Electra Heart

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Electra Heart
Studio album by Marina and the Diamonds
Released 27 April 2012 (2012-04-27)
Recorded 2010–12;
Genre
Length 46:51
Label
Producer
Marina and the Diamonds chronology
The American Jewels EP
(2010)
Electra Heart
(2012)
Singles from Electra Heart
  1. "Primadonna"
    Released: 20 March 2012 (2012-03-20)
  2. "Power & Control"
    Released: 22 July 2012 (2012-07-22)
  3. "How to Be a Heartbreaker"
    Released: 7 December 2012 (2012-12-07)

Electra Heart is the second studio album by Welsh recording artist Marina and the Diamonds. The concept album was released on 27 April 2012 by 679 Artists and Atlantic Records. Diamandis worked with several record producers on the album, including previous collaborators Liam Howe and Greg Kurstin, as well as Dr. Luke, Diplo and Stargate.

Composed as a pop and electronic album,[1][2] Electra Heart represents a change in musical direction from the indie pop and new wave styles of Diamandis's previous releases. Lyrically, the album deals with themes of love and identity. The song "Radioactive" was released as a promotional single on 23 September 2011. The album's official lead single, "Primadonna", was released on 20 March 2012. "Power & Control" and "How to Be a Heartbreaker" were released as the album's second and third singles, respectively.

Background[edit]

On 8 August 2011, Diamandis uploaded a music video titled "Part 1: Fear and Loathing", containing the tagline "Electra Heart: The Start".[3] Directed by Caspar Balslev, the video sees Diamandis in front of a bathroom mirror cutting off her hair. A second Balslev-directed music video, "Part 2: Radioactive", was uploaded two weeks later and features Diamandis recollecting her relationship with an ex-boyfriend.[4] The Stargate-produced track was released on 23 September 2011[5] as a promotional single,[6] debuting at number twenty-five on the UK Singles Chart, becoming Diamandis's fourth top forty single.[7]

A third video, "Part 3: The Archetypes", was uploaded on 15 December 2011 and, at a length of one minute and twenty-one seconds, hinted at the title of four album tracks with the lyric "Housewife, beauty queen, homewrecker, idle teen".[8] Two other songs were released to YouTube prior to the album release—a demo version of "Starring Role" on 20 November 2011,[9] and "Homewrecker" on 27 February 2012;[10] the latter was made available as a free download to those who sign up to Diamandis's mailing list on her official website.[11] Early versions of tracks that leaked prior to the album were "Sex Yeah", "Living Dead" and "Power & Control".[12][13]

On 1 March 2012, Diamandis unveiled the track listing for the twelve-track standard edition of Electra Heart via Twitter and Facebook, while also uploading the album's cover image.[14] The four bonus tracks contained on the deluxe edition, including promotional single "Radioactive", were announced on 5 March 2012.

Diamandis mentioned in an interview with Planet Notion that the first song recorded was "Living Dead", and she recorded about twenty-two songs for the album.[15]

Concept and influences[edit]

"Electra Heart is the antithesis of everything that I stand for. And the point of introducing her and building a whole concept around her is that she stands for the corrupt side of American ideology, and basically that's the corruption of yourself. My worst fear—that's anyone's worst fear—is losing myself and becoming a vacuous person. And that happens a lot when you're very ambitious."

—Marina and the Diamonds discussing Electra Heart, the album's titular character.[16]

Diamandis told Popjustice that "basically Electra Heart is a story", dubbing it "a really cinematic 70s Americana-type film" divided into three parts.[16] The album is centred around the titular character Electra Heart, who, according to Diamandis, is not an alter ego, but rather "it's kind of basically a vehicle to portray part of the American dream, with elements of Greek tragedy and that's all going to be coming out through the visuals."[16] She added that she "wanted to create a cold, ruthless character who wasn't vulnerable."[17] Diamandis described the album as "an ode to dysfunctional love" and elaborated, "I based the project around character types commonly found in love stories, film and theatre, usually ones associated with power and control in love, as opposed to weakness or defeat [...] Rejection is a universally embarrassing topic and Electra Heart is my response to that. It is a frank album."[18]

The idea of basing the songs around the Electra Heart character and four archetypes—Diamandis's own take on the facets of female personality that include the Primadonna, Su-Barbie-A, the Teen Idle and the Homewrecker—originated from the time she spent travelling in the United States after the release of her debut album, The Family Jewels (2010). She explains:

"I was starting to think about our Tumblr generation, and how photos appear on Tumblr and people become almost like mini-stars of the internet, and you don't know who the hell they are—they're just anonymous faces. So I started to take photos, and make an effort to look completely different in each one, in different hotels and apartments all across America when I was travelling. And it just started to build from that. It was more the prima donna archetype at the beginning, really; I was reading a lot of books like Hollywood Babylon, focusing more on the gossipy, suicidal side of the '30s and '40s in Hollywood. That's how it started, and then it grew into a real project."[2]

