Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Album Review: "Froot" by Marina and the Diamonds

I recently heard a friend say, "You know what, I think Marina and the Diamonds may be my favorite popstar." It was a simple statement, but made me think of who Marina was as a popstar.

Back in 2009, Marina Diamandis had popped up on the scene as somewhat of an oddball. Her music was clearly driven by pop hooks and a strong melody, not to mention her uniquely smoky voice and range. But her debut album The Family Jewels was a piano and guitar driven, borderline acoustic fest with a mix of squelchy electric elements that made Marina hard to categorize. After making one of the best albums of 2010, Marina decided to step EVERYTHING up for her second album. With a stroke of genius, Marina created the alter ego of Electra Heart as a commentary on superficiality and American culture. The accompanying album was full of chart-topping hits that doubled as satirical wisdom for generations to come. It was hard to think how Marina could top the best album of 2012. 

The first song post-Electra, "Froot" was not something I expected from Marina. Mainly because I expected another complete change in image and sound. Instead, we got something even better. The Diamonds got the menacing lyricism from first album Marina, the electronic pulsations from second album Marina, and the charisma of a forward-thinking songwriter that signaled Marina finally arriving as the popstar that SHE wants to be.

After serving up the best song of her career (FROO-OO-OO-OOT), Marina saw that cutting down on production was the key to elevating her work. Each song on "FROOT" was written by Marina and produced by David Kosten, whose work with Bat For Lashes and Everything Everything is very commendable. Marina's lyrics have always been what sets her apart and the chorus of "Can't Pin Me Down" is a clear example of that, with the "Do you really expect me to write a feminist anthem?" being solid gold. So far, FROOT has the smartest lyrics of the decade.

FROOT is a classic Marina album in every aspect. The scathing cultural criticism of "Savages" to the reflective on the relationship in "Weeds" call on all shades of Electra Heart, but the directness of this album has a much greater impact. Book ended by two power ballads (some of my favorite songs by her), Marina lets out some of the most poignant emotion on "Happy" and "Immortal." The contrast of the melancholic atmosphere and somewhat hopeful words of living happily despite our impending deaths make me think Marina may be the Einstein of pop.

The Fruit Of The Month campaign worked in her favor, by letting every slowly ingest the morsels of sweet pop without getting too much of their acidity (no more fruit metaphors, I promise). Marina's strategy also shows off her strengths. The bouncy synths paired with the smooth voice in "Blue" keeps Marina from going too far into "taking herself too seriously like Madonna" territory. Furthermore, when current single "I'm A Ruin" was released, you finally understand the real theme of the whole album: catchy, intelligent pop that does not apologize for anything.

One thing everyone should keep in mind going into the album is that Marina has essentially given up on mainstream success. With her legions of Diamonds and underground presence, she has reached a point in her career where she can do that. The downside of this move is that repetition seems more appealing to her now, with "Weeds" "Solitaire" and "Gold" sounding like reworked versions of songs from the beginning of her career. They are still enjoyable; just been there, done that. The best popstars clearly reinvent themselves between albums: Charli XCX, Lady Gaga, and Marina herself are examples of that. So while Marina missed the opportunity to once again slay the world with a whole new sound, she will still go down as pop's most intelligent singer.

Best Listened To: Baking some Froot Cake
Best Songs: "Froot" "Blue" "Savages""Immortal"
NSOTP Rating: 8.6/10

Marina and the Diamonds on Facebook
Marina on Twitter
Buy FROOT on iTunes now!

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