Friday, July 20, 2012
All I ever wanted was the world
I can’t help that I need it all
There’s a new
bubblegum bitch girl
in town! I’m talking about Marina and the Diamonds! The Welsh
singer - songwriter’s full name is Marina Lambrini Diamandis and her added stage
name - the Diamonds - doesn’t refer to her backing band, as many of us would
think, but her fans (as she explains - "I’m Marina, you’re the Diamonds").
She has something called a synaesthetic condition that involves seeing musical notes and days of the week in different colors – a very artistic affliction if you ask me.
Marina is half Greek and spent two years in Greece with her father (her parents divorced when she was 4) after graduating from the exclusive Haberdashers’ Monmouth School on an assisted place. She seems such a normal, middle class girl so far, right? Oh well, wait for it!
She then moved back to England at 18 “delusional with drive” and started intensely pursuing a music career and even dropped out of university (4 of them in fact) to concentrate all her energy to this sole purpose.
She’s been trying to make it big in the industry for quite a while and for someone so clearly talented and fiercely ambitious she’d been flying under the radar for a long time! Before signing with 679 Recordings (a Warner subsidiary) and officially making it into the big leagues Marina used to be a "DIY musician” writing all of her lyrics (still doing that), while also recording and producing all her songs in her room using only the Apple software application GarageBand, drum beats and her keyboard.
She is now 26 years old and her new album “Electra’s heart” is a huge success. Her debut album, The Family Jewels, was a modest success in 2010 – so here’s a hell yeah for a steady rise to the top. The question around town is – did she have to create this whole new persona to really make it big?
The songstress describes her sound as an alternative to mainstream pop music. Talking about how she doesn’t really have a musical background and nobody really knew she could sing until she was 20, Marina once said "I probably have a bit of a different sound because I don’t really know what I’m doing".
Paul Lester (The Guardian) wrote that “her songs are hard to fathom. They veer between simple keyboards-based ballads and more upbeat and catchy, quirky new wave-inflected numbers enhanced by percussion, guitar and drums."
As a whole Electra’s Heart is a bit confusing lyrically and hard to digest because of the dramatic vocals and the interesting mix of electro pop and piano sounds.
I think that’s ultimately the “problem” – Marina uses her powerful voice as a gun and sometimes overpowers the melody by making more noise than necessary (it’s like she’s trying to be weird). My favorite songs are the ones that are the simplest, striped of all the excess noise like Starring Role, Fear and Loathing, Valley of the Dolls and Teen Idle. And yes, I’ll addmit that much: I also love Primadonna, it’s just such a catchy song!
The obsession for Hollywood, the American Dream, superficiality, materialism, all these clichés archetypes of women: the bitch, the cheater, la femme fatale, the prom queen but also the artificial, doomed and sad truth about love, dependency, narcissism, vulnerability are all recurrent themes of Marina’s lyrics and part of the imagery for her songs.
I think what I find disconcerting about Marina is all the contradictions I’ve seen in her – from her style/image, to the lyrics and even the interviews I’ve read. Electra’s Heart is supposed to be an ironic point of view on all the worst parts of Marina Diamandis that she didn't want to become, but then she appears in a blonde wig, with a black trade-mark heart on her cheek, dressed in 50’s inspired pastel get ups – such a change from her original striking brunette look and fun, cartoon inspired outfits!
She explains it a bit by saying (Popjustice): "The whole idea, the whole notion of pop culture and especially pop music is ALL based on illusion. And portraying yourself as something more exciting than you are. And my heart is always against that. So that’s why I’m doing it. I’m SO against it that I almost have to play the part. Does that make sense to you?”
No, it’s doesn’t (for me at least) – I’m a fan of vintage and retro, but find this change extremely artificial and unnecessary! I preferred the old Marina as far as her image goes – the dark hair and childish/kitschy outfits seemed more like her than this Americana plastic femme fatale.
I feel she’s trapped between wanting to stay true to herself and the certainty that he can’t if she wants to be a huge star and have an impact in mainstream. I guess it’s mainly the industry’s fault: you have to be someone else and stir some kind of controversy to get noticed. She sais it herself in an interview for glamourmagazine.co.uk:
R: "What's the one message you're trying to get out with the album?"
Marina: "I guess the main message is centered around what we all think love should be. What we expect from it, and what the reality of it is. There is some questioning of identity in there. I changed my look so radically. Partly to become someone else and separate myself from being that love-lorn person. Partly because I wanted to see how differently I would be perceived because of it. I was interested in the power of image - it's what pop stars are built on. And how weak that image simultaneously is. For example, you take it all off when you go to bed at night."
I don’t want to sound like a preachy, pretentious asshole – after all said and done I like most of Marina’s songs and I recognize her talent and even understand that in order to became famous and appealing to the masses she had to change her appearance (ironically or not) while keeping her sound and message as original as possible given the circumstances.
It would be hypocritical of me not too do so as I had no problem with the even more radical transformation of Elisabeth Grant into Lana Del Rey even if Lana’s persona it’s a better, more glamorous change of face. But I still feel the prom queen themes are somehow more appealing coming from Lana Del Rey.
What do you think? Are you a fan of hers?