Little Boots is set to make a comeback, and now Marina and the Diamonds releases her second album. Feels like 2009 all over again! That was such a great year. Okay, while a time machine is kinda outside the realms of possibility, for now let's just focus on how awesome Marina is.
I suppose most of you are familiar with Marina and the Diamonds, right? The husky-voiced Welsh songstress who hailed from the same crop of late-'00s quirky female artists that also included the likes of Lady Gaga, Little Boots, La Roux, Florence + the Machine and Ellie Goulding. With a distinctive voice that often draws comparisons to Kate Bush, Marina released her debut album The Family Jewels in early 2010, a fantastic album that offered commentary on themes such as feminism, modern society, obsession with fame, fear of failure, commercialism and relationships, often with a sarcastic, witty tone.
Electra Heart abandons the New Wave-kissed indie pop stylings of its predecessor and dives head first into electro-dance-pop territory. You'll hear a lot of people bitching about how Marina – ahem – "sold out" for working with Dr. Luke (known for his work with lame "artists" such as Britney Spears, Katy Perry and Ke$ha), Diplo and Stargate. Don't pay attention to them, as Marina's natural quirkiness and indie cred saved the album from sounding too much like generic top 40 shit.
This is a concept album based around the titular character Electra Heart, the antithesis of everything Marina stands for, whereas Electra Heart stands for "the corrupt side of American ideology." So, basically, a pop singer critizing mainstream pop culture – how meta can it get? Wait, there's more: The album is, in Marina's words, "an ode to dysfunctional love." She's even been dubbed the "anti-Adele" – in my book, anything anti-Adele is worth checking. It's all very ambitious and dramatic. To be prefectly honest, I have yet to fully understand the album's concept myself, so how about we just take a better look at the songs, eh?
1. "Bubblegum Bitch" (7/10)
A nice way to kick things off, complete with catchy electro-punk beats and Marina's bratty vocals. Of course, the references to America had to be there ("I think I want your, your American tan").
2. "Primadonna" (10/10)
LOVE IT LOVE IT! Its perfection totally overshadows the fact it's a Dr. Luke production. The song is about, well, a primadonna girl who, seemingly unhappy with her current life ("And I'm sad to the core, core, core/Everyday's a chore, chore, chore"), dreams of a life of glamour and success, all in a very satirical manner, naturally (otherwise it wouldn't be a Marina track). Apparently Marina wrote it about an ex-boyfriend who called her a primadonna, which seems evident in the lyric "You say that I'm kinda difficult/But it's always someone else's fault." I also found myself in love with the line "Get what I want 'cause I ask for it/Not because I'm really that deserving of it."
3. "Lies" (9/10)
An electro ballad that takes on a confessional, wistful tone. Even though the object of her affection has done her wrong ("You're too proud to say that you made a mistake/You're a coward 'til the end") and she's not the type that he likes, she can't let him go and wants to believe it's all been worth the fight. It also sees Marina lamenting over how he "only touches her in the dark" and "only in the evening could he give himself to her." Can this get any more heartbreaking?
4. "Homewrecker" (10/10)
Story. Of. My. Fucking. Life. It's typical Marina: Sassy, bratty and in-your-face. Alternating ethereal spoken-word parts with hard-hitting synths and pounding drums, the song is about a homewrecking, unapologetic femme fatale, delivering lines as brilliant as "I don't belong to anyone," "I broke a million hearts just for fun" and my favorite, "I guess you could say that my life's a mess/But I'm still looking pretty in this dress." In short, can you spell G-E-N-I-U-S?
5. "Starring Role" (8/10)
This is one of those songs there are really emotional, but also really empowering ("You don't love me/Big fucking deal"). Set against electro-R&B beats, the track is about a relationship gone cold: Even though she adores the guy, she is unhappy about not being the "starring role" in his heart, so she'd rather be alone than play a supporting role. I also love the part where Marina says how she "never had a heart to mend" because before the start began, she always saw the end, meaning she'd always managed to be in control of her emotions. If only I knew this a few years ago.
6. "The State of Dreaming" (8/10)
It's seemingly about the American dream, obsession with fame and whatnot ("If I could sell my sorry soul, I would have it all"). I have mixed feelings about the bridge though, as her voice kinda sounds like that of Mika (I hate him) in this particular part, but it's otherwise a great track, courtesy of Liam Howe, who worked extensively on The Family Jewels.
7. "Power & Control" (10/10)
Dude, I love how her voice sounds deep here. Produced by Greg Kurstin (who also worked on Marina's debut and is known for collaborating with goddesses such as Little Boots, Ladyhawke and Kylie Minogue), it's basically about power and control in regard to relationships and seduction; I do feel very much in control whenever I listen to it. I also love the synths in the background, they sound like they could be in some black comedy or something. And the line "You may be good-looking but you're not a piece of art" – fucking genius.
