She's most famous for her work as part of the Brechtian punk cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls, along with drummer Brian Viglione. They released three studio albums and toured as openers for Panic! at the Disco, until they went on hiatus in 2008. Although Viglione and her have done shows together since then, the band has officially broken up, even though Palmer has announced plans of them to produce music again.
In 2012, Palmer famously released an album with her at-the-time band The Grand Theft Orchestra called Theatre is Evil, which was funded entirely over Kickstarter - a groundbreaking artistic decision at the time, which was worth it, as the Kickstarter far overpassed its goal. She released the album for free through her website, and then debuted on the Billboard top 100 Album list at number 10 due to the immense number of Kickstarter pre-orders. This Kickstarter campaign prompted her TED-Talk in 2013, the ideas of which she then expanded upon in a personal memoir, called The Art of Asking.
Her songs vary wildly in style and topics, with many featuring Dark Humor and subject material. She's fond of recontextualizing children's songs in a more mature, adult way, and of making puns. Amanda's also known for performing covers of whatever she feels like, ranging from an entire EP of Radiohead covers on the ukulele, to classic musicals, to Black Sabbath, to Britney Spears, to a reimagining of Rebecca Black's song "Friday" from the perspective of a truck-stop prostitute.
In 2019, seven years after her last studio record, Palmer released There Will Be No Intermission, a far more serious, stripped-down album mostly just featuring her on a piano. It tackles subjects like abortion, death, depression, loss, and the climate crisis, and was released to massive critical acclaim. The world tour accompanying it featured only her at a piano, telling the most intimate and human stories of her life. Concerts often went for up to four hours.
- The Dresden Dolls (The Dresden Dolls, 2004)
- Yes, Virginia (The Dresden Dolls, 2006)
- No, Virginia (The Dresden Dolls, 2008)
- Who Killed Amanda Palmer (2008)
- Evelyn Evelyn (2009)
- Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead On Her Magical Ukulele (EP, 2010)note
- Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under (2011)note
- Theatre is Evil (with The Grand Theft Orchestra, 2012)
- An Evening With Neil Gaiman & Amanda Palmer (with Neil Gaiman and Margaret Cho, 2013)note
- You Got Me Singing (with Jack Palmer, 2016)
- I Can Spin a Rainbow (with Edward Ka-Spel, 2017)
- Piano Is Evil (2017)note
- There Will Be No Intermission (2019)
- Amanda Palmer & Friends Present Forty Five Degrees: Bushfire Charity Flash Record (2020)note
This musician shows examples of:
- Abortion Fallout Drama: "Sex Changes" by the Dresden Dolls, which reads as a bitter song about having disappointing sex and getting an abortion ("You get more than you're asking for without the right protection", "the knife is nearing", "this little feat of engineering"...). Comes across as more of a straight-up Protest Song than "Oasis", for sure (the video for which includes "annoying fundamentalist Christians" protesting with signs that read "Jesus Hates You").
- Audience Participation: Audience singalongs, audience sleepovers, audience spontaneous mini-gigs, audience makeshift-French-hotel-wine-parties.
- Black Comedy: "Oasis" is an upbeat, cheerful song about a teenage girl getting raped at a party and getting an abortion. During the tour for "There Will Be No Intermission", she told the story of how feminist critics smeared her for the song, claiming that a topic as heavy as that should never be handled with humor. She then explored that idea, and tried out an alternate minor-key version of the song that was much slower and somber sounding, like that would have been any better.
- Bland-Name Product: She invoked this by changing the brand name on the back of her keyboard from "Kurzweil" to "Kurtweill".
- Body Paint: Used to entertaining effect in her music video of "Want It Back"(NSFW). Also on her book cover.
- Broken Ace: "The Perfect Fit" is a very good Broken Ace anthem.
- Broken Record: In the second verse of "Coin-Operated Boy".
- The Cameo: Sang backing vocals for Weird Al in the song "First World Problems".
- Character Tic: When sitting at her keyboard, she tends to only use one foot to manipulate the volume/sustain pedals, and will rest her other foot in the crook of the keyboard stand.
- Country Matters: "So we hide from the cunts/On a night reconnaissance" from Night Reconnaissance.
- Defiant Strip: After one of Amanda's concerts got a review by the Daily Mail that reported only on a Wardrobe Malfunction and nothing about the music, she responded with a Take That! song entitled "Dear Daily Mail". During the middle of the song she stripped completely naked on stage, then kept on singing as though nothing had happened.
