By Jordan Meehan
Good afternoon, pop music lovers! The highly anticipated album, Electra Heart, from Marina & The Diamonds has finally arrived and quite frankly I can’t stop listening to it. I’ve never really been a huge Marina fan, so I didn’t have very high expectations for this album. However, after hearing Primadonna for the first time last month, I have to say I started getting pretty excited to see what she was going to bring to the table with her new album.
Electra Heart is a concept album of sorts, focusing on the titular character Electra Heart, which tells of the struggle of the American dream and of love and relationships in modern day society. Having laid out such a complex and deep concept, Marina has set the bar quite high, hasn’t she? Here are my thoughts on the album, track by track:
Bubblegum Bitch – Right off the bat this track opens with a guitar riff that instantly brings you back to decades past. Personally, as a child of the 90s, it reminds me of both old action cartoons and of old 70s era campy crime films. Bubblegum Bitch is a perfect opening track, as it encapsulates so much of the overarching theme of the album: dysfunctional love, self-centeredness and unapologetic attitude.
Primadonna – We’ve all heard this one, we all love this one, so there really isn’t much to say about it that hasn’t already been said. If you don’t love it, please get your ears checked and get back to me. This song pretty much speaks for itself, continuing the theme of wanting it all, loving yourself unabashedly and blocking out the rest of the world.
Lies – Miss Marina slows it down on this big electro ballad and gets much more vulnerable than you would expect for so early on in the album. This song shows her opening up about a lover who she deems a “coward to the end,” who lies and can only make love to her in the dark, and only appreciates her while drunk. The production on this one is as fantastic as the lyrics, which are masterly written. It grinds along, echoing the sentiment in the lyrics and ethos of the song. Fun side note: this track is even better when done acoustically.
Homewrecker – This track opens up with a long spoken verse, with Marina talking about the unpredictable nature of love and relationships and then cuts to a big, pounding chorus. This song is much more playfully dark than the preceding ones, with Marina delving into her love of breaking hearts for fun. What I really like about this track is how it interweaves spoken verses with some sung parts and a really big chorus; a really interesting composition for a pop song, and one that works quite nicely.
Starring Role – This song is one of my favorites on the album; through the metaphor of the lead role in a play or movie, this song is all about not giving a relationship your all unless you’re the main focus of it from the other person involved. Starring Role is very similar to Lies in theme and lyrical content, but does a better job of getting the message across through its metaphor, which fits into the album’s theme perfectly. It’s got a good mid-tempo pace and really showcases Marina’s upper and lower vocal register quite nicely.
The State of Dreaming – I can’t say enough good things about this track; it’s really fighting to be my favorite track on the album (neck and neck with Power & Control). This song sees Marina (or maybe I should say Electra Heart, since she seems to be the main character of the album) outright talking about her life being a play, as she lives in a “state of dreaming” to escape the harsh actuality of real life. The verses are light and melodramatic and the chorus kicks in and drops a driving beat and a stellar hook (which reminds me of another song that I still can’t quite put my finger on). Once again, one of the overarching themes of the album is represented here: escapism via the self and fantasies. It’s just perfect.
Power & Control – This might just be the best track on the album. It strikes a perfect balance of deep, meaningful lyrics with a solid pop hook backed by a strong, danceable chorus. Another big theme of the album is represented in this track: the idea of power and control in love/a relationship and the rejection of weakness. This song pretty much speaks for itself, but I have to say it’s an extremely strong track that highlights a lot of aspects of love and of a dysfunctional relationship and is certainly one of the highlights of the album.
Living Dead – This track is an excellent follow up to Power & Control; it has a slightly similar sound, somewhat lighter lyrical content and a slightly bigger chorus. While the lyrics are still rather dark and talk about not having lived life to the fullest, it’s balanced out by a brighter sound in both the instrumental and in Marina’s vocals.
Teen Idle – Quite frankly, this song is all about teen angst and self-indulgence. Are you seeing a theme in these songs yet? The chorus of this song is almost hypnotic, with Marina (Or urm…Electra Heart) lamenting on all the things she wishes she had done when she was younger. This song really showcases her upper vocal register, like some of the other songs on the album, and sees the album delving even deeper into her psyche and getting even darker. While not quite a dance song, I’d still call it a highlight of the album.
Valley of the Dolls – The album continues getting darker and darker in sound and content with this track. Valley of the Dolls seems to be all about dying amongst a population of fake people and phony personalities, which is seen so much in the entertainment industry. A dark, slower electro ballad, this song really shows Marina’s vocal range and flexibility and paints a morbid picture with the lyrics.
Hypocrates – This track is quite similar to Power & Control in lyrical content, but with an entirely different sound. It’s a bit of a strange track when you think about it; it kind of sounds like a 90s pop song with a more upbeat sound and a brighter chorus than the other songs towards the end of the album. Hypocrates seems to be all about a controlling boyfriend who she claims is a complete hypocrite. The lyrics make this one pretty straightforward. While this one sticks out from the surrounding tracks, it’s a total breath of fresh air with its sound but still maintains consistent with the albums themes.
Fear and Loathing – And right before you know it, we’re back with another slow, darker sound song to close off the album. It’s a strange follow up to Hypocrates, but it’s a perfect song to end an album like this. This one has our fearless femme, Electra Heart, telling us about her fear of living in, you guessed it, fear and loathing. It’s a pretty simple song in terms of lyrical content, but its simple statement is the perfect way to end an album all about narcissism, control and self-centeredness.
After listening to this album several times over the last few days, I can say without a doubt that this is one of the best pop albums I’ve heard in years and that the bar has definitely been raised. Perhaps what makes it so enjoyable is the fact that it was such an unexpected move from an artist like Marina, and she pulled it off so seamlessly and with such conviction. Another thing that makes this album so strong is its cohesiveness in both theme and sound. Not only that, but it tells such a compelling story that just about everybody can relate to.
Electra Heart tells the story of the corruption of the American dream and of the self into a state of narcissism, loathing, and materialism and does so in a powerful electro pop concept album. It’s rare these days that you find a pop album that not only tells a story but also carries with it a powerful message, and it’s even more rare that you find an album half as good as this one that does all of those things. This album is packed full of pop laden melodrama and has an incredibly vintage sound and feel to it while still sounding ahead of it’s time. Overall, Electra Heart is a shining pop triumph that will undoubtedly be the sound of 2012.