British popstar Marina Diamandis — aka Marina and the Diamonds — releases her second album Electra Heart in Australia this week, and it’s a dazzling departure from her 2010 debut, The Family Jewels.
She’s got a new sound (big, stonking electro pop courtesy of hit makers like Diplo and Dr Luke), a glam makeover (to better play the album’s title alter ego) and a fresh outlook on her life and career.
Nick Bond chatted to Marina Diamandis in the wake of the album’s triumphant Number One UK debut earlier this month.
Q. Electra Heart sounds like a much more confident album than your debut. Did anything change between albums for you to bring about this change in sound?
A. I think the fact that I was able to admit to myself that I wanted to develop into a proper pop artist was the biggest change.
Sometimes artists rally against what they secretly want. I definitely felt like that — negative and quite bitter, because I felt left out and that I hadn’t made my way with the first album. I came to be known as a DIY artist who had big aspirations, and those are two quite contradictory elements.
Q. How would you best describe the ‘Electra Heart’ persona/alter ego you’re exploring for this album?
A. I describe her as a fictional character. The whole album is a chapter of my love life through the portrayal of a character, Electra Heart.
I used a character because it’s a useful tool to writers in all fields to help you explain the truth, but the irony is that people think you are untruthful because you’re using a character.
In the beginning a lot of British press asked, ‘So how much of the real Marina is on this record?’
It’s like we all fall for the same trick that has been played out in pop music for decades. This is my most open record yet but because I’ve created a character, it’s immediately [seen as] inauthentic and fake.
Q. Given your songs quite often critique or poke fun at American culture, have you found so far that American audiences ‘get it’?
A. If I’m honest, more so than the British audience. I don’t see Electra Heart as a critique of anything necessarily — except for love, and my relationship with it — but a lot of the visual references have been borrowed from ’50s – ’70s America, so I guess American people understand things a little more easily.
I really loved Britney Spears in the ’90s and indulged myself on the silliness and brilliance of pop quite a lot on this album, with songs like Bubblegum Bitch and Primadonna. It’s OK to like silly things. Lots of things in the world are silly, but it doesn’t make them less important.
Q. What was it like working with big pop songwriters like Dr Luke or Rick Nowels? Did you have to pull them aside for a chat before the sessions started to explain that you’re a little different from a Britney-type artist?
A. No! Some of us are entertainers and some of us are songwriters and neither title makes you more credible, or deep, or plastic!
Q. Album track Teen Idle seems like a very personal song, all about regretting your misspent teen years.
A. I regret not letting go more, but you can’t control much when you’re a teen. I felt I wasted a lot of my youth, from around 16 – 20.
I hate that period. It makes me feel sick. But I really think it affected who I would eventually be as an artist and the themes of my songs too.
I think personal repression is quite hard to deal with. I think a lot of my music to date has dealt with that theme. I hope if anything that my music will give people the boost to have the courage to live the lives they want.
INFO: Electra Heart (Warner) out now.