- Epic Rocking: "Mandy Goes to Med School" has been known to become this in concert. It's a song about a pair of backstreet abortionists, yeah.
- Fanservice: Not to titillate the audience, but for shock value, since she also rebels against beauty standards. Sometimes spiraling into Full-Frontal Assault.
- Fille Fatale: "Missed Me".
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: Palmer's purple "Map of Tasmania" (pubic hair) can be briefly seen about 5 or 6 seconds into the video, before appearing in all its glory at 0:35.
- Full-Frontal Assault: Will strip off whenever the hell she feels like it with no discernible reason or warning, but the song about the Daily Mail probably counts as a Full Frontal Verbal Assault.
- Reached its peak when she posed fully naked on the cover for There Will Be No Intermission, a very stripped-down album about extremely intimate stories. As for the "assault" part, she's holding a sword over her head.
- Hairy Girl: Wrote a song about her bush called "Map Of Tasmania".
- Ironic Echo: A standby.
- "Night Reconisannce" has one where the song starts off with the narrator being yelled at as a Satan worshipper, among other labels, and by the end of the song they've started calling themselves such with pride.
- Last Note Nightmare: "Slide" and "The Killing Type".
- Location Song:
- "Australia", about a woman dissatisfied with her boring domestic life, fantasizing about going to Australia and having adventures. The general structure of the song is verses describing the boring things she could do with her life, and then a chorus beginning "Or I could go to Australia" followed by the adventurous things she could do. The last chorus subverts this by going "Fuck it, I'm gonna go to Australia!"
- "New Zealand", supposedly written in 20 minutes in the dressing room of a club because a New Zealander fan heard "Map of Tasmania" and asked "Where's our fucking song", is an irreverent little ditty about Amanda being on a tour through New Zealand, admiring (and Twittering) the scenery, and worrying about why she hasn't gotten her period and her pubic hair is turning grey, "but I don't believe in the beauty standard and there's no way that I'm pregnant so it's technically okayyyyyy!" At the end, she lampshades the trope with the following Last Note Hilarity (the rhythm deliberately falls apart on the last line, delivered in a Motor Mouth style to cram it all in):New Zealand, New Zealand, my song is coming to an end
I hope you have enjoyed it and I hope I get my period
I also hope I haven't grossed you out
But that's what you get when you ask me to write a song about your country in twenty minutes
- Lyrical Dissonance: Many of her songs, but "Oasis" probably takes the cake. See Black Comedy.
- Lyrical Shoehorn: In "Shores Of California", the lyrics reference Lysistrata and The Iliad, but cite their authors in the wrong order: It's probably almost impossible to rhyme "Aristophanes" with anything, while "Homer" at least comes somewhat close to rhyming with "Lysistrata". The liner notes to Yes, Virginia... do some parenthetical Lampshade Hanging:That's the way Aristophanes and Homer
Wrote The Iliad and Lysistrata
(not in that order)
- Madness Mantra:
"Run from their pity, from responsibility, run from the country and run from the city, I can run from the law, I can run from myself, I can run for my life, I can run into debt, I can run from it all, I can run till I'm gone, I can run for the office and run from the cause, I can run using every last ounce of energy, I cannot- I cannot- I cannot run from my family!"
- "I'm not the killing type, I'm not the killing type, I'm not, I'm not..." In "The Killing Type" she lists her profound frustration with a significant other, all while insisting that she's not the killing type. The whole thing steadily turns more and more violent and eventually devolves into her simply yelling "Die! Die! Die! Die!", and finishes by meekly repeating once more: "I'm not the killing type..."
- "Half Jack" ends with the lyrical self no longer afraid of Jack, and threatening him to run, Jack, run.
- The bridge of "Runs In The Family", accompanied by her frantically running out of breath.
- Mercy Kill: In "The Killing Type" she says that she stepped on a dying bird to put it out of its misery.
- "Metaphor" Is My Middle Name: Not her given middle name, but she's been known to go by "Amanda Fucking Palmer".
- Ms. Fanservice: Not done to titillate the audience, but for shock value. Amanda has no problem with this; she'll strip naked onstage, do nude photo shoots, even shoot a lesbian sex scene for a music video. Taken to the logical extreme when she guested on Flaming Lips cover of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face", most of which is her completely naked in a bathtub and ends with her faking an orgasm.
- Motor Mouth: Used in "Girl Anachronism", "Runs in the Family", "Gaga, Palmer, Madonna; A Polemic", and to a lesser extent in "Judy Blume", "The Killing Type", and "Drowning in the Sound".
