on 8 May 2012
As someone who has rather "alternative" taste in female musicians (Björk, Kate Bush, PJ Harvey, Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor, etc), when I first heard "The Family Jewels" back in 2010 I was totally obsessed. The quirky welsh girl who wrote and composed her own songs on her cheap keyboard that she bought from Argos totally captured my imagination and became one of my favourite artists. Her music was the perfect combination of "indie" and pop - and it was a relief to actually have an album of fun pop music that actually had some credibility. It was some of the most beautiful pop music I had ever heard.
In 2011 she surprised us all by releasing the very commercially influenced "Radioactive", and I became rather worried about this next album. When "Primadonna" came out I was relieved. Yes, it was sugary bubblegum pop, but Marina's voice sounded amazing and her pretty quirkiness was back and actually sounded really cool surrounded by the commercial but well produced beats courtesy of Dr Luke. I resisted the urge to write a review straight away, as many other reviewers have, as I wanted to live with the album for a while and know how I felt about it.
The album starts with "Bubblegum Bitch", which sounds like a song from the opening credits from a 90's American teen chick film ("Clueless" springs to mind for me). "Lies" and "Starring Role" are both very currently commercial in their sound, but Marina's lyrics and genuine sounding vocal delivery rescue them from being total sell-outs.
"The State Of Dreaming" starts out sounding like its title - dreamy, ethereal and beautiful, and suddenly explodes into a very poppy, sweet but catchy chorus. "Power and Control" and "Living Dead" use powerful 80's sounding beats and epic choruses and work very well.
A few reviewers have said the second half of the album gets a bit dull, but I think it's where the album really turns into a better, more satisfying direction. "Teen Idle" is atmospheric, dark, and beautifully layered. Those who loved "I Am Not A Robot" and "Numb" from the previous album will be relieved to know that Marina hasn't lost her touch for writing beautiful melancholic pop songs. The lyrics (about a suicidal teenager who wishes she were popular) and production make it quite a dark song, so it's interesting to hear cheerleader chants being used in such an interesting, creative, and actually quite beautiful way - almost as if their presence depresses the "character" singing the song and actually cheer on the fact that she is suicidal.
The final four tracks on the special edition are really good. "Radioactive" sounds really good in context with the rest of the album. "Buy the Stars" is classic Marina - it sounds like "Obsessions" but is actually far more beautiful; silly not be included in the album, but perhaps too similar in style to "The Family Jewels" to be officially included.
What makes this album stand out is Marina's unique vocals, lyrics and melodies, and even the production has a unique edge to it - chirping birds, deep bass lines, and strange electronic effects. It's an interesting mix of sweet and sugary combined with dark melancholia, conjuring up images of Barbie (or some other high profile names in the pop world) on a hangover from alcohol and illegal substances and re-evaluating whether the "glamorous" and pretentious life and relationships she's created for herself are actually making her happy.
There's a lot being said about this album being Marina "selling-out" - do I think it's true? No! The lyrics and vocals sound genuine and are beautifully performed. The songs themselves are wonderfully written - Marina is a wonderfully gifted and clever song writer. This may be a pop album, but it's full of well written songs and lyrical substance to back it up. It may not be the experimental masterpiece that "The Family Jewels" was, but it's a wonderfully melancholic pop album from a wonderful, genuine, and honest artist nonetheless.
on 12 April 2014
A bit of background to this album to begin with. 'Electra Heart' is a persona created by Marina (and described as the antithesis to everything Marina stands for) used to tell a story of self-corruption. As a result, this album feels darker than 'The Family Jewels' (Marina's first album).
We begin with "Bubblegum Bitch": an in-your-face, self-centered song that serves as a brilliant opener to the album and gives a clear insight into the character of Electra Heart. Next up is "Primadonna", an instant classic that hits the heights of "Hollywood" from the first album. A 'celebration' of materialism, hedonism and the absolute desire to be famous. "Lies" feels like it probably should have been a single, it's that good. A sad reflection on a past partner who seemed to lack the courage to tell the truth or say how he really felt. "Homewrecker" follows and is a very catchy track where Electra Heart boasts about her ability to "break hearts for fun".
As we approach the middle section of the album, "Starring Role" and "The State of Dreaming" are probably the least catchy songs, but are fascinating insights into the eponymous character. The pace picks up again slightly with "Power & Control", a memorable song about the constant power struggle in a relationship, however the tone only dips from this point.
