Electra Heart (Deluxe Version), by Marina & The Diamonds
If Marina & The Diamond’s first album had a distinctive voice, it was harmed to a great extent by the singer’s petulant dissatisfaction with her life and her failure to take responsibility for the course of life, instead seeking to blame other people for her problems and issues. It is admittedly easy for adolescents to through temper tantrums in their music (and indeed easy for artists far older to do so), but did Marina learn anything over the course of the time between her debut and her second album, Electra Heart, which ominously references a figure in Greek mythology known for her opposition to the authorities of her city? Let’s find out.
The album begins with “Bubblegum B****”, a song about a woman treating a man like she thinks she has been treated, always a dubious proposition. “Primadonna” then follows, a song that acknowledges oneself as having a difficult reputation but trying to avoid the responsibility of it, which falls a bit flat. “Lies” is a song about a dysfunctional relationship, which demonstrates again the singer’s unrealistic approach to life and relationships–she only wanted the relationship to be “perfect,” after all. “Homewrecker” is another song that acknowledges a bad reputation but fails to take responsibility for the dysfunctionality of her life and relationships. “Starring Role” reflects on the acting that is involved in being in love with someone who is not in love with oneself but who wants them as a supportive friend. “The State Of Dreaming” laments on the cruelty of the world as well as her escape from the unpleasantness of it in her dreams, again without acknowledging her role in the problem. “Power And Control” is about her simultaneous desire for these two things and her unwillingness for a partner to have them over her. “Living Dead” is another song about her living in fantasy and only living at night in her dreams of love and death, a relatable but hardly laudable message. “Teen Idle” reflects a desire to return to infantile irresponsibility and her frustration of the consequences of such behavior in adult life. “Valley Of The Dolls” moans the need to take sleeping pills and deal with identities one does not choose. “Hypocrates” moans the hypocrisy of others without self-reflection on the singer’s own massive hypocrisy. “Fear And Loathing” tries to enlist the listener’s pity about her mental health issues. Similarly, “Radioactive” blames others for the toxicity she feels in herself. “Sex Yeah” has a great misunderstanding of sexuality and its abuse. “Lonely Hearts Club” invites someone to be her partner so that they could join the lonely hearts club of people she has broken the hearts of. “Buy The Stars” is yet another song that refuses to accept the bonds of duty and obligation that should connect the singer to others. “How To Be A Heartbreaker” gives the singer’s blinded and ignorant view of men, but it’s admittedly catchier and more upbeat than most of the songs towards the back half of this album. “Electra Heart” offers a dark reflection of being unable to handle the scrutiny of the outside world. “E.V.O.L.” is a reflection of the singer’s chaotic and disordered life. Finally, “Just Desserts” is a somewhat random and contradictory kiss-off ode that is a duet with Charlie XCX.
Overall, this album must be praised for its production. The songs on this album sound beautiful–the instrumentation, beats, and vocal production are all superb. It is easy to enjoy how these songs sound if one is not paying attention to the lyrics. Unfortunately, when one is forced to pay attention to what these songs are saying and not just how they sound, the vibe is constantly disturbed by the fact that the singer is filled with resentment about other people but is completely lacking in any desire to accept responsibility for her bad behavior and its effects on herself and other people. The singer’s obsession with dodging responsibility for the course of her life and her equally serious obsession with blaming and finger pointing other people is grating and demonstrates a major moral failing in the author, undercutting her own desire for moral authority that she constantly tries to push. The fact that so many songs hammer the same misguided themes and terrible approach over and over again without any sort of reflection or growth is a major shortcoming, making this album far less than the sum of its parts.