- The Musical:
- Mundane Luxury: After spending weeks in a cold tour bus, she wrote a duet with Jason Webley called "Electric Blanket" after being gifted one.
- Ode to Family: "It Runs in the Family" is less a song about celebrating family and more about one complaining about it, or more particularly about how your genetics affect you.
- Parental Issues: Palmer's biological father was a drug addict who left the family when she was very young. This is discussed and processed in several songs.
- "Half Jack" is, among many other things, about the fear of becoming like her father, a genetic half of her that she's afraid to embrace."It might destroy me, but I'd sacrifice my body if it meant I'd get the Jack part out!"
- "Runs In The Family" is full of this. She's been taught that problems are to be run away from rather than dealt with, didn't receive the love and affection she required and thus resorts to seeking it in sex, and feels as though her family is ashamed of her and would rather have her gone.
- "Confessions of a Mother" is about the intense feelings of guilt that come along with motherhood.
- "Half Jack" is, among many other things, about the fear of becoming like her father, a genetic half of her that she's afraid to embrace.
- Parental Neglect: "Confessions of a Mother" is a ten minute song that recounts moments of Amanda's so-believed failings as a mother to a son who was only a few months old at the time and the sense of paranoia and constant worry that comes with parenthood. The Youtube comments under videos of it are full of fellow mothers telling similar stories and thanking her for making this song, as it made them feel less alone.
- Perky Goth: While her aesthetic, and her stylistic and musical roots lie here, her sound is often the opposite of dark and gloomy.
- Quirky Ukulele: "Ukulele Anthem", a (only half) satirical song about how playing the ukulele will make your life more fulfilling and quirky.
- Rape Leads to Insanity: "Lonesome Organist Rapes Page Turner".He said "oh darling, you're charming, please don't find it alarming
If I pull this stop out to free up a hand for heavy petting"
Now there there
I'm a friendly man
I joke about sex because it's funny when you're frightened!(cue mad laughter)
- Really Gets Around: According to Amanda, she has an open marriage due to her and Neil having hectic touring schedules and needing to get out their sexual needs. Some of her work alludes to, or actually features her having sex with other people.
- Revenge Ballad: "Half Jack" ends with her threatening Jack to run.
- Refuge in Audacity: "Oasis", especially the music video.
- Sanity Slippage Song: "Girl Anachronism" is about a girl in a psych ward who pathologically copies other people's identities.
- Self-Backing Vocalist: Done on several songs. Excessively so on "Girl Anachronism" or "Runs in the Family", where clips from many different vocal takes were edited together to make a whole, since the song is incredibly difficult to sing in one go without completely running out of breath.
- Self-Harm: "Bad Habit" is about being addicted to self-mutilation, its causes and its consequences.
- Shout-Out: "Good Day" includes a reference to Gloria Gaynor, "The "Jeep Song" references The Rolling Stones, "Sing" shouts out Cabaret, "Oasis" contains references to Blur and, yes, Oasis, "The Killing Type" references The Threepenny Opera, "Do It With A Rockstar" includes a blatant Britney Spears reference, the album title Who Killed Amanda Palmer is a Shout-Out to Twin Peaks, and "Judy Blume" is an hommage to the author.
- The Something Song: "The Jeep Song", "The Sheep Song", "The Bed Song" and her cover of Nick Cave's "The Ship Song".
- Stealth Pun: "Guitar Hero"note , "Girl Anachronism"note , "Half Jack"note , "Ultima Esperanza"note
- "Sex Changes" in its entirety could stand as an example, title included. Depending on which parts you take literally and which you take as metaphors, the song is either about a person considering sex reassignment surgery (a literal sex change), someone who has taken up self-abuse to deal with the shame of losing their virginity to someone who didn't actually love them (sex changed their relationship), or someone who had an abortion (sex changed their life, essentially).
- Stop and Go: "Drowning in the Sound", "Missed Me", "Truce".
- The Cover Changes the Meaning: Her and Jeb Fountain's mashup of "Blurred Lines" with "Rape Me" really emphasizes how creepy Robin Thicke's lyrics actually are, turning the whole thing into pure Nightmare Fuel.
- Wardrobe Malfunction: When the Daily Mail reported on a nipple slip and neglected to discuss anything else about her concert, she responded epically by writing them a song that devastatingly deconstructed the trope's misogynist undertones, during which she proceeded to outright defy the trope by stripping completely naked onstage. (Link NSFW.)
- Would Hurt a Child: "Slide" is about a little girl being groomed and eventually raped by a man far older than her.
- "Let's try to end on a pleasant note."