"Teen Idle" reflects mournfully on the wasted years of youth, obsessing over popularity. "Valley of the Dolls" appears to be about the book of the same name which I must confess I haven't read, but the dark tone is once again palpable. "Hypocrates" is another of Marina's clever portmanteaux combining the word 'hypocrite' and the ancient Greek physician 'Hippocrates'. Here, Electra Heart seems to be realising that she has failed to achieve the "American Dream" and attacks the hypocrisy of showbusiness. In my view, the best song of the album is saved for last. "Fear and Loathing" is a deeply moving song about anxiety and depression, aided by Marina's breathtaking vocals.
By the end, you realise this is a rather brutal album as you witness the rise and fall of Electra Heart. Marina may have only released two albums to date but it's difficult to see how this won't always be considered her magnum opus. A truly brilliant display of songwriting, production and vocals. One of the best pop/alternative pop albums I've ever had the privilege to listen to.
on 21 July 2012
When I first heard Radioactive by Marina and the Diamonds in 2011, I'll admit that I didn't originally like it. I liked Marina's first album, The Family Jewels, and enjoyed how different it was to the usual songs in the chart. Hearing Radioactive originally made me feel that Marina was going in the wrong direction - into the electronic, dance genre. I do enjoy listening to that kind of music, being a big fan of Ke$ha, but I disliked how she was changing her music. On a whim, though, I decided to purchase this album.
I regret my original thoughts.
This album is surprisingly extremely good. The songs are extremely catchy, and not entirely electronic-dance style. Here's what I think of each track:
This is a really catchy, self-centred song (in a good way!). In this, Electra Heart (Marina's not-alter-ego-but-really-is) is saying how she is "miss sugar pink, liquor liquour lips" and how she will "pop your bubblegum heart". This is probably one of my favourite tracks.
The song reminds me of Hollywood from her first album. It's about being materialistic, and just wanting fame and glory. It's one of the more electronic songs.
In this song, Electra is stating how a boy and her should lie and pretend about being a good couple. They are very dysfunctional as a couple, but she is still asking him to stay, as she 'want[s] it to be perfect'. One of the darker songs.
Different to her usual songs, in this, Electra talks about how she 'breaks a million hearts just for fun.' It is highly catchy, and includes speech as well as singing.
Similar to Primadonna, this is talking more about how she feels as if she is in a movie with her boyfriend. However, she mentions how she'd rather 'walk alone/than play a supporting role/if I can't get the starring role." It's not as catchy as the other songs.
POWER & CONTROL
This song is, clearly, about the dominance in a relationship. Both Electra Heart and her boyfriend are struggling to gain power in the relationship, with Electra assuring him that she will 'make him fall'. She refers to how 'love will always be a game'. It's quite a pro-female song.
Ahh. This songs is probably the darkest on the album. It is about a teenage girl (Electra?) who is desperate for popularity, and is reflecting on the 'wasted years' whilst feelin 'super, super suicidal'. It is more like the songs from Family Jewels. I really like this song.
Similar to 'Are You Satisfied?' on TFJ, this song is saying how wrong it is for somebody to be judging Electra, and questioning 'Who are you to tell me....who to be?" I think that this is a song aimed at Hollywood in general, after Electra fails to be the 'American Dream'.
I have yet to properly hear THE STATE OF DREAMING, LIVING DEAD, VALLEY OF THE DOLLS and FEAR AND LOATHING. I'll review them when I listen to the tracks properly.
Overall, even though this is darker and different to TFJ, I really enjoy listening to the tracks on this. ;)
on 30 April 2012
Marina is a very fine songwriter, of that I am in no doubt. She seems to be able to mold together lots of different melodies into one song without over complicating them. 'Living Dead' for example is a really great piece of songwriting, the 80's 'Kavinsky', 'College' style keyboards are really on the money and the chorus moves and pivets around lyrics that build into a spine tingling conclusion.
There are many highlights on the album including 'Fear and Loathing' a wonderfully low key lament about the loss of love. Marina writes about love a number of times on this album, something she didn't do on 'Family Jewels'.
'Radioactive' starts like a dreadful dance tune, but don't be fooled, again Marina is able to surprise with layer apon layer of melody changes that leave you strangely satisfied with a tune you feel like you should detest.
