Marina & The Diamonds
Marina Diamandis is no ordinary pop star. Learning to play the piano and sing at the relatively late age of 19, she is nevertheless about as audacious as they come. “I was quite self-conscious about that fact that I hadn’t been doing [music] since I was four… But if you have a genuine artistic talent inside of you, it’s not important that you haven’t been taught how to do it. That’s what’s great about pop music and pop artists – you can come from a very self-made background, and your personality and determination gets you a lot further than your talent.”
It was Marina’s love of poetry that set her on a musical path, leading her to London when she was only 18. “When I got to London I started at various music schools and they forced me to learn keyboards. That was the key, as it allowed me to gig and go on to buy a laptop and produce my music.” After submitting some tracks to various record labels, Marina was ‘discovered’, going on to release her critically applauded debut album, The Family Jewels.
The image of Marina projected around the Family Jewels release was a modern, dark-haired, pop starlet. However her latest release, Electra Heart, has seen her reimagined as a blonde, with an enviable collection of vintage dresses under her oversized belt. Is this kind of makeover a risk, so early in her career? “Not really,” the singer argues. “Look at David Bowie – he looked so normal and boring on his first album, then from his second album forward, he started looking like the person we know. And it’s the same with Amy Winehouse. Sometimes I think artists grow into their images.”
Although media speculation has been rife with crazy theories, Marina says her transformation was partly a sociological experiment: “I was obsessed with the power that blondes have. I wanted to feel what that was like,” she explains. The rest was about reinventing herself after a bad break-up. “I just didn’t want to be myself, didn’t want to look like myself,” she recalls. “My reasons are actually logical… I wanted to change and become anything that would make him love me,” she laughs. “It’s an attempt to reclaim yourself, especially if [the relationship] ended badly and not on your terms, you try and take control in some way.”
Unlike her first album, which Marina says was “more about questioning our ideals,” Electra Heart sees her construct a separate character in order to combat her feelings of loss. “I wanted to create a character that was an obvious creation of someone who got very hurt. Electra Heart symbolises all the things that women feel when they’re dumped or aren’t really loved back. And that character is a callous person who doesn’t really need anybody. I wanted to recreate that figure and turn it into an album.”
The other strong theme throughout Electra Heart is Marina’s love of America. As an ambitious songstress, does this tie into hopes of breaking the notoriously challenging US market? “Obviously America is a big territory for a lot of acts,” she acknowledges, “but the reason I want to break America is because I love it; for me, it’s a place that offers opportunities for escapism. A lot of this record is about disconnecting with who you are because you don’t want to deal with whatever issues you have in your life. I like escapism. It comes naturally to artists.”
BY LEE HUTCHISON
Electra Heart is out now through Warner Music.