UK-based singer Marina Diamandis has steadily grown her fanbase over the short few years since she started singing. As Marina & the Diamonds, she burst onto the pop music scene as the second-place finisher in the BBC Sound of 2010 music poll (second only to the fantastic Ellie Goulding) and with two great releases: 2009′s ‘The Crown Jewels’ EP and ‘The Family Jewels’ full-length. Those releases showed Diamandis’ strength as a singer/songwriter, displaying her talent for creating songs with quirky lyrics, complemented by unique vocal quirks.
‘Electra Heart’, the latest album from Marina & the Diamonds, has an interesting concept. The story centers on the main character, Electra Heart, whose cold and calculating demeanor send her through many experiences characterized by love and heartbreak. The album features four central archetypes (Primadonna, Su-Barbie-A, the Teen Idle and the Homewrecker), which Diamandis believes embody countless aspects of the female personality. Combining both the idea of the American dream with Greek tragedy, the album touches on concepts of rejection, love, isolation, power, lust and more. Having debuted at number one in the UK, Scotland and Ireland, Electra Heart is not coming to North America for a few more weeks. But this delayed release overseas will not bother North American fans, as the wait will be well worth it. Electra Heart is bold and instantly memorable, and pop music fans will undoubtedly find something to love about the album.
Opener “Bubblegum Bitch” is sugary pop goodness, so be prepared for the catchiness to give you cavities. First single “Primadonna” works perfectly to transition into the album. It has the memorable chorus needed of a hit song, coupled with a perfect introduction to Marina’s unique vocals. “Lies” is a complete success, with Marina wistfully singing “I don’t wanna admit, that we’re not gonna fit… I just want it to be perfect, to believe it’s all been worth the fight.” “Homewrecker”, which is arguably the album’s weakest track, features spoken-word verses and hit-or-miss lyrics, creating a track that falls a bit flat but that is still enjoyable. Following is tour-de-force “Starring Role”, featuring one of the strongest and most memorable choruses on an album full of catchy tracks. Also containing an incredibly memorable bridge, there is something powerful about the ending, as Marina sings, “You know I’d rather walk alone than play a supporting role, if I can’t get a starring role.”
The subdued “The State of Dreaming” has a very fitting title, weaving a tale with a dream-like quality to it. Second single “Power & Control” is an absolute smash that is destined for greatness. Diamandis sings with honesty and conviction, ending the song memorably: “I’m gonna make you fall, we give and take a little more, ’cause all my life I’ve been controlled. You can’t have peace without a war.” The addictive “Living Dead” will surely get you singing and dancing. Standout “Teen Idle” is an affecting track, complete with powerful lyrics to back it up. Recalling songs like “Obsessions”, the song is one that many people can probably relate too and Marina’s vocals are perfect on it. “Valley of the Dolls” is a bit mellow, but the strong lyrics make up for it, while the uplifting “Hypocrates” feels quite different from most of the album’s tracks while being one of the most infectious tracks on ‘Electra Heart’. Closer “Fear and Loathing” perhaps best recalls ‘The Family Jewels’, focusing on strong songwriting and vocals with subdued instrumentation. It is a moving track that has given me chills on multiple occasions, ending the album perfectly.
The deluxe edition of the album kicks off with promotional single “Radioactive”, which is instantly memorable and club-ready, just begging for countless remixes. “Sex Yeah” speaks of gender roles and expectations in society, which is sometimes a pretty heavy topic, but manages to do so with ease: “If history could set you free, from who you were supposed to be. If sex in our society, didn’t tell women who she would be. ‘Cause all my life I’ve tried to find what history has given me.” Lonely Hearts Club is incredibly upbeat, but does not quite meet the quality of the rest of the album, making its relegation to b-side understandable. The deluxe edition closes with “Buy the Stars”, which is incredibly strong. Not only beckoning back to her past work, it is bittersweet and delivered with emotion; Marina’s affected delivery of the song makes it all the more powerful.
Overall, Electra Heart is more than worth a purchase: it is simply a fantastic pop album that fans will surely be spinning for a long time to come. While it is distinctly different than ‘The Family Jewels’, it is a worthy successor to that album in every conceivable way. Always one to progress and try something new, pop music fans worldwide should dive on in and let Marina & and Diamonds pop your bubblegum heart.
On a sidenote, there is also an Electra Heart acoustic EP with “Primadonna”, “Lies”, “Homewrecker” and “Starring Role” that I definitely recommend checking out. Marina’s vocals and lyrics shine in this setting and the songs sound phenomenal. And for you Vancouverites, make sure to also check her out when Marina & the Diamonds play the Commodore Ballroom on Sunday, July 15th. Maybe I’ll even see you there!
1. Bubblegum Bitch
5. Starring Role
6. The State of Dreaming
7. Power & Control
8. Living Dead
9. Teen Idle
10. Valley of the Dolls
12. Fear and Loathing
14. Sex Yeah
15. Lonely Hearts Club
16. Buy the Stars