Marina and the Diamonds - Froot
Just when you thought you had Marina Diamandis figured out she pulls out the cards she had hidden up her sleeve. As with Kate Bush, who she at times greatly resembles, she eschews easy mainstream success for quirky pop experiments and, while lacking Kate's obvious genius, she shares her guts and independent spirit. Sometimes that's enough, sometimes it isn't. After her last collaborative album, her third effort sees her re-take control of her career. The results, like any good fruit salad, are mixed.
Froot goes from genuinely great to genuinely meh. Those cards are laid out on the table - she wants to be understood. Whereas before she used alter egos to express herself, here she stands before us. While Electra Heart laughed at her heartbreaking ways, Marina laments her fate. The ironically titled 'Happy' has just Marina at the piano, musing that perhaps happiness could be found with someone else. It is a theme that runs throughout, with Marina vacillating between independence and finding true love before deciding, in the end, that what she really wants is the best of both worlds.
The bouncy fun of 'Froot' seems to be sneering at the serious Marina of 'Happy'. She goads the boy to make his move before it's too late: "Leave it too long I’ll go rot / Like an apple you forgot." However she is soon back to breaking hearts, insisting all the while that she just can't help it ("I know I'm playing with your heart / And I could treat you better but I'm not that smart.") The lush arrangement, coupled with Marina's gorgeous voice, nearly redeems the situation but the duplicity of the lyrics leaves the listener with little sympathy. 'Blue' and 'Forget' are more of the same ("We’ve broken up and now I regret it") but she's like the girl in the office who just won't shut up about how cruel the world is.
The smart, sassy pop of 'Gold' and 'Can't Pin Me Down' come to the rescue but 'Better Than That' - a song Madge could have found use for - steals the show. No more sad Marina crying her eyes out: the vixen is back. She even finds it in herself to ditch her self-indulgence to turn her attention to the wider world: 'Savages' may be cliched on paper, but the beautifully crafted melody and Marina's spitfire delivery makes it work: "I'm not the only one who finds it hard to understand / I'm not afraid of God / I am afraid of Man." The album ends with the beautiful 'Immortal', which basically sums up Marina's entire raison d'etre: "I wanna be immortal / Like a God in the sky." It's the performance of her life, her voice strong and sure lending the song a sincerity at times lacking elsewhere.
As with Electra Heart, Froot is far from perfect. It suffers when Marina tries too hard to be sincere or earnest. She shines best when she sticks to colourful pop - just watch out for the rotten apples.