Review: MARINA Sheds More Than Diamonds on New Album LOVE + FEAR
MARINA, the artist formerly known as Marina and the Diamonds, is reborn on a light double album that feels like a reintroduction.
Her name is lighter, and her music is too. MARINA didn’t just drop “and the Diamonds” from her artist name for her new album LOVE + FEAR; the heavier emotional baggage that defined past albums like Electra Heart is gone, too. LOVE + FEAR simultaneously contains both her most low-key and ambitious works to date. From the unique, effervescent “oh-oh-oh-orange” hook of “Orange Trees,” to the towering power ballad “To Be Human,” the double LP covers a lot of ground.
Lyrically, the two halves do not feel drastically different, as both LOVE + FEAR pull from each other’s titular themes. The main difference is sonic. LOVE houses the lightest tracks, which feel like MARINA, a radio-conscious artist seeking a reintroduction. FEAR holds the moodier, heavier songs longtime Marina and the Diamonds fans have come to expect.
Not immune to the politics of the streaming era, LOVE + FEAR features different versions of the Clean Bandit-produced track “Baby” depending on how you listen. While the streaming version features Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi, the vinyl and CD release features a new solo MARINA version. The latter feels less radio-minded, and blends into the album seamlessly.
“Sit back and enjoy your problems / you don’t always have to solve them.” The jubilant, drum-heavy “Enjoy Your Life” explores the idea of loving your life for all its imperfections. MARINA instructs her fans to breathe, over what could be the most layered production of the album. Airy backup vocals set an addicting tone that lends itself to repeat plays.
The transition into FEAR feels subtle, with the deep synth cut “Believe in Love” lyrically tackling love, but from more of a fear-based angle; MARINA doubts her lover and wishes she didn’t. “Life is Strange” alludes to MARINA’s name change and change of priorities, with lyrics like, “Ever since my dreams have changed / I’m crashing down like a paper plane.”
The mid-tempo “Emotional Machine” was previewed at the 10th anniversary party for Neon Gold Records in New York City. It features the biggest bass of the double album, with a hypnotic beat that drives its message home. Chorus lyrics “I’m a machine / an emotional being / ever since I was a teen / cut my emotions off clean, clean,” recall “Teen Idle,” a fan favorite ballad from Electra Heart.
“Too Afraid” is about remaining in a city for a lover — but hating every second of it. “I want to move on but I’m just too afraid,” MARINA sings, in a haunting voice that longs for more out of life. Over the lightly tropical, deep trap beat of "No More Suckers,” MARINA shows us she can be radio-friendly without sounding desperate.
Transcendent, emotional musical bridges are a uniting force across LOVE + FEAR. This is a MARINA strong suit, carried over from her previous albums, and allows the songs to build in a way that feels epic.
The emotional album closer, “Soft to Be Strong,” explores the subject of fear the most literally. She tells the listener she knows showing kindness can hurt when one is struggling. “I know that when love is lost / it’s only fear in disguise.” It’s the most striking song on the album, and a bittersweet, lightly hopeful ending.
LOVE + FEAR may not reach the emotional depths of the darkest moments of Electra Heart, but it does possess the experimental spirit of The Family Jewels and the Adult Contemporary radio vibe of much of FROOT. This double album is a true reintroduction to the best and most optimistic parts of MARINA, an artist reborn.
What’s your favorite MARINA song? Tweet me: @DerekPlease