The Family Jewels, by Marina And The Diamonds
I must admit that this particular artist is one that has long flown beneath my radar. Although I have certainly heard other people praise her music, I simply have not listened to it, and as is often the case I was invited to rank her debut album and decided to take the opportunity because it provided me with the chance to listen to an album that I wasn’t familiar with and which also allowed me to see what I thought about the album’s themes and concerns. I must admit that going into the album I had some mixed thoughts about the approach of the artist and was curious to see how critical I could be about its perspective. So how did the album turn out?
The album begins with “Are You Satisfied?,” which is a quirky and upbeat song about herself and her own struggles in life. “Shampain” is a song about problem drinking and the misery that happens when one focuses too much on contemporary social issues. “I Am Not A Robot” is an open discussion of the artist’s vulnerability and weakness. “Girls” is a reflection of her lack of identification with standards of lady-like conduct, and her stereotypical views of other girls. “Mowgli’s Road” is another song where she tries to differentiate herself from others and the path of life that they take. “Obsessions” is a song about the corrupt sort of thoughts we have about others that tend to threaten the health of relationships. “Hollywood” is a bit of a story song about the horrors of Hollywood that has spread to Europeans, making this a song about the corruption of American pop culture. “The Outsider” is a reflection of a titular person who views life as a spectator but who has a much darker side inside. “Guilty” is a song about self-loathing and guilt and a refusal to repent and be forgiven that seems unfortunately all too common. “Hermit The Frog” is a song about her struggle with the darker aspects of her thinking about how they hurt her reputation and relationships with those around her. “Oh No!” is a somewhat repetitive song that seeks to present the artist as knowing who she is and what she wants, but it’s more about what she doesn’t want instead. “Seventeen” is a whiny attempt to distance herself from those who would view her as a trophy wife. “Numb” then sings about the artist feeling numb most of the time, not an uncommon problem. “Rootless” is an expression of the sad state of contemporary youth who have been failed by those that did not root them into worthwhile and lasting history and tradition and truth. “Family Jewels” discusses patterns of family shame and division that is certainly relatable. The deluxe album then ends with five remixes, for Hollywood (1), Obsessions (1), and I Am Not A Robot (3), that are really of interest mainly to those who want slightly different musical arrangements (Hollywood) or a club mix (Obsessions, I Am Not A Robot), but are really inessential.
Ultimately, how you feel about this album will depend on how you feel about Marina’s preoccupations as a person and her quirks as an artist. This album struck me as a real and honest discussion of the singer-songwriter’s life and struggles, but while I had a great deal of sympathy for her, I found a lot that fell short of the mark as well. This album is a warts and all self-exposure by an artist who thinks that she is not like the other girls but ends up being a basic corrupt hipster girl. Some of the tracks here are so basic that they could have been made by an artist like Daya (Girls, Seventeen), and those who think of Marina as being a daring and original artist overlook the fact that this album is a better-produced and slightly more enjoyable listen than Lorde’s Solar Power, but not as much as one might hope. There is surely an audience for self-absorbed young songstress singer-songwriter albums, but I am not the most obvious or most sympathetic of audiences.