With Electra Heart, Marina and the Diamonds’ second record, her fascination with female identity and the American Dream – which were explored on her debut album – return to be studied in even more depth. Electra Heart is a character – not an alter-ego as such, according to Marina, but more the American Dream, personified. In theory it’s a concept record, exploring female archetypes. Marina has also said the album is “an ode to dysfunctional love”, adding that “it was a way of dealing with the embarrassment that, for the first time in my life, I got ‘played’.” She says “it’s a frank album”, and she’s not exaggerating, there; it is raw in its honesty. Many of the songs are candid in their description of heartbreak, but then the other half of the record shows a stronger character that does not want to be seen as a victim.
The more vulnerable moments are where Marina shines the most – Lies (which begins with the haunting line ‘you’re never gonna love me, so what’s the use?’) and Starring Role in particular are both breathtakingly, beautifully sad, and where her vocals show the most strength. They will strike a chord with anyone who can relate to the realities of feeling used and being in a relationship that is less than good for them.
Yet the more upbeat songs, which convey a more powerful individual, prove that Marina is also brilliant at writing a catchy pop hook – lead single Primadonna is a good example, along with Radioactive, which was some of the first new material to surface since her debut album, yet somehow only appears as a bonus track here (a great shame in my opinion, as it’s fantastic and extremely catchy).
Electra Heart is without a doubt an interesting, intelligent record, with some brilliant moments. I’d say that it is a bit of a mishmash however, and could have been stronger if it was cut down slightly – while Marina wanted it to be a concept album about female identity, it’s really turned out to be more of a break-up album. You do get the impression that, despite her having set out with a theme in mind, she hasn’t quite managed to capture exactly what she wanted to convey here, and that shows.