Album Review: Marina and the Diamonds – ‘Electra Heart’

Posted: 02/05/2012 in Uncategorized

As published on Entertainment.ie on April 27th 2012

The Welsh songstress who stole many a heart back in 2009 with the quirky indie-pop stylings of debut album The Family Jewels is back! You remember Marina Diamandis, right? The darling of the internet musos who went on to conquer the mainland of Planet Pop, carving out a niche for herself amongst the barrage UK female solo musicians? Well, you best forget her. For she has created an alter-ego for herself – and with that alter-ego, she has decided to make a concept album, written and recorded whilst riding the wave of the success of that debut across the globe. Allow me to introduce you to Electra Heart…

A series of video uploads last autumn served as the prologue for the concept of Electra Heart – snippets of imagery of Marina altering her appearance and recounting relationships past. The Stargate-produced advance single ‘Radioactive’ was released soon after, heralding a bewildering change of tack from Diamandis – a bland and predictable slice of the textbook euphoric dance-pop which is so prevalent in the charts at the moment. Marina has stated that she based the entire project around character types commonly found in love stories associated with power and control, citing Madonna, Marilyn Monroe and Marie Antoinette as inspirations – “it’s kind of basically a vehicle to portray part of the American dream, with elements of Greek tragedy”, she told Popjustice. Right so. A number of other preview morsels appeared online before the album’s lead single ‘Primadonna’ appeared – and dutifully disappointed. Oh Marina. What have you done? In a bid to further originality, has actual quality been sacrificed to accommodate the burdening weight of pseudo-intellectual nonsense?

Thankfully, no. For listening to the album in its entirety reveals that Electra is not so much an alter-ego as she is a vehicle for Marina to convey a multitude of emotions – but amidst frustrations with the hollowness of popular culture, it’s the concept of failed romance that prevails. Brutal honesty is the name of the game, and the juxtaposition of the dark lyrical content versus the musical style is really quite striking at points. The frantic ‘Bubblegum Bitch’ aptly welcomes the listener to the madness – “Dear Diary, we fell apart, welcome to the life of Electra Heart”. ‘Power & Control’, co-written with Steve Angello, is a brilliant piece of dance pop – the pulsing bass beats on the verses verging on hypnotic. ‘State of Dreaming’, rooted in musical theatre, holds a vibrant and uplifting sound in spite of the dream-crushing lyrical content. Even the afore-mentioned ‘Primadonna’ makes a lot more sense when heard as part of the body of work as a whole.

‘Starring Role’ is easily the standout, a toy-box keyboard riff and electronic percussion driving the melody of a devastatingly honest tale of an ailing relationship, simplistic sentiments such as “c’mon baby, let’s just get drunk and forget we don’t get on” exposing the vulnerability the famous popstar who really is just like us mere mortals when it comes to matters of the heart. ‘Teen Idle’, the lamenting examination of conscience of a former aspiring teen beauty queen, is tragic – Marina again pulling no punches in terms of lyrical truth. ‘Hypocrates’ is another strong highlight – it sounds like the long-lost iconic anthem of a classic 80s rom-com soundtrack, cheesy to the max but in the best possible way.

If you can bear to wade through the rigmarole of the preamble of what Marina the ‘artiste’ is aiming to achieve with Electra Heart, you’ll find a dynamic and contextually layered pop album. Explorations in themes of love, rejection, and crisis of identity with a brutally honest yet tongue-in-cheek lyrical approach, delivered with the might of that ever-distinctive voice against a backdrop of rich production. Pure unadulterated pop goodness.

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