Album Watch: Marina & The Diamonds' Electra Heart Beats Satirically & Vibrantly

Monday, April 30, 2012

Exactly who is that girl, 'Electra Heart'?

Well, 'Electra Heart' is almost every female in mainstream Pop culture today. The bubblelicious boopseies who wear costumes made every item found in Hobby Lobby's craft aisle and/or maimed from Muppet fur. Who idolize rip-off their prospective femme fatale idols. Who pout, snarl their lips, and dye their hair periodically. Who simply just 'show up' and are just famous for being 'famous'. Who kissed girls 'and liked it'. Who might dabble in the hipster creed just because twee-hee-hee, they are 'soooo awkward and outcasted' too---they are the some of the 'rulers' of the free art world, and us 'little people' just spin on their axis.

Pop music thrives on this diet of high entertainment, flashy personas, and catchy hooks---ain't no big deal really because it's a culture of love/hate, beat or join 'em. Just that this is the type of crowd that Marina Diamandis doesn't necessarily fit in, or even wants to remotely fit in---or does she? The ideals of the American pop star aesthetic is about as expectant and guilty pleasure as two slices of apple pie with Cool-Whip on top in this country. You're not initiated into this crew unless you fit certain areas of criteria, and well to some extent the UK born Marina---whom is fascinated by American culture---found herself a part of that club when she released her 2010 debut, The Family Jewels.

Though The Family Jewels is about as anti-mainstream Pop these days as it was a quirky, left-of-center battle cry that blurred the lines of what Pop music is supposed to be--it was accessible, but not predictable. Saccharine sweet she is not, a Daria snide resonates in her. She's not 'another dumb blonde', but she probably at some point felt the pressure to dip into that industry cloy in order to reach a certain status quo. Instead of bending to that, she went bleach blonde and beat everyone to the punch.

Electra Heart isn't really Marina's alter-ego---necessarily---it's a satrical jab at the modern day pop star, the pop culture icon, the culture statistic that Marina is fearing she's becoming and well---loathing becoming. A critical eye and a warning Marina gives to herself through this set of all the things that could happen if she crosses over and "sells her soul" to the mainstream. She's got the killer production machines of Greg Kurstin, Rick Nowels, Liam HoweDiplo, and Stargate in her corner to make her vision aurally pleasing. Ironically, they all have worked with the targeted subjects on Electra, and their presence adds spice to the overall theme.

Taking on all the dramatics of a classic black n' white film, crying mascara prom queen tears, and snotty Hollywood attitude, Marina has her perceived archetypes of pop culture and has them take turns speaking in each of the twelve tracks present. She mocks diva disposable attitudes on the urgent panache of opener "Bubblegum Bitch" as it brings in some riot gurrl goodness with bits of No Doubt-era Gwen Stefani rubbed into it's folds. The seamless techno trip, "Power & Control" is probably a song that would have fit right at home on Madonna's MDNA (it's no secret that Madonna is one of the many inspirations for this album) as it embeds a torrid message of the pitfalls when mixing arrogance and ego, and it thumps along nicely. The singles, "Primadonna" and "Homewrecker" are bratty foot stomps that pace along nicely, especially the latter, which makes the word 'homewrecker' oh so poetic. Also listening to the tear stained love letters of "Starring Role" and the slip n' drag, "Lies" have her in vulnerable, yet witty moments.

Marina's operatic tone, a tone that heralded her lazily as a mini-Kate Bush in her debut days, is much more prominent and excels when you hear the epic climb of "The State Of Dreaming" and the misty ode to the arrogance of youth in "Teen Idle". Also the ambitious ballad, "Fear and Loathing" is six-minutes of self-reflection and a final testament to the 'Electra Heart' persona she has created, and continues to be created in pop culture.

What is to Electra's determent though is that once "Fear and Loathing" closes, you want more, as Marina has created a sprawling story that twelve tracks just can't all around cover. Never fear as the deluxe edition of Electra makes for a full conceptual experience as "Buy The Stars" and "Lonely Hearts Club" stand-out and fare better than some of the better filler material on Electra. The incredible, "Radioactive" is negated to bonus material status as well, and it's truly criminal as the song jams a good groove.

All the tongue-n-cheek air that she splashes out on this synthy-snarky set may seem like a sophomoric ambition at first listen, may show pretentiousness, or may just be plain stupid and un-important, but Electra Heart is more than it's critique of the American pop tart collation. It can even seen as a finger point to the image obsessed way we the American people operate with our standards of beauty and privileged occupants. Then again, what do I know? While Marina may or may not be capable of such a task, and conceptual albums are often seen as an artist diving into their indulgences, it is admirably bold of her to tackle such a topic and get a infectious well-rounded album out of it.

As cynical as she may sound throughout, if anything, you can say Marina has quite matured since Jewels. Her lyrical displays zip along with fluid pace, and her voice takes on a more operatic tone as there are some really beautiful places she takes it that make the listen worthwhile. Though there isn't a true stand-out like "Mowgli's Road", "Shampain", and "I Am Not A Robot", Electra Heart doesn't need that single grab ideal as it works as a full project and it crackle, snaps, and pops with smarts and unabashed vibrancy. Pop music should always be like this.

Release Date: April 30, 2012

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