Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Marina and the Diamonds - Electra Heart

"I'm pissed off I'm not bigger".

It's a phrase that's become synonymous with the ambitious Marina Diamandis and has informed the whole conception of 'Electra Heart', her sophomore album.  This self-induced pressure is on Diamandis and her record label to deliver an album that's commercially and artistically successful.  As such, everything about 'Electra Heart' has been meticulously planned, nipped and tucked.  This is cynical songwriting in a shallow package.

Concept album featuring Diamandis's alter-ego Electra Heart poking fun at the music industry?  Check.  A sleuth of current producers?  Check.  Catchy Katy Perry / Gaga esque pop tracks?  Check.  Rather than the oddball, quirky feel of debut 'The Family Jewels', Diamandis has opted for lowest common denominator pop.  It mostly hits the mark, but there's little room for creativity.

Almost every song centres on the notion of success.  The worst of these are those tracks most obviously delivered from the mouth of sassy and brazen Electra Heart - Bubblegum Bitch, Primadonna and Homewrecker.  Primadonna is the lead single and it's easy to see why with its annoyingly catchy melodies.  Bubblegum Bitch, though, is the album opener.  Its "lick-a lick-a lips" chorus might be fun (and apparently took ten whole minutes to write), but the overall feel is just obnoxious.  Homewrecker, with its stilted rap and forced rhymes ("every boyfriend is the one, until otherwise proven"), is a definite low point, her voice sounding out of key even in the final master.  It makes you wish Diamandis would just stick with being herself.

Elsewhere, there's Diamandis hoping for a Starring Role and The State of Dreaming which uses Marilyn Monroe as inspiration to explore the dangers of stardom.  The real highlights though are Teen Idle, in which Diamandis mourns a wasted youth and instead wishes she'd conformed to American ideals ("I wanna be a real fake", "I wish I'd been a prom queen fighting for the title"); and Fear and Loathing, whose production allows the vocal melody to take the fore without the electronic business.  Ironically enough, these two songs were written by Diamandis and Liam Howe (producer of her debut), without all the drafted in help.  On the other hand, the themes explored here are similar to Lana Del Rey's material, but without the unique retro production.

Those who buy the extended version will receive three of her better tracks in Radioactive (which actually feels decent in comparison to the rest of the album) and the catchy Sex Yeah and Lonely Hearts Club.  In fact, despite the by-the-numbers musical approach, 'Electra Heart' is an enjoyable album and amongst the alter-ego rubbish is an artist trying to get out.

If only someone would tell Diamandis it's not all about fame and success.  The key?  Stop being such a Primadonna and focus on being yourself.


Gizzle's Choice:
* Teen Idle
* Fear and Loathing
* Radioactive