Saturday, July 14, 2012

Electra Heart | Marina and the Diamonds

Rating: ★★★

I first came across the name "Marina and the Diamonds" in June when I was surfing around Gaga Daily, which I do frequently.  After some listening on YouTube and searching on Wikipedia, I knew I had to listen to this woman's entire album.  However, the album was just released on the tenth of this month. So, after three weeks of waiting and one trip to the local record store later, here I am.

In 2009, Welsh singer and songwriter Marina Diamandis quietly released her first studio album, The Family Jewels, which gained little success. However, her sophomore album Electra Heart topped the charts in the United Kingdom, Scotland, and Ireland, and has caught the attention of many people, including myself.

The first song that I listened to from Electra Heart was called "Power & Control." I was instantly amazed with its sound. Diamandis's vocals give it this powerful and dark feel, while the electronic instrumental backing makes you want to hit the dance floor. These two colliding forces react to create one damn good song.

After listening to "Power & Control," I was intrigued with Marina and the Diamonds, and had to listen to more. I moved on to "Primadonna." At first, I was a bit shocked. The song greeted me with Diamandis singing the chorus to the song, with a guitar and a few other quiet instruments... But, with one last repetition of the words "primadonna girls," the instrumental track did a three-hundred-and-sixty degree change back to that fist-pumping electronic sound that "Power & Control" contained. However, the vocals and lyrics to "Primadonna" are much more happy. I've found the song to be about a girl who wants to live the life of celebrity and constantly needs to be the center of attention, as suggested by the lyrics, "All I ever wanted was the world."

"Lies" also impressed me. It is strongly reminiscent of "Power & Control," in the sense that it contains those darker vocals from Diamandis, while still containing a dance-worthy beat.  The verses of the song are quiet, and wouldn't really catch anybody's attention at first, but then the chorus explodes with Diamandis's strong vocals and dubstep backing track, which is so exciting that I'm sure it could stop traffic on a four-lane highway.

Listening to the entire album on YouTube would have been like eating candy before dinner, so the last song I let myself listen to from Marina and the Diamonds via YouTube before buying Electra Heart was "Radioactive." The song contained a very generic instrumental track, which to me seemed very similar to that of Rihanna's mess of a song "We Found Love." But Marina's vocals make up for the somewhat cliche backing track. There's something about her voice that can change a whole song, but I can't seemed to place my finger on it...

So, after I actually bought the album, I listened to the songs a few times in order.  And personally, I'm pretty happy that I listened to some select songs on YouTube before I actually bought the album, because if I would have just randomly picked up this album off the shelf, the title of the first song would have made me stray away, being called "Bubblegum Bitch." It really wasn't a very memorable song, either.

"Homewrecker" reminds me of Lana Del Rey's "National Anthem" in the sense that its verses are nothing impressive, and are half-spoken and half-sung.  But the choruses of both songs are impressively catchy. The chorus of "Homewrecker" is the meet-up of electronic and disco genres: a combination that works quite well for the song.

Rock influences are also seen on Electra Heart, in songs like "Sex Yeah." From what I can interpret from the lyrics, the song is based on the fact that society has forced women to be sex icons instead of humans.  This theme is carried into the next, slower track, "Teen Idle," but this song focuses on the effects of that message on teenage girls: the loss of self-confidence, eating disorders, and suicidal actions. Both songs are very well written and recorded.

Getting back into a electronic feel, "How to Be a Heartbreaker" contains vocal strong verses from Diamandis  that are accompanied by layers of guitars and the steady beat of a drum, while the chorus is a bit more exciting, while still containing that same steady beat of the drum and guitars.

Overall, the album has been quite a commercial success, while it critically fell behind. However, I don't know why.  Many reviewers gave it the equivalent of 50% or below.  Sure, the album has some duds, but the songs that truly are masterpieces shine bright enough to cover those flaws up.