8. "Living Dead" (10/10)
Another Kurstin jam and consequently another highlight as well. The way I see it, Marina feels frustrated, dissatisfied and empty, stuck in everyday mundanity. She hasn't experienced love and wants to feel things, but no matter how much she keeps waiting for her life to change, it never happens. Because she hasn't lived life or love, she becomes numb to the point that the only certainty she has in life is death. The funny thing is, although the tune is built on bubbly synthpop, the lyrics are rather dark and bleak – I just love this kind of contrast, she nailed it. Marina, STOP SINGING ABOUT MY LIFE!
9. "Teen Idle" (6/10)
I might be wrong, but this song appears to be about something along the lines of adolescence in American modern-day society. It has some pretty intense lyrics, including "Wish I'd been a prom queen fighting for the title/Instead of being 16 and burning up a Bible/Feeling super, super, super suicidal." There's also a certain aloofness in Marina's voice that suits the song's theme. Not really my cup of tea, though.
10. "Valley of the Dolls" (8/10)
Taking its title from Jacqueline Susann's novel of the same name, this midtempo, somber tune uses dolls as a metaphor to describe the feeling of being a nobody: Empty, lifeless and devoid of emotion, possibly as a result of a broken heart or even an existential crisis. It's rather relatable actually.
11. "Hypocrates" (7/10)
I'm prone to believe this soft rock number is addressed to someone (a boyfriend perhaps) who is constantly faulting Marina and telling her how she's supposed to be. It's pensive but also confrontational.
12. "Fear and Loathing" (10/10)
It somehow manages to capture the idea of Greek tragedy Marina had in mind. It's a beautiful, heartfelt ballad with a very endearing meaning behind: After living a life filled with bitterness, cynicism and emptiness, Marina realizes that "there is no crime in being kind" and "not everyone is out to screw you over," and has finally decided to break free from all the fear and loathing surrounding her. Her voice has such a vulnerable floatiness to it, it's simply amazing. I always get the chills when she says "I wanna touch the edge of greatness."
(Tracks 13–16 are bonus tracks on the deluxe edition of the album.)
13. "Radioactive" (10/10)
I suppose you've heard people comparing "Radioactive" (both the song and video) to Rihanna's "We Found Love" (whose video, for what it's worth, premiered two months after the "Radioactive" video) herp derp SHUT UP! Rihanna sucks major ass, plus it was my beloved Calvin Harris (who I'll never be able to figure out why the fuck he would work with someone like Rihanna) who both wrote and produced "We Found Love," 'nuff said. Anyway, "Radioactive" is an addictive slab of upbeat, synth-heavy Eurodance that makes for a perfect summer jam. I simply love the line "My heart is nuclear/Love is all that I fear."
14. "Sex Yeah" (10/10)
Second. Story. Of. My. Fucking. Life. The Kurstin-produced "Sex Yeah" is an infectious synthpop tune with very clever lyrics that take a socially conscious approach to sex, while questioning the way certain female popstars present themselves nowadays ("Tired image of a star/Acting naughtier than we really are"). The song opens with a very true statement: "Nothing is provocative anymore, even for kids." Marina then proceeds to ponder, "If sex in a society didn't tell a girl who she would be/'Cause all my life I've tried to fight what history has given me," before the song launches into its deliciously repetitive chorus. The line "If women were religiously recognised sexually/We wouldn't have to feel the need to show our ass" might be my favorite in the entire album, it's so true. Ugh, the whole song is just pure fucking genius. This is how I be whenever I listen to this gem:
|Can't get enough of this! C'mon, she's eating and shakin' it|
15. "Lonely Hearts Club" (6/10)
No wonder it's a bonus track on the deluxe edition, it kinda sounds like filler to me. I like the lyrics though.
16. "Buy the Stars" (5/10)
Same as "Lonely Hearts Club": Not bad, but not memorable either. Also, it strikes me as a knockoff of the superior "Numb," from The Family Jewels.
FINAL SCORE: 8.3/10 (bitch, this ain't no Pitchfork)
I'm not yet sure how this album compares to The Family Jewels, but honestly, it doesn't matter. Electra Heart is a work of art of its own and should be treated as such.
And for those of you living in the UK, Electra Heart is out today (April 30, depending on where you're reading this from). GO BUY IT, I MEAN IT!
Now, as many of you may have noticed, it has become a common practice of mine to conclude my posts with a completely unrelated image. To wrap this one up, I'll leave you guys with something I've been obsessing over as of lately (I'm afraid I'm not alone): Zeddie Little, aka the Ridiculously Photogenic Guy!
Oh, boy. Oh, boy. Oh, boy. Ain't he dreamy?
|This is how I secretly be: A crushing teenager|
It has become my goal to steal him from his girlfriend of five years. You know why?
'CAUSE I'M A HOMEWRECKER, HOMEWRECKER
I'M ONLY HAPPY WHEN I'M ON THE RUN
'CAUSE I'M A HOMEWRECKER, HOMEWRECKER
I BROKE A MILLION HEARTS JUST FOR FUN
Ya know me, always DTF.