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Tori Amos: Reclaiming the M-Word?

Santa, Clyde, Isabel, Tori, and PipCourtesy of Sony BMG

Pop musicians’ outsize personalities can barely be contained in one identity. David Bowie had Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke. Eminem had Slim Shady. Hell, even Mariah Carey had Mimi. Tori Amos, never one for straightforward conceits, created no less than four alter egos for her new album, American Doll Posse: Santa, Pip, Isabel, and Clyde are based on female archetypes from the Greek pantheon. Each comes with her own distinct worldview — and wig. Last night, at the album-release party held at Spotlight Live in Times Square, each of the “girls,” as Amos calls them, also had her own signature cocktail.

Despite Posse’s art-school concept, fans and reviewers seem relieved that Amos is no longer crooning about sleeping with butterflies, as she did on her 2005 album, The Beekeeper. Instead, the self-proclaimed minister’s daughter, who has always ranked criticizing Christian patriarchy high on her agenda, has returned with a vengeance. She even turns the female pop single on its head with “Big Wheel,” which pairs her piano with a rollicking, southern guitar riff, crashing cymbals, and a memorable bridge: “I, I, I am a M-I-L-F don’t you forget / M-I-L-F don’t you forget.” We talked to Amos about the M-word, and how she keeps her alter egos straight.

New York’s sex columnists recently wrote that a MILF is “at once repulsive and appealing.” You sing about being a MILF on your new single. What’s your take on the phrase?
Well, if you’re a mother, there’s nothing repulsive about it. If you are a nurturing mother, and a good one, you can go to play groups, sit on the floor and play all the games, and have tea with the other mothers, but wouldn’t you like to think that’s not all there is? That you haven’t hung up your high heels without knowing how to walk in them? I’m really quite happy to say that in my early 40s, I wake up feeling sexy, and I can’t say I felt that way in my late 20s.

Are you reclaiming the word MILF?
I don’t think it’s that. I wouldn’t do a thesis on it, but I think if young boys have no problem using it, why can’t the women who are our age use it?

So on your Website, you’re blogging as your four different alter egos.
Tori is not allowed to blog. The girls would not allow her.

You’re also going to dress up as one of the girls for the beginning of each of your shows. Does it ever get confusing where Tori ends and the Posse begins?
Well, Tori holds the place of musician, producer, and composer, and I think after having had so many records as a singer-songwriter, she had a little grace carrying it with the other women. Because you have to figure that when the man in your life [Amos’s husband] looks twice at Santa [American Doll Posse’s blonde bombshell] as she walks across the room, it’s a compliment. And yet a part of me thinks, I thought he liked redheads? There has to be a sense of humor from my point of view, but there has to be a discipline, because I can only hold the characters for so long. It’s almost as if it’s a performance-art piece and I have to close the door and really take on that female archetype. Because they’re structured after myth, I walk into the mythology. —Rebecca Ruiz

Tori Amos: Reclaiming the M-Word?