Looking Back At…Electra Heart by Marina and the Diamonds

By Nicola Roy (@circaslaves)

A cynical cross between the American Dream and a Greek tragedy, Marina Lambrini Diamandis exploded in a glittering mist back onto our radios five years ago with sophomore album Electra Heart, two years after her debut The Family Jewels.

In the lead-up to the release of the album, some kind of identity crisis overtook her website as a collection of GIFs and videos were uploaded involving her wearing the classic blonde curly wig and Hollywood pin-up makeup, all boasting the same tagline- ‘pick your personality’. It was soon revealed that Marina would be taking on a cruel and cold-hearted alter-ego for this album, compared to the naïve, I-don’t-know-what-I-want nature of the first- Electra Heart.

The sound leap from the first album to this was a huge risk- going from indie Björk-like tracks with hints of Lily Allen-esque sarcasm in the lyrics to electronic bubblegum-pop is something not many female artists tend to do, although the charts were dominated at this time by Ke$ha and Katy Perry. However, having collaborated with Liam Howe, who previously worked with the likes of Britney Spears, her transition to alternative pop was a seamless one.

Electra Heart is a cold girl, for reasons we assume to center around having her heart broken multiple times before. Album opener Bubblegum Bitch is a fun, fast-paced bop, but look past the beat and at the lyrics and they take on another, colder meaning- ‘I’ll chew you up and I’ll spit you out / cause that’s what young love is all about‘. Primadonna was the big chart number- a cheeky, sarcastic and over-the-top ode to wanting everything, and not stopping at anything to get it.

The upbeat tracks in this album contribute to one side of Electra’s perfect-girl personality- Beauty Queen. However, the other three sides (Homewrecker, Housewife, and Idle Teen) are much darker and act as stories rather than just songs. Teen Idle itself is a haunting monologue about suicide, eating disorders and a strive for perfection. Starring Role tells the painful tale of staying in a dead-end relationship when you know fine well they have feelings for someone else- ‘You don’t love me / big fucking deal / I’ll never tell you how I feel’. We see and hear Electra trying to find her place in the world when so much is getting in the way of perfection, and it is extremely rare that an album can make you dance away to one song, and feel the raw and painful emotion in the following.

Written and based entirely on her own teenage experiences, Marina provided us with a bittersweet ode to the American dream turning sour. This collection of songs is sharp, honest and humorous at times, and although the concept of the album can be difficult to grasp, Marina’s eccentric tapestry of alter-egos makes for a hugely enjoyable yet poignant listen.


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