The Power of Orange Knickers

Saturday 3 May 2014, by Cécile Desbrun

We had great fun," Amos tells Billboard.com of recording with Rice. "If you have a song called ’The Power of Orange Knickers’ [then] you’ve got to have the other. I felt a guy singing that line was exciting." (Billboard.com, january 2005)

"The Power Of Orange Knickers," which she intended as a statement "that violence isn’t the answer to everything, and using the idea of terrorism to get what you want—whoever you are—should be a thing of the past." (Paste, February 2005)

"There’s a line in The Power of Orange Knickers about not knowing who the real terrorist is... 

Yeah. I know some artists prefer not to comment, but I’ve followed the US administration and I genuinely believe they’ve emotionally blackmailed and manipulated the American people. We’re living in a frightening time and I wish people would wake up and realise they’re surrendering their civil liberties." (Uncut, February 2005)

"I’ve just finished a song on my new album called ’The Power Of Orange Knickers’ and the word that came up was "terrorist". Tricky one! What rhymes with "terrorist"? Assonance is your best friend here. I thought about how people are using that word right now - whether it’s people who run kingdoms or are killing people, or both. Maybe it could mean domestic terrorism, somebody you let in your house or your room or your body - invasion! Then I put the word "kiss" in there to create a paradox as it’s the furthest thing from "terrorist"." (Word, February 2005)

"It’s that ’Take another drop of courage.’ It’s your double espresso that says, all right, I can drive across the country." (The New York Post, February 20, 2005)

"You know, the word terrorist was just ... we’d all had enough of it. And it was just irresistible, I must say, having a guy sing the title words." (The Sunday Times, February 20, 2005)

"I was curious about how people were defining what a terrorist was. [I wanted to] undress the word and really crawl inside the definition of it . . . People are using it to get the masses to agree with their agendas . . . [But] it can be a little pill that you’re addicted to, or a person. And sometimes, for a woman, it’s another woman." (Rollingstone.com, February 21, 2005)

« But because things have taken a turn ... well, maybe some of us were hoping that a certain way of thinking would shift, and that was the hope: That violence wouldn’t be the answer to everything, and that using the idea of terrorism to get what you want - whoever you are - would again be a thing of the past, for our leaders, anyway. But because people are made to be afraid of anything and everything, so that they’re not really analyzing who’s benefiting from this war, I decided to write a song called "The Power Of Orange Knickers." [It’s] about "What is a terrorist? What is that idea?" And the key was to crawl inside the cell of the word itself and how it’s being used, to invade the idea of it. And orange seems to be in a lot of places these days, popping up. But I couldn’t contemplate making this record last August, because I had to stay neutral on what I thought the outcome would be on the election. But my songs are current now, and they’re about ways of thinking. » (The Wave, March 9, 2005)

« I’m sure you’ve heard about artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude who set up their installations all around the world. In the past they wrapped Reichstag, and some time ago they set up thousands of orange gateways in Central Park. I visited NYC recently with my four-and-a-half year old daughter Natashya. On our way to a hotel, in a taxi, the driver told us that people were not happy about having to pay 26 million dollars for the installation, instead of giving it to the homeless. Then I asked Natashya if she liked what she was seeing outside. She started to giggle. When she saw I didn’t understand what she’d meant by that, she replied: "Mommy, in Central Park there are thousands of orange knickers. The ladies here must have very large bottoms". Some time before that I’d read her a book called ’James and the Giant Peach’ by Roald Dahl and probably that’s why those gateways seemed to be for her like the knickers of giants- main characters of the book. Kids can still enjoy such play of imaginaion, since 26 million dollars means nothing to them. » (Gala, March 21, 2005)

« I was curious about how people were defining what a terrorist was. It seemed to me that people were using it to get the masses to agree with their agendas on whether you’re religious or political. I decided to undress the word "terrorist" and really crawl inside the definition of it. As I started to observe people, I realized you can be invaded on the playground. The effect of that is not something that should be marginalized because we have a picture of a terrorist with a gun in their hand. That is a picture. But there are other pictures, too, that affect people’s lives. That can be a little pill that you’re addicted to, or a person, and it goes on and on. And sometimes it’s another woman for another woman.» (St Petersburg Times, March 31, 2005)

