"How would you feel about making a bootylicious, ridiculously stupid, and fun video for a song about pubic hair freedom?"
That's what Amanda Palmer, solo artist, independent music trailblazer, and half of the Dresden Dolls, found herself asking her friend and music video director Michael Pope a little while back. Even for a woman who's known for living outside the box -- from her controversial, pretend-conjoined-twins side project to her self-released ukulele cover album of Radiohead songs to her coffee table book that featured photos of herself in various states of death and mutilation -- this definitely seemed like a wild idea.
But the resulting effort, "Map of Tasmania," is among Palmer's most entertaining and clever projects to date -- and a fitting release on the eve of her tour of Australia, New Zealand, and (you guessed it) Tasmania, which kicks off Saturday (Jan. 15). Watch it, in all its crotch-gazing glory, here (and scroll down for loads of behind-the-scenes info):
WATCH: Amanda Palmer, "Map of Tasmania"
The song began as somewhat of a joke, a tossed off effort that Palmer wrote for a 2009 tour of Tasmania, the island off the coast of Australia, where the phrase "map of Tasmania" refers to a woman's patch of pubic hair, which shares the island's triangular shape.
"I thought it would be really funny to write a song that I would only play once for the Tasmanians, because they would be the only ones that would get the joke," Palmer explains to SPIN. "So I literally wrote this song in less than half an hour while I was backstage getting ready for the show, thinking, 'This is something really funny and really silly. It'll make them laugh and then I'll never play it again.'"
But, as so happens these days, a fan captured footage of the performance and posted it on YouTube , and when Palmer returned to tour Australia, fans were requesting it -- and its chorus, where she talks about "showing off my map of Tasmania."
She obliged, but even at that first performance of the song, Palmer noted: "It's my secret dream that M.I.A. will hear this song and remix it, 'cause it needs a fat beat." Into the picture came Hal Ritson of dance act the Young Punx, who met Palmer at a conference in France and later crafted the electro-tastic version that's used in the video.
Though the song was written in just a few minutes, Palmer feels it has a deeper meaning -- yes, we're talking about pubic hair freedom now. "I've been really shocked and distressed to find out that 8- and 9-year-old girls are getting all their pubic hairs waxed off by their mothers," she says. "I think if I have any purpose at all, it's to stand up there and say, 'Oh, no, no, no, no, girls. You totally have a choice. You can wax it, you can shave it, you can grow it out, and this really is up to you.' That's the way that I feel about everything, that you just need to know there's a choice out there."
Adds Pope, the director: "On the surface, it's a song about girls growing out their pubes. Underneath that, however, is a call to everyone, woman and man alike, to discover the courage to be themselves. Whoever that may be."
In the video, various states of pubic hair maintenance are comically conveyed via a wide assortment of merkins (i.e., pubic wigs, for the uninitiated) designed by Palmer's pal Cassandra Long and worn by models and dancers. They range from a blinged-out version of Palmer's initials, to one that depicting the ghastly image from Munch's famous painting, "The Scream" (even funnier when you see it in action), to a giant mane of beard-like mess.
"The one with the pink hair-curlers is also one of my favorites," says Palmer. "One of the ones that didn't get any good airtime featured a garden landscape made of moss. It was made of one of those WWII, paint-your-own Gettysburg battlefields. That one ended up being worn by the costume designer all day and didn't actually make it into the video."