Marina and the Diamonds achieved public acclaim in 2012 with her second record, Electra Heart. The album featured a long list of production credits, which included Diplo and Dr. Luke. The singer (real name Marina Diamandis) came away from her second album well versed in the way that the music industry can hijack a talent’s vision and morph into something different, but perhaps more suitable for mass consumption. With FROOT, Diamandis has taken back the reins. The tracks are all her own, and the entire album was recorded live in a London studio. Only one producer was allowed to dabble this time—David Kosten of Bat for Lashes and Everything Everything.
This turnaround, after the somewhat farmed second album, has produced a leaner record. Diamandis’ tracks are more personal and earnest than the sparkly bangers that propelled her to fame in 2012. In the opening ballad, “Happy,” she sings that she has found what she was looking for—personal fulfillment. The lyrics attest to an inner peace attained after considerable introspection, though Diamandis’ voice sounds jarringly morose.
This tension reverberates throughout the rest of the album, which limps and swaggers in turn between extreme highs and lows. In “Can’t Pin Me Down,” Diamandis is teenage and intractable, asking archly, “Do you really want me to write a feminist anthem? I’m happy cooking dinner in the kitchen for my husband.” She seems determined to polemicize her music, departing from making just another mainstream pop album.
Yet in the penultimate track, “Savages,” Diamandis turns unexpectedly grave. Inspired by an article about the Boston bombing, the song describes the human trait “sewn deep down inside our DNA”: the fact that we are all “just savages,” capable of murder and rape. Yet here again, the bleak message isn’t quite carried through by the song’s fizzy bass line and jingly beat. You don’t want to tap your foot along to the music, but you can’t help it.
While FROOT is less fiendishly addictive than Electra Heart, it’s a more interesting record. Thematically, the album is all over the place. Yet somehow it feels appropriate—as Diamandis points out, she’s “just another girl in the 21st century,” and the departure this latest album makes is, for the most part, a welcome one.