Speaking on ITV's morning chat show Lorraine, Diamandis cited Madonna, Marilyn Monroe and Marie Antoinette as inspirations for the album: "[Madonna is] a fearless person. She's been knocked down so many times—for someone to keep going, it shows that they don't want to just have fame and success. They want to be a successful artist."[19] Speaking further about the album's concept, she said, "It's a bit cringe, but I wanted it to be a way of personifying love and heartbreak. The whole campaign is pink and fluffy, it's about love. I can never just make up a story, it has to be something that's happened in my life."[19]

Diamandis also named Britney Spears as an influence for the album, saying, "I think people thought I was joking about that for a long time. But when I was a teenager there was a genuine connection with this sweet girl who also had this very sexual side that people didn't really want to accept [...] Britney is really smart. And in the way that she inspired Electra Heart, if you step back from all the cynical stuff, it actually focuses on the idea of innocence being mixed with darkness. For some reason I really like that combination. I suppose because you don't really connect innocence with darkness."[20]

Singles and promotion[edit]

To promote Electra Heart, a series of videos was released on Diamandis's YouTube page:

  • Part 1: Fear & Loathing[3]
  • Part 2: Radioactive[4]
  • Part 3: The Archetypes[8]
  • Part 4: Primadonna[21]
  • Part 5: SU-BARBIE-A[22]
  • Part 6: Power & Control[23]
  • Part 7: How to Be a Heartbreaker[24]
  • Part 8: E.V.O.L[25]
  • Part 9: State of Dreaming[26]
  • Part 10: Lies[27]
  • Part 11: Electra Heart[28]

Diamandis stated in an interview with Pop Counter//Culture that she wanted the whole project to have about fifteen parts.[29]

The video for the official lead single[30][31] "Primadonna" premiered on Diamandis' YouTube channel on 12 March 2012, and the song was simultaneously released on BBC Radio 1.[32] It was released in the US on 20 March 2012 and in the UK on 15 April 2012.[33][34]

"Power & Control" was released on 20 July 2012 as the album's second single in the United Kingdom.[35] Diamandis posted a still from the accompanying music video (titled "Part 6: Power & Control") on her Twitter page on 18 May 2012.[36] The video premiered on YouTube on 31 May 2012, showing Diamandis and her male partner in a power struggle relationship.

On 3 July 2012, Diamandis confirmed to Digital Spy that the track "How to Be a Heartbreaker", included on the US edition of Electra Heart, would be released as the album's third UK single and second US one.[37] The single was released on 7 December 2012.[38]

On 28 November 2012, Diamandis uploaded a video for the song "Sex Yeah" to her YouTube page, which consisted of an old-timey photograph of three women in their undergarments.[39] On the same day, she announced she would be adding the song to the setlist for The Lonely Hearts Club Tour, performing it live for the first time at her show in Cologne that night.[40]

Diamandis released "E.V.O.L", a track from the Electra Heart sessions, on 14 February 2013 as a free download, which was available until midnight.[41] A music video for a section of the song was also uploaded to her YouTube page as Part 8 of the Electra Heart video series.[25]

On 2 March 2013, Diamandis uploaded a music video for the song "The State of Dreaming" on her YouTube page. The music video consists of Diamandis singing the song, in both colour and black-and-white, on the same set of her "Wedding Bells" video, serving as Part 9 of the Electra Heart series.[26][42]

On 17 July 2013, Diamandis uploaded a music video for the song "Lies" on her YouTube page.[27] Similar to the "The State of Dreaming" video, it consists of Diamandis singing the song against a black background, as well as in a hotel room that overlooks a forest. It also depicts Diamandis lamenting unrequited love at a dinner table in the rain.[43]

On 8 August 2013, Diamandis released the final video of her eleven-part Electra Heart series, which uses the previously unreleased title track. It serves as a closing video to her era which includes new footage as well as a compilation of all her previously released videos.[28][44]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 57/100[45]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3.5/5 stars[46]
Drowned in Sound 5/10[47]
Entertainment Weekly B+[48]
The Guardian 3/5 stars[1]
The Independent 3/5 stars[49]
The Irish Times 4/5 stars[50]
musicOMH 3/5 stars[51]
NME 5/10[52]
Pitchfork Media 5.9/10[53]
The Times 2/5 stars[54]

Electra Heart received mixed reviews from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 57, based on 16 reviews, which indicates "mixed or average reviews".[45] BBC Music's Michael Cragg wrote that "[t]here are moments where the songs themselves aren't quite interesting enough to prop up Marina's voice", but noted that "these are minor quibbles", commending the album for its ability to "balance the ironic and the heartfelt, the quirky and the mainstream, the real and the fake with remarkable aplomb."[55] Entertainment Weekly's Tim Stack opined that Diamandis "rivals Katy Perry for catchy hooks, commands with the swagger of Gwen Stefani, and even comes close to the ethereal vocal exhilaration of Florence Welch."[48] AllMusic editor James Christopher Monger described the album as "a brooding, sexy, desperate, overwrought, and infectious record that's both aware and unashamed of its contrivance. In short, Diamandis is trying to expose the artifice of big-box pop music by using its own voice, and despite the obvious trappings of the concept, she does a fairly respectable job."[46] Pete Clark of the Evening Standard commented that "Marina excels at slower tempos, as in ['Primadonna'], 'Lies', 'Valley of the Dolls' and 'The State of Dreaming', where her swooping vocals over an electro-pop beat bring to mind Kate Bush taking the easier option of her earlier days."[56]

