Marina And The Diamonds Marina And The DiamondsElectra Heart
If you're reading this, you could be in several possible situations:
1) You used to like Marina, but now you're bored. “Obsessions” was great and everything, you may have bought that 7” on Neon Gold with the diamonds on the sleeve. In order to support her or to show off, let's be honest. Here was a(nother) pop singer-songwriter going for commercial success, but you thought she would end up in no man's land, the limbo between indie and mainstream from where it's hard to escape but which has brought you so many little pleasures. The album was pretty good. Hit single “Hollywood” was okay, but “Shampain” and some other tracks were brilliant. Maybe you saw her again live last summer, lost in a transition period to who knows where. Then came the alter ego thing, the video of that ballad recorded in the bathroom, the Stargate-produced “Radioactive”, the arty connection. You thought it was boring and you stopped trying to understand. Don't feel guilty, keep reading.
2) You're a fan. You love everything she does and you celebrate every single demo surfacing on the internet as if it were a worldwide hit. You should stop reading now, play “Electra Heart” and clap your ears.
3) Marina's voice is tiresome to you. You can't stand her faux opera mannerisms. You think she's vulgar. You probably feel everything bearing even the faintest smell of commercialism is evil. What are you doing here? Go away, leave us alone.
It would be unfair to talk about Marina And The Diamonds' second album without trying to explain the concept that must have caused the artist such a headache. In short, “Electra Heart” holds four typical American archetypes of the female personality: the “Teen Idle”, the “Primadonna”, the “Homewrecker” and, er, “Sue-Barbie-A”. Think Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) from “Clueless”, Paris Hilton at 25, pre-Brangelina Angelina Jolie and Betty Draper, respectively. In some way, Marina is able to classify all of the graphics and music of her campaign with those four clichés, moulding herself according to them but always keeping a distance. Because make no mistake: she despises them. Beyoncé had her two alter egos, Nicki Minaj has three, so Marina has four. You don't get it? Visit her tumblr and try to make something of it.
So why, after all this confusion, is “Electra Heart” a victory? “Primadonna”, the great first single, already her biggest UK chart success (it climbed to 11 in its first week), was the first signal. The mainstream sound of Dr. Luke, mercenary mega producer at the service of Britney, Ke$ha, Katy Perry and everybody else, turns out to be a perfect match for the hook-laden melody and clever lyrics ( “I know I’ve got a big ego/ I really don’t know why it’s such a big deal though”). With the same man at the helm, dubstep-echoing ballad “Lies” could be the twin sister of “Inside Out”, one of the most pleasant surprises on Britney's “Femme Fatale”. It wouldn't even be necessary to hear “Bubblegum Bitch” and the line “I’m miss sugar pink lick-a-lick-a-lips”, the frantic faux rock album opener, to acknowledge that Marina achieved just what she wanted: an album that can play in the mainstream major league without losing its halo of self-awareness.
The rest of the songs, mostly produced (again) by Greg Kurstin, don't miss a trick. The abundance of ballads and mid-tempo tracks, among which the outstanding “The State Of Dreaming” and “Teen Idle”, are a good counterpoint to the brilliantly vulgar production. State of the art, they call that. There's room for more clubby sounds, too, like “Power & Control” and “Homewrecker”. It might not be for everyone, of course, but it is deliciously addictive for those who are open to it. Like it or not, popular music sounds like this in 2012. And if every record in the genre sounded like “Electra Heart”, it wouldn't be a problem.