5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Goes deeper than the autotune...,
This review is from: Electra Heart (Audio CD)
When I first heard this album I thought, as most others seem to have done: "Record Label Pressure".
The more I hear it - and hear interviews with Marina - the less I agree with that. Yes, the sound is more poppy, heavily produced and "mainstream", and you're either going to like that or you won't. And while I think it would be naive to imagine that there was no influence from the record label considering her previous disappointing sales, I also think that Marina has made a genuine artistic choice. It's not just ironic either, as many people seem to want to believe - I think she's trying to stop being smug enough to do an ironically pop album. Her last album ended with a song called "Guilty" that was not just about those around her failing to offer forgiveness - it was about Marina's inability to forgive herself. With this album, I think she has begun to accept and deal with her own personality flaws, and so for me it is on one level an album about redemption (although also about love). I think she's trying to redeem pop - I've heard her stating that she went on tour with Katy Perry and was impressed by the singer's actual skill. It's not that I'm trying to read to deeply into it: my point is that this album symbolises Marina calming down and being comfortable with her own popness - and after all, if the Family Jewels wasn't pop, what was? There's an unpleasant hint of snobbiness about dismissing this album as "too poppy".
So I'm going to compare this now with another recent second album: the Ting Tings. Did you know they had a second album out?? I barely did! "We Started Nothing" was a bright, unusual and catchy pop album that if not one of my all-time favourites was very enjoyable - not totally unlike the Family Jewels. Their second album, unlike the Family Jewels, was a failed attempt to deny their own mainstreamity. Their first album was pop. To try and pretend that it wasn't made the whole second album struggle; I find it boring, irritating and unoriginal. You might think that Electra Heart is boring, irritating, and unoriginal, but at least it's honest and it rarely feels forced. It's the music Marina wants to be making right now, and having the strength just to make it and admit what it is, I admire.
Now I will briefly adress the actual music! On first listening I was rather alarmed and put-off: the poppy synths didn't bother me, but the clipped, smoothed and disguised tone of voice did. Marina has a very strong and unusual vocal. Why try to hide it? This over-production and homogenised sound was the only reason, for me, why I can't follow her completely into this new sound; it's unnecessary and it obstructs the songwriting. I listened to it and this - and a few of the tracks themselves, such as "Homewrecker", "Valley of the Dolls", and "State of Dreaming" - really set me against the album. However songs like "Bubblegum Bitch", "Lies", "Starring Role" and "Teen Idle" stuck in my head and drew me back for the second and third listening. I would tell you it's worth listening to this album again: once you get underneath the production layer, the songs are pretty damn good. No, I will never like "Homewrecker" or "Valley of the Dolls", and there are certainly other low points ("Fear and Loathing" ought to be half the length), but the criteria for four stars is "I like it". And yes, I do like it quite a lot, even if I don't love it.
If you don't like pop, okay, you won't like this. But if you liked the Family Jewels, you should give it a try - maybe you'll find it doesn't step quite so far in a new direction as you thought?