Something that goes unspoken in the cult of Tori Amos is that she knows the value of press and that she knows how to exploit it. So, six albums into her career, and several years since she captured headlines, she released Strange Little Girls, a collection of covers intended to strike a dagger into the heart of how males view females in pop songs. To be honest, you wouldn't know that from listening to the record, but you might have an idea by looking at the four separate collector-oriented covers, and reading the reviews, previews, and interviews Tori did prior to and at the time of release. The only track that really feels that way is Eminem's "97 Bonnie and Clyde," where Amos heightens the tension by close-mic'ing her vocals and reading with a hammy theatricalness that results in a cut about as chilling as the original, but without the context. After that, there really aren't many songs that sound like they're a female switch in perspective, apart from maybe the Stranglers' title track (which she does a nice job with), and it's very hard to tell what she's trying to say with these songs. Is she the fat blonde actress in the Velvet Underground's "New Age"? Mother Superior in the Beatles' "Happiness is a Warm Gun" (recorded with an anti-gun recitation from her father)? Is she the chair in Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence"? How does Tom Waits' "Time" fit into the equation? Tori never tells us, either lyrically or through her musical arrangements -- witness the bizarre deconstruction of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold," another song that doesn't seem to fit her theme, so she dresses it up in flanged guitar and neo-trip-hop beats. Tori's sexual politics are so poorly constructed, appearing almost nonexistent, that the music by default rises to the forefront and it almost meets the demands. For the most part, this is a solid record -- overly produced and not as inventive as her takes on "Angie" and "Smells Like Teen Spirit," but rarely as wretched as "Heart of Gold." Though there's a bit too much surface sheen, it's a solid record, yet it's not particularly distinctive, so the pre-release hype about the gender deconstructions of Strange Little Girls makes sense, because the only way this distinguishes itself is through its stated intention -- and if the album doesn't make the intentions specific, it's best to get the word out any way possible. And while all that press may have given the impression that this is something new, something different -- precisely what it was meant to do -- it really is nothing more than another, pretty good Tori Amos record, only not quite as interesting because she didn't write the tunes.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine