The Basics: Ever the poet, Tori Amos is known for crafting meaningful songs that are filled with colorful imagery and that put women front and center. For her eighth studio album, this minister's daughter actually spent a lot of time hitting the books, researching things like how women's contributions to the Bible have been edited down to virtually nothing and studying up on historical figures like the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet. She then weaved her new knowledge of these powerful women '- whom she calls queen bees '- into her music.
The Catch: The Beekeeper is high concept compared to the fluff churned out by the pop-tart generation. The 19 tracks on the album are broken into six "gardens" of songs, inspired by the six-sided cells of a honeycomb, and are presided over by "The Beekeeper." Amos even takes her exploration of the relationship between women and men deeper into the instruments themselves, playing the piano, a "woman's" instrument, against the organ, a "man's" instrument.
Why It's Good: Not to keep cutting on pop-tarts, but their songs, no matter how catchy, are merely a quick fix and never withstand the test of time. Amos already has a couple of songs in the classic category '- "Silent All These Years," an anthem for women in angst-filled relationships, and "Me and a Gun," about her real-life rape that is a shockingly rare glimpse into a victim's pain. The Beekeeper has a few titles to join that collection. The album kicks off with a great track, "Parasol," about a woman who was betrayed but transforms herself. As the story progresses and the main character gains strength, Amos picks up the pace on the Hammond B3 organ, giving the song real energy.
"Sweet the Sting," with its upbeat tempo, is simply addictive, especially with the London Community Choir singing the chorus, which gives the song a gospel edge. Another highlight is "The Power of Orange Knickers," featuring the soulful Irish singer '- and Renée Zellweger flame '- Damien Rice. With all that's packed into this honeycomb, the album is sweeter than honey.
iVillage Mood Meter: You'll want to run a bubble bath, pop Beekeeper in your stereo and drift away to foreign lands