new album, Amos wanted to talk about men - how men see women, how men see themselves, and how the view changes depending on where you're standing. So Tori turned to the words of men themselves to do it. "I've always found it fascinating how men say things and women hear them," the songwriter says.
Tori Amos's idea for Strange Little Girls was to present covers of men's songs from a female perspective. The concept is fairly unique--although Liz Phair had a similar idea with 1993's Exile in Guyville. But while Phair fashioned original lyrics in response to the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street, Amos sticks with the script when reciting lyrics from acts as diverse as the Velvet Underground, Depeche Mode, Neil Young, Tom Waits, and Slayer. She transforms the material, though, by singing in a pained tone, weighing the lyrics with heavy emotion and stripping most of the songs down to their simplest elements--often just a string section, a drum machine or a piano, leaving the original music almost unrecognizable. The most poignant of these tracks is definitely her cover of Eminem's "97' Bonnie and Clyde." The first-person story of a man dumping his lover's dead body takes on an ugly sickness and brutality with Amos's almost-whispered narration. As with most of these songs, Amos removes the pop façade and leaves the listener with a stark picture of the message behind the lyrics--whether that message concerns violence or male identity--in a statement both subtly political and stunningly beautiful. --Jennifer Maerz