hotspot: marina & the diamonds

marina-and-the-diamonds

Let’s just straight up ignore the fact that I haven’t posted anything on here for over a year…ok, moving on now…

Writing about Marina is somehow akin to writing about an older sister or a friend who has made it to the pinnacle of what they described their dream to be.  I found out about Marina and the Diamonds (née Marina Diamandis) because I won free tickets to see Paolo Nutini perform at the iTunes festival in 2009 and she happened to be supporting.  Back then she was still the powerhouse she has become but was yet to grow into the energy she was sending out. She was still as charming as ever though, a man stage left in the audience yelling “I love you, Marina!” and another combating stage right with an “I love you more!” only resulted in Marina calmly and sublimely stating into the microphone “and I love you both equally” with a shy smile that would have looked facetious on anyone else up on that stage. That was the moment I started paying attention (and around the opening chords of “I Am Not a Robot”).

Years later she has two successful albums, and is on the brink of releasing her third. She’s toured with Katy Perry (we’ll forgive that smudge on her otherwise flawless record) but she has made herself into a superstar in a different way. It’s funny because Katy Perry and Marina both create the spun sugar sweet pop songs that burrow deep into our brains and get stuck there. The difference is that Marina’s caramel and ice cream persona has depth, her lyrics on her first album “The Family Jewels” (2010) were at times overwhelmingly autobiographical.  In the song “Are You Satisifed?” she states “It’s my problem if I have no friends and feel I want to die”, she embraces the ideal of the pop star and after exposing her vulnerabilities on her first album she fought back with her alter ego Electra Heart, a sensationalized Marilyn Monroe, the heartbreaker and man-hater we all have inside of us, but with a little smattering of extremism and danger. The bleached blonde wig and small inked-on heart right under the eye was her mask and perhaps her only way of dealing with the fame she had caught for herself.  “Electra Heart” not only dealt with fictionalised events but Marina’s most personal similarities to the celebrities we all feel captured by on the silver screen.

So far, the songs released from her upcoming album “Froot” only show a raw honesty that was more evident on her first album. Marina has come full circle, she has presented herself to the world, hidden herself away in a feminist-Bowie extravaganza and now she returns to us, mature and honest…and happy.  She says it herself in “Happy”…”I sang a hymn to bring me peace/and then it came, a melody/it felt so sweet it felt so strong/it made me feel like I belonged/and all the sadness inside me melted away like I was free/I found what I’ve been looking for in myself/found a life worth living for someone else/never thought that I could be I could be happy”. Marina’s greatest strength lies in her ability to juxtapose beautious, warbling, desparately sad lyrics with an upbeat, cotton candy pop beat. The kind of song you would watch a music video for involving talking candy canes and lollipops and Marina frolicking about in a princess dress without even realizing she’s singing about her desire to die instead of live so unhappily.

“Happy” is the exact opposite, while the tune becomes a little more rousing as it progresses, the melody is not a happy one and even though the message of the song is positive, it is perhaps a warning that we’ve all experienced and could still experience a fluctuation in this sudden and new “happiness”.

Perhaps the greatest example of this ability to find the humour in her situations is the song “Oh No!” and the accompanying video.  Marina stated she wrote “Oh No!” because she was terrified of failing her upcoming tour and moving to the US and that her fears were going to consume her, hence the repetition of the line regarding the “self-fulfilling prophecy”. The video does a good job of highlighting these aspects of the song, the zany realism and consumerism references look colourful and quirky but mask the almost deranged fear behind her lyrics.

Here is the video, for reference…

I could talk about Marina for a while, but essentially she remains unique in the music industry as a woman who melds songwriting with a creative ability to perform in different roles and use these to her advantage. Marina is not just Marina, she is the small (seriously, she’s short) unnoticed Welsh girl, she is the shy singer who is just about to make it big, and she is Electra Heart – her bleached and pampered solution to the problem of fame – and she is all of these at once.  She is a woman who chose her stage name because the “Diamonds” are her fans. She is grateful and humble and talented, and she has a lot more to offer to the “mainstream pop world” than most others out there.

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