I know I said in a recent post something about how mainstream music is just awful at the moment but there are some exceptions. Marina and the Diamonds is one of them.
On Monday just gone she released her second album Electra Heart. First and foremost this is a concept album, it’s written and sung from the point of view of Electra Heart, Marina’s alter ego of the moment.
She burst onto the music scene a couple of years ago with debut album The Family Jewels and was runner-up for the Critics Choice Award at the BRITs (losing out to Ellie Goulding of all people!) Since then she’s had hits with I am Not a Robot , Hollywood and more recently Primadonna. There’s even a very good chance that later today, on the Official Chart Show, Electra Heart will be announced as this week’s number one album.
Anyway, she’s a confusing one like Florence and the Machine. The name implies that it is in fact a band, but it’s not. Marina Diamandis, like Florence, is a solo artist and the Diamonds are her fans (kinda like the little monsters are Lady Gaga’s fans).
After a bit of waiting, it being delivered to the wrong address and a trip down to the nearest sorting office to pick it up, I finally found myself in possession of the album yesterday. It is abundantly clear that Electra Heart is a grower.
However, once you get past the initial acquaintance and get to know it a bit better it’s immediately apparent that in the intervening two years Marina has taken a step in the right direction. While some of it does sound unashamedly poppy, all glitzy and glamorous, there’s a darker undercurrent.
She has expanded the drama of I am Not a Robot and sprinkled it generously throughout the entire album. While Primadonna doesn’t really display this it does add the sort of sweetness that is unmistakably Marina and the Diamonds. But it’s not long until the darker side of the album emerges, Marina has said that this release is about the unlucky love life of Electra Heart and as such you won’t find a happy song on here. The lyrics have evolved too and Marina continues to surprise with the heights and depths that her voice can reach.
Homewrecker, while excessively catchy, brings forward Electra Heart’s merciless nature. The lyrics capture her character in this perfectly: ‘I’m only happy when I’m on the run…..I broke a million hearts just for fun’ I’ll happily admit that her songwriting could still use some improvement but the fact that Marina has been able to capture this character in two lines is pretty cool. She even goes on to show some more lyrical genius: ‘Instead of love and trust and laughter what you get is happy never after.’ Electra Heart, what a bitch!
But that sentiment doesn’t last for long. You kind of start to feel sorry for her in Starring Role and even more so in The State of Dreaming. In both of them there is a hint of longing and loneliness, the latter track however is backed up with the chirpy nature of the verses and soon enough you’ll find yourself nodding your head in time to the ever flamboyant music.
Fear and Loathing adds yet more depth to the record and it is quite amazing how much Marina has grown as a singer/songwriter in the past couple of years. She’s less focused on the nature of consumerism and has therefore penned something more relatable to her fans. Saying that though, she still has a go at consumer culture in Sex Yeah.
One of the best things about Marina and the Diamonds is that she cares about the music, while many people thought that she was selling out with this release many others are adamant that this is just her illustrating a point. While the tracks are certainly more dancey than they were on her debut, if I had to be placed in a camp I would be in the latter. I think she’s just being ironic, but then I’m not one to really look too deeply into the antics of musicians. For the most part it’s their music I’m interested in, not the games they play.
If you loved The Family Jewels you will definitely need to check this release out, it has taken the basics of the previous album and explored them quite successfully.