Marina Loves and Fears
By Melanie Juarez
Confession: I loved Marina, then known as Marina and the Diamonds, in middle school. I listened to “The Family Jewels” and “Electra Heart” religiously. I knew all the words. I watched all the videos. Then, suddenly, I stopped. I would not be able to explain why or when my interest in Marina dropped off. Yet here I am, reminiscing on old memories.
Marina’s fourth album came out on April 26. It is titled “Love + Fear,” after psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ theory that love and fear are the only two true emotions humans experience. The album is split into two thematic sides, “Love” and “Fear,” respectively, and it is a monster - with sixteen songs total.
“Love” is fraught with yo-yoing energy levels. It starts with “Handmade Heaven,” an enchanting song with a beautifully brilliant music video. “Superstar” has received poor reviews, but I have to say I like it; it is catchy. It is followed by “Orange Trees,” a song that, while not bad, I never dreamed I would hear from Marina. She does not strike me as a tropical beach kind of person, but this song proves otherwise. “Orange Trees” is easily outshined by her collaboration, “Baby,” with Clean Bandit and Luis Fonsi, a strange mix that came out fantastic. “True” has received a lot of criticism for being too superficial, but I think “To Be Human” is a bigger letdown. Life in 2019 is rough, and logically, artists, want to make art about that. So while the sentiment of “To Be Human” is admirable, the execution is far too general and impersonal; Marina’s earlier songs did a much better job of addressing issues of isolation, technology, and violence. “End of Earth,” does not feel as try-hard as earlier tracks, and has engaging sound production that wraps up “Love” on a pleasant note.
“Fear” begins, if paradoxically, with “Believe in Love,” a sweeping, soft ballad. Like many of the songs on the album, it’s nice, almost safe. “Life is Strange” is carried by an intriguing violin riff. “You” is a strange future bass and tropical house blend. Despite the lyrical earnesty, the overused and emotionally empty sound production strips the song of any chance to shine. “Karma” also devolves back into tropical house. I actually do like the next track, “Emotional Machine.” The lyrics are a little iffy, but it is weird and haunting. “Too Afraid” is nice, while“No More Suckers,” is a bit lackluster. “Soft to Be Strong” has a sound that is devoid of emotion but contains beautiful, touching lyrics. As a whole, the songs on “Fear” tend to blend together.
What I appreciated about Marina’s music before was its raw emotion and intellect. It was fresh and ingenious. I am sorry to say that many of the songs off this album sound like they would play at a Forever 21. The others sound like knockoffs of Lana Del Rey’s emblematic “Born to Die” album.
“Love + Fear” is the product of Marina’s three year hiatus from music to focus on her own identity and emotions. What emerged from those three years was Marina, shedding “the Diamonds” and making music that is, in Marina’s words, “who I am.” I wanted to love it. However, if this album is what Marina truly has to offer the world, I am not a fan. Parts of the album are beautiful, but others are shallow and disappointing. It is a catchy but empty album.
The music industry is drastically different from what it was when Marina started more than ten years ago, and perhaps she felt the need to blend in to the current pop scene. Perhaps producers and co-writers had a stronger hand on this album than previous ones. Either way, Marina is a different artist today than she was in 2010, in 2012, and in 2015, naturally.If she is finding her real voice, I am proud. But when Marina lost “the Diamonds,” she lost a bit of her shine.