HYPE CHECK: Marina and the Diamonds Tries to Prove She Isn’t ‘Just Another Quirky British Girl’

By Arye Dworken

The Artist and Their Forthcoming Release: Marina and the Diamonds, The Family Jewels (due out 5/25 on Atlantic)

What’s Been Said: “Whereas Lady GaGa and Katy Perry’s ’80s throwback looks seem ironic and snarky, it’s obvious that Marina’s is for real. Her cruise-ship glamour pitches her as a gladiatorial Joan Collins infused with a healthy dose of Dolly Parton homebody charm. Her hectic cover of Gwen Stefani’s ‘What You Waiting For?’ opens a window on to the Kate Bush comparisons that have been heaped on the London-based singer–her luminous vocals swoop and soar with blissful eccentricity while her arms flamboyantly tick-tock around an imaginary clock face.” – NME

“Among British music critics’ top picks for the year ahead (she came second on the BBC Sound of 2010 poll), Marina seems determined to set her own pop agenda. She already has a larger-than-life quality, coming on like a drama queen using her personal neuroses as a prism through which to view the world. Self-references abound, as if the ingénue has already mentally established her own third-person brand.” – Telegraph

“In pop terms Marina Diamandis is rather unusual. Not because she lacks the genuine weirdness and fearless invention of Micachu (although she does), or the songwriting ability of Florence Welch (although she does). No. She’s strange because she appears to have based her entire singing style on the odd rhythms and insane lurches of Sparks‘ ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both Of Us’.” – BBC

Our Take: Honestly, the first thing we noticed at Marina Diamandis’ (Le) Poisson Rouge performance was her looks. But that’s probably because the British songwriter–masquerading as Marina and the Diamonds despite her lack of a proper backing band–sticks to rather superficial music. In fact, her lyrics made us cringe a couple times, especially this series of non sequiturs: “As soon as I touch down in, oh, L.A., he said/Oh my god, you look just like Shakira/No no, you’re Catherine Zeta/Actually, my name’s Marina.” As our colleagues at Drowned In Sound put it, “The Family Jewels seems to be to be symptomatic of a broader trend at the moment to demand our female artists be both credible and commercial at the expense of achieving anything great in either camp.” The difference here? Diamandis isn’t trying to be profound. She’s trying to be a pop star.

Hypeworthy? One reputable music journalist friend of ours recently dismissed Marina & the Diamonds with “I’ve had enough of quirky British girls.” And while the Florence & the Machine comparisons are inevitable, they’re also a disservice. Welch is a natural, uber-talented heir to Kate Bush, but Diamandis seems to shun artiness in favor of ambition. And while her Monday night set was, as Randy would say, “pitchy, dawg,” it was also disarming and undeniably mainstream. Songs like “Hollywood” or “I Am Not A Robot” could easily soundtrack a revolving door of romantic comedies. Meanwhile, Diamandis could talk about ex-boyfriends and sex in Teen Vogue and Seventeen. This isn’t an effort to belittle the young ingenue and her forthcoming debut The Family Jewels; rather, this is an opportunity to temper snobbish expectations. Granted we were certainly smitten by this hot British import, but we also had a funny feeling that our younger siblings would go even more GaGa over her.