Some include "desert garden," a soundtrack to the current political principles dominating the country, and "the greenhouse," thoughts on today’s struggling women featuring "The Power of Orange Knickers" with guest vocalist Damien Rice. "I heard this voice and it made sense that that voice would understand the dynamic of the song - plus the idea of a guy saying the words ’the power of orange knickers’ was completely irresistible." (Chicago Innerview, April 2005)

« I certainly still get angry, but I don’t walk around being angry because I’m under somebody else’s control. It’s like in "The Power of Orange Knickers" (from The Beekeeper): "Who is this terrorist?" It’s very easy to point your finger at the guy with the turban. Or if you’re the guy with the turban, it’s easy to point your finger at the guy with the Army uniform. But sometimes it’s harder to point the finger at someone in your own family or your boyfriend or your friends. » (Spin, April 2005)

"Well, I wanted to write a song about terrorists. It’s a word that’s been used and misused a lot in the last few years. Therefore, sometimes to emancipate a word, you have to undress it. And as I started to undress it, I found a lot of things there. And if you start exploring it, all the correlations and just the word associations, you might get certain images in your mind." (The Boston Phoenix, April 8-14, 2005)

"Orange is a color that intrigues me, not just because of Guantnamo Bay," she explains, referring to the orange prison uniforms inmates wear. "But William of Orange came over to Ireland, and you’ve got people over there who understand terrorism in a way that we don’t. We’re just learning about it because of what happened a few years ago to us. But the Irish and the British have been in this now for quite a long time. So, having lived in Ireland — I have a house there, and I live in England and I live in America — I see it from different perspectives. But I wanted to free up the word so that people can reclaim it and therefore won’t just have a kneejerk reaction to it every time the terrorist button gets pushed — so that you won’t immediately get a picture in your mind of a guy in a turban every time the alert level goes from orange to amber. Instead, maybe you should get a picture in your mind of a guy with a suit. Or maybe it’s a woman who’s a teacher. Or your boss, who keeps coming onto you and embarrasses you every time you have your marketing meeting, because she wants you and you’re just not into her. So she emasculates you in front of people. Now, that would be pretty invasive. And maybe that’s your terrorist. I think it started when my daughter Tash was asking me, ’What’s a terrorist?’, because she heard the word on the news. So I tried to explain. Finally she looked at me and said, ’Mommy, you mean like the bully on the playground?’ And I said, ’Yeah, that’s what I mean, but that bully can be inside, too.’ It can be anywhere." (The Boston Phoenix, April 8-14, 2005)

« There’s a song called "The Power of Orange Knickers" that really kind of explores the idea of the word « terrorist ». So I put on a pair of orange knickers one morning. And I decided if I am going to stalk the idea of a terrorist without having a picture of what one was then I am going to need my orange knickers. And as I started to walk over to the piano I started to think about words that rhymed with « terrorist » and the song kept drawing me in and drawing me in deeper and deeper and deeper and it said : « Yes, it’s easy to see the enemy if it is another country, it’s easy to see the enemy in another culture. Find the enemy in your own culture. Then find the enemy in your own being. And she’s there. We all have parts of ourselves that will choose to obliterate an idea instead of negotiating with it. Because it takes great skill to negotiate with ideas, it doesn’t take a lot of skill to obliterate, unfortunately. It doesn’t sound like this on the record, but just alone here with us, the essence is (plays the beginning of the song)… And it goes on. And I began to understand how the opposites, if they don’t have an understanding and a respect for one another, and hold it into balance, then the whole thing begins to bring chaos. » (The Beekeeper DVD Bonus)

"I started to think about the word terrorist. It’s a word you hear several times a day now. I started to think about what being a terrorist can mean in different situations. I wanted to explore the realm of personal invasion. Now this would be an invasion by someone you know personally, not a stranger. We all know about strangers being filled with hatred — strangers who lash out against a government or an ideal. As a result, this stranger kills innocent people, tragically, people you may know personally. But when there is an intimacy between two people and one person starts to feel invaded by the other person, that is personalized terrorism. As we all know, the battleground between two lovers, or two friends, or two coworkers can be vicious. Painful. Heartbreaking. And bloody. I started to think about the weapons that might be used in this kind of battle, and as I kept digging for an answer, I stumbles into the Realm of Assonance. I started to think, Okay, what is the paradox of the terrorist? And Assonance, that beautiful creature, came to my aid and whispered, ’Kiss.’ And sure enough, we have all felt invaded by a lingering kiss, for good or ill. But I had to find terrorism not just in a relationship of a couple — representing two divided Beings — but within one Being. After all, isn’t that the ultimate discovery, the ultimate pain — division within the self, the soul from the body, the mind from the heart, wisdom from consciousness, the addiction from the cure, the two Marys . . . divided? The lyrics started to come to me quickly..." (Tori Amos : Piece by Piece)

« I heard it, his [Damien Rice] voice. And, I thought there needed to be a male voice on "The Power of Orange Knickers." I thought it was really, really important. Because he was Irish - I did like that other subtext - the idea of [the Irish] as a people [who] know about terrorism.

