The artist formerly known as Marina and the Diamonds is an icon to many a former angsty teenage girl. Take a look back at any 8tracks playlist from 2012 to 2014 and you’ll find her entire early discography; Electra Heart was the perfect getting-ready-for-prom soundtrack. Try watching any of her videos from that era and not feel the urge to grab your darkest shade of lipstick and draw an eyeliner heart on your cheek.
Now rebranded boldly as MARINA after a three-year break from music, her new album LOVE + FEAR has evolved away from angry-sad tracks such as “Homewrecker” and the chilling ’50s housewives of “SU-BARBIE-A” and rooted itself firmly in the here and now. Much of the album explores the physical world. The uncharacteristically chill “Orange Trees” is a nostalgic love letter to her family home in Greece, and the Clean Bandit/Luis Fonsi collab “Baby” explores Latin House, complete with Spanish lyrics. A lot of the songs on the album were written when MARINA was traveling in Sweden, and the title is a nod to Swedish psychologist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s emotional theories. Gone are the narratively-complex videos chronicling the tragic life of her Electra Heart alter-ego. In their place are videos of MARINA exploring and enjoying the outdoors. These videos, like their predecessors, are colorful but not in the pastels or neon of previous albums — LOVE + FEAR is all about the bright colors of real life.
However, this is still the same MARINA, the artist who uses her music to work through problems she’s grappling with in real life, no matter its colors. As the title might suggest, where the first half of the album is about loving life, the second half of the album is full of the melancholy pop that makes Marina’s music so compelling. This album marks a definite shift in perspective, one that began with 2015’s FROOT and its first track “Happy.” In many songs on LOVE + FEAR, like “No More Suckers” and “Believe in Love,” MARINA sings about resolving to live a happier life. Whereas previous songs about fear come with a sense of hopelessness — for example, 2015’s “Savages” line “I’m not afraid of God, I am afraid of man”— these songs are more about confronting fears head-on. “To Be Human,” which references Lenin, Hiroshima and American riots, sums up the album’s thesis: “We’re united by our love / We’re united by our pain.”
Musically, even though Marina explores new topics and a variety of genres, every song has her unmistakable, echoey vocals and fits in well with the rest of her work. Like FROOT before it, the songs are a little more subdued than her older hits like “Oh No!” and “How to be a Heartbreaker,” but they still have their upbeat moments here and there. I think my favorite track from the new album is “Karma” because of its first line “Heartbreaker, real faker,” which is a reference to the Electra Heart era and is also one of the most upbeat songs from LOVE + FEAR era. As an aside, I love when fans refer to the few years between albums as an “era.” It makes it feel like I’m learning about ancient history rather than looking back at music I used to listen to in my high school’s bathroom while desperately trying to figure out liquid eyeliner.
This album is for fans who grew up with The Family Jewels or Electra Heart, loved FROOT and are ready for something new. It’s not another Electra Heart, which some fans may want, but that’s okay. That album still exists, ready to transport fans back to 2012 (and the beginning of my teenage years). Taking fans on a world tour to find themselves, LOVE + FEAR feels like a Marina album with an optimistic twist.
Olivia Bono is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]