Review Summary: Vibrant young British poppette is "the anti-GaGa"
We've all been subjected the new wave of (primarily British) female singer-songwriter-popstars in the past 18 months or so. Lady GaGa, Laura Marling, Little Boots, La Roux, Emmy the Great, Bat for Lashes, Florence & the Machine, Kate Nash, Paloma Faith, Ellie Goulding, Lily Allen. The list goes on and whilst there are a lot of differences musically and aesthetically between the above artists, it's clear that girl power is back (and that lots of them spent their mid-teens listening to Kate Bush and PJ Harvey) And often, this girl power is accompanied by the artist's particular brand eccentricity. Lady GaGa is of course the prime example.
Listening carefully to her extremely personal and nuanced debut album, one begins to gather the impression that Marina Lambrini Diamandis is a kind of "anti-Lady GaGa". Now I don't mean in terms of sound or that she's criticising the new first lady of pop. No. GaGa is obsessed with fame (with two albums called "The Fame" and "The Fame Monster", what did you expect?) She sings about what it's like being the world's most famous popstar and living in the sphere of celebrity and in the midst of her own crazy, ostentatiously public persona. She said that the songs on her second album "The Fame Monster" are about the different "monsters" you encounter when you're famous- "my 'Fear of Sex Monster,' my 'Fear of Alcohol Monster,' my 'Fear of Love Monster,' my 'Fear of Death Monster,' my 'Fear of Loneliness Monster,' etc.". Marina however is a very different story. "The Family Jewels" is at the other end of the spectrum. The two are like a photo and its negative. Different reflections in the same mirror. GaGa is inside singing out. Marina is outside singing in.
"The Family Jewels" is a very self aware account of a young British girl looking at the world of the famous, wanting it, but also being very aware of the cliches and perils it involves. The album starts of with the sassy, extremely poppy "Are You Satisfied?" The album's theme is laid down instantly, Marina singing about her desire to be famous, but aware it's "her problem". The lyrics on this track and throughout are accompanied by Marina's love-it-or-hate-it vocal delivery. It's full of inflections, texture, giggles and inimitable nuances and is extremely flexible (and, for this reviewer at least, pretty damn sexy). It's particularly blatant on lead single "Hollywood"- another prime example of Marina's awareness of the cliched dreams of Fame- "I'm obsessed with the mess that's America". It adds to an overriding air of sincerity about the album. Every song simply is glistening with personality- no doubt because Marina had a hand in writing
all of them. Her self referencing on some of the tracks may cause some to cringe but it really does seem natural, an integral part of her songs.
Her songwriting skills shine through throughout particularly on single "I Am Not A Robot" and through the sheer variety on offer. No two songs really sound the same, and this is down to the production. Eclectic doesn't quite seem to be the word. Marina and her half a dozen producers seem to have bundle as many instruments and genres in as possible. Baroque pop rears its bouncy head a few times, notably on penultimate track "Numb", xlyophones chime triumphantly out of numerous orifices (played by Marina herself you understand). We get dirty synths (which, if a tad dirtier, would sound a bit like the sample form Suicide's "Ghost Rider" used by M.I.A recently) on "Shampain". It does all get a little too much by the end though, and the 13 tracks of lush production and arrangement will leave you feeling sickly if you listen to the album all in one sitting. A reminder perhaps of why pop music is rarely an album orientated genre. Yet it doesn't seem unnatural- it's all ostensibly Marina. It doesn't feel like external GaGa-esque decadence
Nearly every song on this album is a pop killer. It's dancey, it's sassy, it's youthful and it's honest. It may seem odd that an album so bright, upbeat and odd (in pop terms) could be considered an honest piece of work, showcasing an artist's personality. But that's really what this album is. Lady GaGa is an alter ego who allows Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta to sing about her life. And that's fine. Lots of us think it's brilliant. But Marina doesn't need that. She's too much herself, and very aware of that fact. She's made her mark on this album and nailed her incredibly bright colours to the mast.
I Am Not A Robot
Are You Satisfied?