'Bubblegum Bitch', 'Teen Idol', 'Valley of the Dolls', 'Sex, Yeah!','Lonely Hearts Club','Lies' and 'Power and Control' are also highlights.
However, the songs that will (probably) be released as singles such as 'Primadonna','The State of Dreaming' and 'Homewrecker' are questionable. Too pop, over produced and I wanna be the next big thing, which we all know she does. I just hope she doesn't sacrifice the inventiveness of 'The Family Jewels' and the best part of this album for stardom.
Stardom equals mediocrity, writing by numbers and eventual appearances on celebrity reality shows.
on 21 May 2012
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?
on 18 January 2016
When I heard the 'normal' version of Electra Heart I knew I had to buy the deluxe to have the 4 extra songs! I'm a huge Marina fan and this is myt favorite of hers. I love Electra Heart, the archetypes of woman Marina portrays is incredible. The lyrics, concept, just everything about this album is amazing.
on 12 May 2012
I wanted to love this album so much, this lady's voice is so special and her lyrics very clever and her first album was a tour de force, surely one of the best debut albums for years. Sadly I feel that if Marina had been given more autonomy "Electra heart" would have been more successful. Instead it feels like she's been shoe horned into the mould by over zealous production her wonderful voice often being pushed into the background by overly heavy drum machines. You can tell that the producers are ex madonna, Jordan, Jessie j etc because that's what it 's pushing Marina to sound like. Thematically, I know that ms. Electra heart is a character but ifind the "voice" very similar to "are you satisfied" , "numb", "Hollywood", and "girls", all " got to be number one, is that such a bad thing, girls are all vacuous manipulative bitches and men are worse," I feel that this does Marina a disservice as her lyrics are very clever, I wonder sometimes if it's an age thing, she's still young and exploring who she is etc. There are some standout tracks I can't stop listening to "power and control" amongst others. I don't just want an artist to stay static and have endless "more of the same" I am a big fan of Tori Amos who has constantly reinvented herself but always stayed true to her sound. I'm hoping that Marina is adding another layer of irony to her album by making it overly manufactured, just like Electra heart herself. I am not going to stop listening to Marina's work but I hope as she grows in experience and confidence, perhaps, she'll produce her albums herself and keep her own unique magic alive.
on 23 July 2012
Marina and the Diamonds was one of those artists I took a little while to warm up to, but once I heard a few of her singles from her previous album, I fell in love with her voice and unique style.
Electra Heart feels like a real step up from The Family Jewels. There's bigger production and a more electro vibe, but it doesn't lose any of that Marina edge.
The opening song Bubblegum Bitch is one of my favourites from the whole album - upbeat and catchy. The rest of the album sometimes has a more ballad-y feel but there's some real stand out songs on there. Teen Idle and Fear and Loathing are particularly poignant and totally relatable.
It's definitely worth buying the deluxe edition. Not only do you get the first single "Radioactive" but the brilliant "Sex Yeah" which is worth getting the deluxe alone.
on 30 April 2012
Marina's first album is one that I've listened to a 100 times over and was my summer album when it first came out. This one is very different but just as good.
Every song is good in it's own way. Highlighting her beautiful and unique voice and talent. I highly recommend this album, it has a great mix of tracks and showcases the new direction that she is taking that I think is a good one. After all, it is good when artists start to do new things. If it was a carbon copy of her last album It would be boring.
on 12 July 2012
Loved her first album: surprising, eclectic, melodic, thumpy and innovative. This second outing for Marina is a good album yes, and I have given it a fair trial, having it on my car stereo now for over a month. It is however a poor shadow of the first album. The lyrics are as kick-ass as ever, but some of the melodies seem a tad formulaic and derivative. It came as no surprise then that apparently she had somebody else working with her on the tunes this time around. Sometimes the song rises above this predictability, take for example "Starring Role" and "Living Dead". This is in part due to the strength of the lyrics, but also to how Marina works the vocals. "A State of Dreaming" and "Hypocrates" however both fail to withstand the formulaic drawbacks, and could be any song written by anybody as an album filler over the last 10 years. Some of the songs improve with listening e.g. "Power and Control" has that verging on ironic Euro-Pop tendency that Marina does so well. Overall though an excellent album, once you skip over the fillers.