Marina and the Diamonds, ‘Electra Heart’ – Album Review
Marina Lambrini Diamandis has declared herself an icon — by invoking American iconography. ‘Electra Heart,’ her second album as Marina and the Diamonds, is a hit of high fructose sure to earn some tooth decay.
If you make a quick visit to Marina’s big fan site, you’ll find a seizure-inducing GIF of the artist in a range of costume guises, with the tagline of pick your personality. As she’s stated in interviews, this record is a bit of a concept album: The Welsh icon wrote it as an outsider’s account of the “American dream with elements of Greek tragedy,” an exploration of the vapidity and hollowness that she sees in American culture. She sees that vacuity exemplified in the roles that women are forced into by society. So Electra Heart, beyond being the album’s title, is the character(s?) that Diamandis is plays in each song — those personalities in that kaleidoscopic GIF mentioned before — and the characters she (and we) play throughout the day. Call it feminist pop. Or maybe not.
This is all unusual for an album that topped the British and Irish charts when it dropped there in May. But Diamandis is clearly not the average pop star, having previously rejoiced in her own lack of piano-playing prowess. She still has an enthused amateurism — she cites Britney Spears as formational for her (and Ani DiFranco, too) — though on this record she’s brought in top-shelf producer talent like Diplo and Dr. Luke to give her an edge. But what are the results?
Mixed. On opener ‘Bubblegum Bitch,’ she has a Gwen Stefani style aggro-pout going on over electropunk production. A similar chord is struck by ‘Homewrecker,’ though this one ugly and uninteresting (still, there’s an argument that that’s the point). Her strengths lie in the stranger tracks: The 26-year-old nails a chorus in ‘Living Dead,’ while the Hunter S. Thompson-checking ‘Fear and Loathing’ is psychoactive and saccharine. You get the idea that Diamandishas is capable of great things but she’s not there yet.
Through it’s probably too long at 46 minutes, ‘Electra Heart’ does what it does well — though it’s hard to say if that’s a good thing.