With “FROOT”, Marina And The Diamonds' first new noise since the death of alter-ego Electra Heart in 2013, Marina Diamandis has made a grand statement of intent. It's a cathartic rebirth in nearly every way, and sees her veer away from the last LP's stylistic and thematic intentions, instead returning to basics for a new chapter in her career and life.
Electra Heart saw Diamandis enter the Top 40 across Europe and chart impressively worldwide – perhaps most notably, scoring herself a nice entry in the Billboard 200 in the US and also taking the coveted top spot in the UK. While the numbers for The Family Jewels, her full- length debut, were jaw-dropping, nothing could've prepared the world for Electra Heart. A complex, knotted concept record about female identity, love, youth and society, she sought to untangle a web of intricate ideas and emotions via the tools afforded to her by the realms of hyper-stylised pop and electronic wizards from around the world. Working with everyone from Liam Howe to Dr. Luke, Diamandis sculpted an anthology of songs that together forged a determined path through the world of chart music.
She'd brought with her the self-styled indie ethos that'd formed her debut foray, tinging each track with an edge – tracks like “Radioactive” and “How To Be A Heartbreaker” may have been thundering slabs of pristine dance, but they were crammed with her idiosyncratic wryness, refreshingly cynical outlook on life and cutlass-sharp fashion choices. Electra Heart's brief lifespan was doused in lavenders, lilac hazes, the glitz of glitter and the swoosh of shimmering satin; the visuals, centered around archetypes (The Homewrecker, Su-Barbie-A, Teen Idles and Primadonnas) were represented via bleached wigs, kitsch '50s garb and trinkets from the bygone yesteryears of America.
But pretending to be an entirely different person for a lengthy period of time took its toll – creatively, Diamandis had no desire to replicate that. “As soon as I'd finished the record and “Primadonna” came out, I already knew what I wanted to do with my third record. I knew it was going to be completely different,” she says. “I was really grateful for the experiences and opportunities that Electra Heart gave me, but I will never do it again. It was very early on that I understood that.”
The follow-up, then, was destined to be different. Ironically, that's something that we can always expect from Marina: the unexpected.
“FROOT” dropped on her 29th birthday (10 October 2014), the vanguard of a fresh record of the same name. It's the result of a drastic twist in her outlook, and a passion for taking charge. Striding back with confidence, Diamandis spouts disco grooves, dreamy vocal hooks and an effervescent sass not seen since she was last on the scene. Crucially, the thematic content is a far cry from that of The Family Jewels or Electra Heart. She stresses that 'happiness' is not the right word, but rather a contented state of existence.
“It was almost like I had been burdened by something my whole life and then suddenly that went away...” she says. “I can't even describe how amazing it is... you suddenly realise why people are happy and why people enjoy things. I think I used to believe that being depressed was part of my personality or that I was born like that, but it's quite shocking to realise that perhaps that isn't the case...” She ponders, as if half-realising this on the fly. “Maybe I was ready to change. Maybe I was ready to leave a lot of things I'd held onto in the past behind. I don't know if that happens to other people when they hit a certain age or maybe some people don't even have those issues to begin with. Perhaps it's not very common, but I know that it was important for my future.”
Along with this rebooted mind-set, Diamandis' FROOT was galvanised by a passion to retake the reins. While Electra Heart's cavalcade of producers taught her the pop gamut, it was never something she wanted to do forever. “In the past because I was new and I was someone who really needed praise, I very much listened to other people, perhaps when I shouldn't have. So because of that, on FROOT, I wanted to write the entire record alone. I think one of the biggest challenges was saying what I wanted to do for once. Whoever you are as an artist, you have to know who you are so that you can do what you want to do... so that no one's going to tell you what your identity is.”
More than ever, that's something that Diamandis is utterly au fait with – herself. She worked with a limited list of names on the new album, co-producing the record with David Kosten and enlisting Everything Everything on guitars and Jason Cooper of The Cure on drums– but other than that, it's a multi-faceted beast of her own creation. That's not embellishment; everything is written by her own hand – a truly unique prospect in a world of cookie-cutter floor fillers and ghost- written forget-me-nots.
From the existential tribulations of “Immortal”, harking back to her days as lithe ivory-tinkling balladeer, to the relentless funk of “Better Than That” (surely a future hit), to the wit and juxtaposition of “Happy” to the '70s-flecked “I'm A Ruin”, this is all Marina And The Diamonds. While she's still stridently marching forth, an eternally metamorphosing artist of almost supernatural ability, she nods to her DIY beginnings and the fragile, tender emotion of first album tracks like “Obsessions” or the big-picture anxiety of “Are You Satisfied?”.
Succinctly summing FROOT up, she says that “it's not about being pop or not pop, or electronic or not electronic, it's more about feeling the groove in the music and knowing there are real musicians playing it... I think it's something that I've been trying to translate for a long time.”
It's a frighteningly intimate and retrospective record, with Diamandis dissecting her own foibles and pitfalls and her guilt and regret, but it's also heartwarmingly optimistic despite that. She knows how to move on, close the book and look forward now. In that, she's discovering new elements of herself, channeling invigorated ideals and developing a passion for the unknown. FROOT is not just an album of pop songs (though it's not not that either), it's the chronicling of massive tumult, growing up and emerging from the cocoon maybe a bit bruised, a tad battered, but ultimately born anew, ready to reclaim the world.
“I'm used to planning everything to sweet fuckery, and I'm not planning anything this time,” she says with a slightly nervous laughter. “I'm just happy to let everything happen.”