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Marina And The Diamonds

From new wave lass LENE LOVICH, to fun girl CYNDI LAUPER, and on to FLORENCE (+ THE MACHINE), the pop/rock music business has, over the years, claimed the odd kooky singer with a penchant for the uniquely weird and wonderful – Marina Lambrini Diamondis (born to a Greek father and Welsh mother on 10 October 1985, Brynmawr, Blaenau Gwent in Wales) was no exception to the rule. Steering clear of pigeonholing an engaging and colourful performer who could morph into most styles at a whim (touching on synth-pop, girl-group soul, indie, dance, chamber-pop, et al), the solo Marina is a rose among thorns in a fickle, pimp-run music industry obsessed with baring more than the souls of their artists.
Creating the name MARINA AND THE DIAMONDS as a concept in 2005 after quitting a string of music course and London-based dance schools, she abandoned all thoughts of becoming the next BRITNEY SPEARS to write her own deeper and edgier ballads/songs; backed by her Diamonds – not a band, but in reference her fans! Desperate to take the pressure off circulating a demo around the majors, Diamandis positioned herself on MySpace with a self-released CD-r EP, `Mermaid Vs Sailor’ (2007); the track `Hermit The Frog’ (helped by GarageBand software) would re-appear on her debut set.
Duly snapped up by Derek Davies at Neon Gold Records, she toured as support to GOTYE while, in the meantime, a couple of singles `Obsession’ (b/w `Mowgli’s Road’) and `The Crown Jewels’ EP (featuring `I Am Not A Robot’, `Seventeen’ and `Simplify’) were released as a prelude to her signing to the Warners/Atlantic roster 679 Recordings. Bolstered by appearances at Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds Festivals respectively, MARINA almost topped a BBC-sponsored Sound of 2010 poll won by ELLIE GOULDING.
Unhindered that her major release of the sprightly `Mowgli’s Road’ fell out of favour with a few reviewers, another album taster `Hollywood’ went two places short of the UK Top 10. Was her American movie dream about to unfold as she name-checked, in verse, the likes of SHAKIRA and Catherine-Zeta? – well… not yet. 2010’s parent set THE FAMILY JEWELS {*7} was crowned by a Top 5 placing, the normally pop-shunning NME giving her 9/10. Augmented by main co-writers/co-producers Liam Howe and Pascal Gabriel (among a few others), her infectious, hook-line songs (previously mentioned) caught the attention on the continent, especially in her ancestral home of Greece. Not particularly enamoured by her comparisons to KATE BUSH, KATE NASH and even SPARKS, the “Diamond Princess” secured further hits in the quirky `I Am Not A Robot’ and the nippy-sweetie `Oh No!’.
The mercurial MARINA AND THE DIAMONDS was groomed for the top (a la MADONNA, LADY GAGA, KATY PERRY mode) for 2012’s chart-topping ELECTRA HEART {*7}. The girl from the Welsh valleys had come a long way since her teething pop days several years back, but with a little sophisti-pop (provided in part by Rick Nowels, Greg Kurstin and the aforesaid Liam Howe), the girl-in-curlers expressed some ballsy and brash numbers such as `Primadonna’, `Bubblegum Bitch’ and the radio-savvy `Homewrecker’.
Having already captured the pop hearts of America, her third album FROOT (2015) {*7} exceeded all expectations when, as with Britain, the record dented the Top 10. Dumbing down her production and co-writing entourage to one, namely Dave Kosten (responsible for BATS FOR LASHES et al), Marina was positively confessional and cathartic on everything from the glorious guilty pleasures of `Happy’, `Forget’, `I’m A Ruin’ and the 80s-infused electro-pop of the weirdly DIETRICH-styled title track.
Proving that “Diamonds” were not necessarily forever, or indeed a girl’s best friend, a solo MARINA stepped up to the plate for the LOVE + FEAR (2019) {*7} double set. To test the waters a tad, the Welsh chanteuse had augmented CLEAN BANDIT (alongside Luis Fonsi) on the ancillary hit, `Baby’. However this Latin-inflected hue seemed out of place among the initial batch of multi-produced eight tracks. This bipartite concept of base emotions was said to be inspired by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross; an interesting fact if one’s mind could rise above the base dance and pop presented here. But in these days of manu-fractured pop, that’s just what the kids tapped into. Top 5 in the UK (Top 30 in America), accusations of sounding rather too TAYLOR SWIFT or LITTLE BOOTS were spun-out unnecessarily. All ‘n’ all, there were cathartic and quirky moments within the opening prial of non-hits `Handmade Heaven’, `Superstar’ and `Orange Trees’, whilst New Zealand’s BROODS duo – Caleb and Georgia Nott – embraced the high-octane `Emotional Machine’.
© MC Strong/MCS Mar2015Jun2019

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