Marina and the Diamonds’ Electra Heart lives up to the hype

Electra Heart - marina and the diamonds

In an interview with Popjustice in 2011, Marina and the Diamonds revealed that Electra Heart is “the antithesis of everything” that she stands for. She explained that she created the album’s concept around a person who “stands for the corrupt side of [the] American ideology.”

She added, “My worst fear — that’s anyone’s worst fear — is losing myself and becoming a vacuous person. And that happens a lot when you’re very ambitious.”

Poetic, for sure, but  reading that quote, I couldn’t help but wonder if this indie sweetheart was taking herself too seriously.

Electra Heart was finally released in the UK last week, and after a few listens, I am starting to see what many bloggers have been raving about. This is an experimental record — a concept album that, despite its flaws, manages to show both charisma and guts.

Marina soars when she’s playful, and the track “Homewrecker” is a great example. The spoken verses in this song sound delicious, enhanced and made more intimate by the catchy, anthemic chorus.

“State of Dreaming” is another example. The track’s dreamy first verse eventually turns into an infectious, happy go lucky melody. There’s something powerful in the chorus of “Power and Control” that the song’s disjointed verses eventually start to make sense.

Even Marina’s biggest fans have to admit though that some of the songs in Electra Heart lack originality. Although I have grown to love “Primadonna”, I still think that many of the song’s elements borrow heavily from today’s most mainstream pop stars. “Bubblegum Bitch”, the opening track, is fun but is also a little forgettable. “I think I’m gonna be my biggest fan,” she proclaims in this song. These lyrics are supposed to be clever, but the loud, busy production drowns everything out.

I am not one to criticize songs for sounding current, but by positioning her album as a statement record, Marina opened her LP to criticisms. When you’re working with some of the biggest producers around (Dr. Luke, Stargate, Diplo, Greg Kurstin, etc.), it’s hard to claim that your record stands for everything American.

While I usually hate it when pop stars take their music too seriously, there’s something about Electra Heart that is genuine, refreshing, and endearing. Despite the slick production in “Lies”, Marina’s vocals manage to remain raw and emotional. The same can be said for “Starring Role”, a highlight not just because of the intelligent words but also because of the memorable melody and the haunting vocals. “You know, I’d rather walk alone, than play a supporting role,” Marina coos in this emotional dub-pop track.

Marina and the Diamonds - Starring Role - Acoustic

Marina’s acoustic EP probably provides some glimpse into what this emerging superstar is truly capable of. Although not part the LP, the Electra Heart Acoustic EP includes stunning, unplugged performances of “Starring Role”, “Lies”, and “Homewrecker”. The acoustic version of “Primadonna” better showcases the brilliant lyrics of the song.

Overall, I’m not sure if Marina and the Diamonds managed to reveal the corrupt side of American ideology through Electra Heart. What I’m sure though is that she created a beautiful and mostly cohesive record. Electra Heart is no doubt one of the best LPs of this year so far, and I can’t wait until its US/Canada release.