"The Power of Orange Knickers" is, at its root, about invasion - [and] whether the invasion is a terrorist - and if you kind of undress that idea for a minute, this whole context of a terrorist being a guy with a turban, or the terrorist being a guy in a uniform, depending on what part of the country you live in and what side. I wanted to really go further into the idea of a terrorist because I felt like you have to reclaim the word. In order to emancipate a word, sometimes you must undress it. So, when I looked at the word "terrorist," it seemed to come back to "invasion." And yet, all around me, I was seeing people being invaded by a divorce preceding, being invaded by a desire for someone that just took over their life, an alcoholic, any kind of addict. An invasion can be a need for sugar, or it can be a need for any kind of drug. And so, I was just fascinated by this concept of invasion and how anytime the media had a terrorist warning, that trigger was able to be pushed, that button was able to be pushed. And people would support any kind of response that the government wanted to make because it is a button that brings up fear in us. Unless, we are able to reclaim the word, and say, "Well hang on. Is this a real threat? Or, is this just another way to endorse more billions and billions of dollars into securing more oil fields when we can be putting it into education?" Because, what about the terrorism within our own country, with people not being educated? Illiteracy is invading our country. » (Rag, May 2005)

"The word ’terrorist’ needed to be undressed because, let’s face it, if you’re having the picture (the authorities) want you to have, then you’re either going to have a picture of a guy with a turban or a guy in an army uniform. I don’t like being manipulated." (Sydney Morning Herald, May 6, 2005)

"Essentially, people do not choose to see the misuse of power. They choose to see their fantasy of what is justice. You go through history, and you look at leaders and quite a few of them are really solid in their faith, like William of Orange. I have a house in Ireland and the Irish have affected me. I spend time there - usually when people don’t know it - to recharge and to gain insight.

One of the reasons I wanted Damien Rice to sing on "The Power Of Orange Knickers" and the reason I chose orange for terrorists, not because of Guantanemo Bay, but also William of Orange, and this is the idea of invasion. When people are invading, they usually think they’re helping. And being brought up by my grandfather from the Eastern Cherokee nation, the English, German, Irish, French, Spanish, European who invaded thought that they were doing the Indians a service. We were savages and they could not honour our spiritual beliefs. Now there is a tidal wave in America happening underneath that, and people are turning more now to the Native American ways. They’re definitely searching for a connection to the land. With all the crisis’ that have happened with mother nature, she is speaking loudly, ’you must hear me.’ The Mother Revolution is already occurring and that’s why in The Beekeeper, I was really trying to target some of the dark ominous intentions that are at work in America." (X Press, May 12, 2005)

"I knew that song, The Power of Orange Knickers, needed a male voice. I heard his voice playing in the kitchen and I said: "*That’s* a voice." It was just right."
Q: Why orange knickers?
A:"It’s a colour with a lot of different meanings. The Guantanamo Bay prisoner outfit; Orange marches. I liked the association of it." (Metro UK, June 8, 2005)

« "The Power of Orange Knickers" is not about the terrorist that’s necessarily... »

LBW: Al Quaeda.

Tori: «That’s right. Or an army guy, if you happen to live in say, the Middle East, then your idea of a terrorist is an American officer, or of course, if you’re in America and your idea is a guy with a turban. Then maybe you’re starting to question what a terrorist is, but you’re humming along to it before you even realize what you’re doing. And the album is very much about seduction. We’ve been blamed as women for being seducers, so I decided... well, we’re being blamed for it—let’s seduce them. » (Little Blue World, vol. 5, n°1 - Spring 2005)

« Sometimes you have to look at the part of yourself that’s a terrorist. It’s very easy to spot the stranger carrying a bomb in a knapsack. What’s very tricky is within our own personal universes, where we don’t know how to tell a friend they’ve overstayed their welcome, or when they’ve not treated you fairly. That’s where we’re tested. That’s what I write about. » (The Virginian-Pilot, August 11, 2005)