Tag Archives: marina and the diamonds

Monthly Playlist: Nov. 2020

1 Dec

This month has been a big one for music-related news, from the AMAs to the GRAMMY nominations. While there were certainly moments to celebrate (see: Dua Lipa bagging wins and nominations galore), there were also some notable let-downs (see: the GRAMMYs’ radio silence on Rina Sawayama and the Weeknd!). Awards shows aside, though, there were some great tracks this month. Read on for our top five picks from November 2020.

5. “505 (Live)” by Arctic Monkeys

Arctic Monkeys return in December with a studio album – but before you get excited, it’s not new content. In the mythical past known as 2018, the Monkeys performed at the vaunted Royal Albert Music Hall with a set-list drawn partially from Tranquility Base and mostly from their older material (i.e. a palatable ratio). The proceeds from this album, recorded that evening, will go toward War Child, a non-profit focused on helping children from war-torn nations. As a promo for this live album, the band has released the live version of their classic “505”, and we must admit that it sounds great. The acoustics of the famous Hall lend new depths to the song, as do Alex Turner’s vocals – which have unmistakably changed in style since this song’s original version in the mid-aughts. If you can, get this one on vinyl.

4. “Man’s World” by Marina

Marina, formerly known as Marina and the Diamonds, has been a favorite of ours for many years. We’ve always loved the way she does pop – with all the bubblegum sex appeal of Selena Gomez and the like, yet imbued with biting self-awareness that is rare in the genre. With “Man’s World”, the multi-faceted popstar takes on the male-driven world (as the title suggests) with a good measure of COVID- and climate-change-reckoning thrown in. “Don’t underestimate the making of life / The planet has a funny way of stopping a fight,” she warns. The weirdest part of the song is her long interlude about the noted homophobe Sheikh of Brunei buying an LA hotel overtaken by the gays – but hey, she knows her audience.

3. “Therefore I Am” by Billie Eilish

Billie Eilish delivers the ultimate snide cold-shoulder with catchy new single “Therefore I Am”. She delivers the line “Stop, what the hell are you talking about? Ha” with all the iciness of the high school queen giving you a sneering look, and quotes (of all people) Rene Descartes in the chorus: “You think you’re the man, I think, therefore I am”. As with most Billie songs, the magic lies in her brother Finneas’ precise, inimitable production values; we especially loved when the heavy, layered chorus occasionally breaks into Billie’s crystal-clear voice. Reading between the lines, the song seems to be about someone she has been linked with (she mentions being asked about them in interviews and articles) – let us know if you’ve cracked the code.

2. “Edge of Midnight (Midnight Sky Remix)” by Miley Cyrus feat. Stevie Nicks

Maverick pop star Miley Cyrus has released her latest album Plastic Hearts earlier this month. Probably the most innovative track off the album is “Edge of Midnight (Midnight Sky Remix)”, a mash-up of Cyrus’ own recent hit “Midnight Sky” with Stevie Nicks’ legendary 80s banger “Edge of Seventeen”. And what’s more – Nicks herself performs on the track! “Edge of Midnight” is an electrifying mix of these two ladies’ instantly recognizable voices. Expect to get goosebumps the first time Cyrus sings the famous “Just like the white-winged dove” line in her deep, powerful voice.

1. “HOLIDAY” by Lil Nas X

There is honestly no justification to why Lil Nas X should continue to churn out impossibly catchy songs with no real changes to his formula. “HOLIDAY” follows the same ingredient list as the mega-platinum hit “Old Town Road” – the minor scale, a simple and repetitive beat, his silky-smooth and slightly anachronistic voice; and yet we fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Move over, Mariah – this is our holiday song from now on. (Side note: This song got us talking about a literal “Holiday” playlist, so keep an eye out for that!)

Marina and the Diamonds: Electra Heart

4 Nov

Marina dropped her second album and debuted all the way at number one on the UK chart with it. However far she may be from the sophomore slump commercially though, Electra Heart fails to live up to standard of intelligence The Family Jewels set down. To mitigate that though, this is undoubtedly better pop than her previous album. It is not surprising that her mental swings would take her to a place like this, but it does make it hard to form a set opinion.

My first thought is that she sounds a lot happier on this album. There are still glimpses of her suicidal tendencies, but nowhere near the bleak acceptance of depression that was The Family Jewels. Good for her. I will admit to not caring how Thom Yorke feels when he gets up in the morning and that much of my appreciation for The Holy Bible and Everything Must Go is due to Richey’s killing himself, but the Family Jewels painted such an intensely personal picture of Marina that her beginning to feel better about herself is something that even I can be happy about. Once again, good for her.

This leads us though to the major problem of this album, that it barely manages to hit the same personal notes that made The Family Jewels as interesting as it still is. Teen Idle is the only piece in this that actually holds her voice. While many of her other songs, like Power and Control and Primadonna speak about her, they are so caught up in a single, slightly shallow statement that they seem as though they could have been sung by any mildly intelligent female pop singer. The fact that there are so few mildly intelligent female pop singers does not excuse her aiming lower than she is capable of. Where her first album had moments of Elvis Costello lyricism, this plays far too close to pseudo-intellectualism.

This is an album that embraces pop much more wholeheartedly than its predecessor. You can feel the touch of its all-star production team all over the album. It is still a Marina album, and her voice is always at the center, but it is certainly helped by the beats behind it. It sounds better than its predecessor for it as well. When fully three quarters of the songs on the album have catchier choruses than anything else out there, something is going very right. The more popstar songs, like Bubblegum Bitch, Sex Yeah, Homewrecker, How To Be A Heartbreaker and Radioactive all work out to great pop and even the darker songs, like Power and Control or Teen Idle all sound great.

Where The Family Jewels felt fresh, Electra Heart takes maybe half a step backward intellectually but pushes a little better pop in return. While this may not be The Family Jewels, this is still Marina, and worth picking up for all its flaws.

Nikhil

Marina and the Diamonds: “Oh No!”

22 Jul

This is the perfect pop song. It is not the first perfect pop song that I have come across, it won’t be the perfect pop song in about a week from now, but for now it is and you must know about it.

Start at the beginning and watch the video. Firstly, it is a great music video and secondly it lets us discuss the surface of the song. This is unapologetic pop. The singer is a very pretty girl in her young twenties, which is a good thing, in case you suspect me of more hipster-ness than good sense. You can hear the Lady Gaga and Gwen Stefani influences and there is more upbeat energy in three seconds of this song than I have managed in my entire life. Good, solid, unapologetic pop all the way though.

Now though, go a level deeper and listen to the lyrics. You don’t have to. This is a pretty good pop song even without them and you are free to enjoy the song however you like. However, take a moment and hear what she is actually saying. There are plenty of rip currents of depression running through this pink sea of happy pop. She may be singing that she’s going to fail and she’s going to die with the same smile that she has when singing she’s going to live and she’s going to fly, but you know that she is as earnest about the one as the other.

This is also a pretty intelligent record. The chorus of “I know exactly what I want and who I want to be” speaks layers about who she is and “The nod and a wink of TV told me how to feel, now real life has no appeal” followed by the repeated “No appeal” is easy to empathize with. More than that though, every time you watch the video (and I have watched the video many times indeed, did I mention how pretty she is?) you can validate a completely new interpretation of the song when you pair it with who the singer is. That for me is the borderline that separates intelligent art from the rest, when you can argue the nuances of its meaning.

 

Verdict: This is the perfect pop song. For now, everything should be this song. One week from now, I may be listening to something else, but as of now, this is what all pop should be.

– Nikhil

%d bloggers like this: