Review Summary: Above all, Electra Heart is a story about Marina's struggle to keep up with her own ambitions, and ultimately her failure due to them.
It feels just like it was just yesterday when the Britpop market started to get flooded with quirky wannabe female pop stars. That's obviously because that trend hasn't changed over the past few years, and they just keep on coming. In 2010 however, a different kind of pop star was born. I wouldn't say that they were exactly reinventing the wheel (because that would be extremely far-fetched) but the likes of Marina and the Diamonds (among other contemporary artists like the lovely Ellie Goulding) were definitely shaking things up a bit. As far as Marina's musical approach is concerned, she managed to spice up a bit of her quirky pop and indie tendencies with ironic lyrics and infectious vocals. Sadly, although her debut was quite amazing, it didn't really bring the commercial success she had hoped for; something she expressed quite often in interviews following the album's release. Now, stubborn as she apparently is, Marina started working on her sophomore effort, which was meant to outclass her debut in every way (but mostly in commercial success). After over a year of studio work and months of acquiring outrageous amounts of hype, Electra Heart
is now finally among us, but maybe she polished this diamond a bit too much.
Anything for the crown
An important thing to note about this album is the fact that it's fully based around a slightly ridiculous concept. In short, Electra Heart is the story of Marina turning into a spoiled brat, which pretty much resembles the stereotypical image of the average American teen (which is something she's scared of). In the light of this concept the whole album turns into a sort of treasure hunt, where she looks for happiness through different means such as material goods, love, and the gift of kindness (as in giving it to others), which also turns into a sort of twisted morale. Knowing this doesn't change the album for better or worse, but it does explain some of Marina’s musical decisions (such as the questionable electro-influences).
Living with identities that not belong to me
– 'Valley of the Dolls'
As I mentioned before, Electra Heart was supposed to be Marina's big claim to fame and it sure does sound like it. You can easily handpick the songs that were made to be a single, but herein lies a hidden problem. In Marina's assumedly desperate attempt to make them as 'radio-friendly' as possible, songs like 'Homewrecker', 'Power & Control' and 'Lies' end up sounding pretty vapid and overproduced. Strangely, the same treatment had the exact opposite effect on the album's lead single 'Primadonna', presumable because the beats take a back seat. Talking about 'Homewrecker', it's a shame the song ended up this way because as she showed on its acoustic version, it's actually a lot better when you've gotten rid of all those electronic influences hanging over Marina's superb vocal performance like a bunch of black clouds over a summer's day picnic. It should also be noted that another cheap electro-driven track, 'Radioactive', was pulled from the album after the video failed to garner enough views. Honestly, she should have known better than to nearly ruin those tracks with sloppy David Guetta- esque electro beats, even though her massive vocal performance manages to keep everything more or less running smoothly.
Why don't we just pretend
Luckily this record isn't fully driven by wobbly beats. Opening track 'Bubblegum Bitch' for example is a powerful, guitar-driven middle finger to teenage love and 'Hypocrates', Marina's 'for better or for worse' take on pop rock, is the only song that has a vague resemblance to Marina's past naivety. The weird thing is, that after all of this Marina simply failed to see her real strengths, the slower, ballads. Tracks like 'Lies', 'Teen Idle' and arguably her best and hardest hitting song so far: 'Fear and Loathing', showcase just how amazing a songwriter she actually is and show how the song's structures could have been built around her amazing vocals instead of the other way around. Speaking about 'Teen Idle', one could not look past Marina's honestly pretty fantastic lyrical approach, where she manages to build the album's admittedly pretty average concept up to a higher level. Clever lines such as “feeling super, super, super! Suicidal” showcase just how well she's able to turn something rather average around and shape it into something amazing through the sheer use of irony and clever song writing.
I wanna be a real fake
– 'Teen Idle'
So there you have it, Electra Heart is both a story of triumph and failure, just like the album's heartfelt approach to pop music. Some of it manages to hit exactly the right spot, while other parts are only just passable thanks to Marina's simply magnificent vocal performance. As clever and powerful as her lyrics are and as emotional as songs like 'Lies' may be, Electra Heart
will sadly be remembered most as the second time Marina failed to fully deliver on her humongous potential.
I don't wanna be completely faithless
– 'Fear and Loathing'