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.