Marina And The Diamonds - Electra Heart
It would be very easy to dismiss Miss Marina Diamandis, known to the world as Marina And The Diamonds, and many have, even finding herself in one magazine's "where the hell are they now?" list a little while back. Some thought she had gone off the deep end, fabricating an alter ego, Electra Heart, who was according to Marina both a fictional character as well as representing different aspects of her personality. Yet while the concept - and Diamandis's interpretation - may be a bit wooly, the music is not.
Electra Heart is a clever and well made album showcasing Marina's growing maturity as an artist, as well as her courage in not capitalising on the success of her debut The Family Jewels by playing it safe. Things start off with the excellent 'Bubblegum Bitch' where we are introduced to the lovely Electra, and by all accounts she is quite a handful. The music is frantic, like a racing car chasing after Marina's spitfire vocal delivery: "I'll chew you up and spit you out / 'Cause that's what young love is all about / So pull me closer and kiss me hard / I'm gonna pop your bubblegum heart." Electra Heart is supposed to embody the flash, day-glow ideologies of the American Dream. She's hard, cruel, superficial and vacuous, out for all she can get and not caring about the broken hearts lying in splinters at her well-manicured feet. This is evident in 'Primadonna' in which Electra croons "Primadonna girl / All I ever wanted was the world".
Yet whether Marina has intended it or not, there is also a vulnerability to her creation. Electra Heart may talk the talk, yet in Marina's beautiful vocal performance we see a scared and unworldly little girl trying very, very hard to be a meanie, but we don't quite believe it. Perhaps Lady Gaga and Madonna (both obvious influences) are more adept at doing the cold calculating bitch, however Marina's softness and humanity shines through the heavy make up, as can be seen in the lovely 'Lies': "You're never going to love me / So what's the use?" Evidently Electra can have her heart broken too.
'Homewrecker' continues with the charade of the Electra as sexual predator: "I'm only happy when I'm on the run / I break a million hearts just for fun / I don't belong to anyone". The tune is fun, the electro-pop rhythm more than a match for Marina's vampish gum-snapping heart-breaker delivery. The maudlin 'Starring Role' falters somewhat. Here we are supposed to see the aftermath of Electra's cavalier behaviour. The music plays like a music box accompanying Marina's melodramatic voice, yet the song is a tad overwrought and doesn't work as well as when Electra is having fun pretending to be the heartless bitch we know she isn't.
Unfortunately, subsequent tracks are much less interesting. 'The State Of Dreaming' and 'Power And Control' are fluff tunes with little substance, and 'Living Dead' is as dull and lifeless as the title would imply. 'Teen Idle' gets things back on track however, in which Marina finally stops with the mediocre impersonations and goes back relying on her own devices. Here we have musical embodiment of a disenfranchised youth who long for everything they don't have in order to conform to a mass-produced ideal. Marina's beautiful vocals are chilling and wonderful: "Wish I'd been a teen idol / Wish I'd been a prom queen fighting for the title". The result is one of the most astounding tracks on the album.
As with anyone living the life to the fullest, the inevitable burnout results. After the frenzied pace at the start, we now have a more sanguine, thoughtful Electra Heart, perhaps contemplating how she got to this place to begin with. Thoughtless and carefree in 'Bubblegum Bitch' and 'Homewrecker', with 'Valley Of The Dolls', 'Hypocrates' and the beautiful 'Fear And Loathing' we have Electra all wrapped up in sad melodies. The broken hearts swept up and gone, she now contemplates the aftermath: "I lived a lot of different lives / Been different people many times / I live my life in bitterness / And filled my heart with emptiness". Is there hope yet for the callous Electra Heart? So it would seem.
While perhaps not as musically satisfying as its predecessor The Family Jewels, Electra Heart proves Marina And The Diamonds to be a savvy and courageous performer, willing to take risks and scoff at the critics and naysayers who were all predicting her fall from grace. Like her creation, Marina may not be the arrogant diva she occasionally pretends to be, nor an innocent in the hands of manipulating PR men carefully crafting her image. What she is, however, is a damn good pop star.