Tony Clayton-Lea of The Irish Times observed "a Euro-pop brashness to [the album] that augurs well for enduring chart success [...] as well as getting her name out there beyond a niche audience."[50] Helen Clarke of musicOMH noted that "with her debut album [Diamandis] showed she can do credible ballads and quirky pop, and Electra Heart showcases glimpses of a clever, ballsy pop star."[51] In a review for the Daily Express, Simon Gage wrote that Diamandis's voice is "quirky, fun and often floats very high" and called the lyrics "refreshingly intelligent", adding, "It's definitely not a by-numbers pop album but there are enough radio-friendly hooks to make it a commercial hit."[57] According to The Guardian critic Alexis Petridis, the best songs on the album are "not the ones involving the big-name songwriters", but rather "those Diamandis came up with in collaboration with the producer of The Family Jewels, Liam Howe." He concluded, "There's clearly an interesting pop star somewhere in there: last time she was submerged by her own zaniness, this time she's somewhere beneath some half-hearted songs, a confused concept and someone else's image. Perhaps next time—if there is a next time—she might come good."[1] Drowned in Sound's Krystina Nellis found the album's concept confusing, calling Electra Heart "a reasonably fun listen, and even if it falls short of its stratospheric ambition, still has more to say than many of Marina's contemporaries." Nellis continued, "Weighed down by too much pseudo intellect and, crucially, not enough amazing pop songs, this is one tightrope act that was always going to end more with a whimper than a great flourish."[47]

Regarding the album's themes of love, identity, femininity and America, The Observer's Kitty Empire expressed, "All that topspin allows the quirky Diamandis to make pumping glitz like Britney or Katy Perry while retaining some ironic distance [...] Her Heart is not all as craven as that, but these prom queen themes have had a more intriguing musical treatment from Lana del Rey."[58] Simon Price of The Independent felt the album is "too professional to be truly terrible, but it's never clever enough to be more than merely toytown."[49] Priya Elan of the NME was unimpressed, writing that "the album as a whole is an expensive-sounding failure. Not sure-footed enough in its subversion, its artificiality feels fake rather than carefully plotted."[52] Similarly, Pitchfork Media's Laura Snapes critiqued, "Working with Dr. Luke, Stargate, Greg Kurstin, and Liam Howe, the songs on Electra Heart fall into three basic categories: the bland, swampy banger [...], a regal, electronic strut falling somewhere between Depeche Mode at their poppiest and the Doctor Who theme tune, and very cloying, nursery rhyme music-box ballads."[53] George Boorman of Clash dubbed the album "an ingloriously languid statement of Marina's demise, the final stamp of disapproval on her flailing excuse of a musical career."[59] The Times reviewer Will Hodgkinson panned Electra Heart as "an album full of clichés that could have come from any X Factor puppet".[54]

The Guardian ranked Electra Heart as the thirty-first best album of 2012.[60]

Commercial performance[edit]

Electra Heart debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart with first-week sales of 21,358 copies,[61] becoming Diamandis's first number-one album,[62] as well as the lowest-selling UK number-one album of the 21st century, until Newton Faulkner's Write It on Your Skin broke this record in July 2012.[63] The following week, the album dropped to number thirteen, selling 8,416 copies.[64] In its third week, it slipped to number thirty with sales of 4,567 units.[65] On 3 August 2012, the album was certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), denoting shipments in excess of 60,000 copies in the UK.[66] It also debuted at number one on the Irish Albums Chart and the Scottish Albums Chart.[67][68] After falling to number three, the album returned to number one in its third week on the Irish chart.[69]

In continental Europe, Electra Heart reached number eleven in Switzerland, number seventeen in Germany, number twenty-five in Austria, number thirty in Norway, number forty-one in Sweden and number ninety-two in the Netherlands.[70] In Oceania, the album peaked at number thirty-two on the ARIA Albums Chart and at number twenty-three on the ARIA Digital Albums Chart,[71][72] while charting at number thirty-one in New Zealand.[73] In the United States, the album reached number thirty-one on the Billboard 200 and number two on the Dance/Electronic Albums chart.[74][75]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "Bubblegum Bitch"  
  • Nowels
  • Dean Reid[a]
2:34
2. "Primadonna"   3:41
3. "Lies"  
3:46
4. "Homewrecker"  
  • Diamandis
  • Nowels
Nowels 3:22
5. "Starring Role"  
Kurstin 3:27
6. "The State of Dreaming"  
  • Diamandis
  • Devrim Karaoğlu
  • Nowels
  • Nowels
  • Karaoğlu
3:36
7. "Power & Control"  
Kurstin 3:46
8. "Living Dead"  
  • Diamandis
  • Kurstin
Kurstin 4:04
9. "Teen Idle"   Diamandis Liam Howe 4:14
10. "Valley of the Dolls"  
  • Diamandis
  • Karaoğlu
  • Nowels
  • Nowels
  • Karaoğlu
4:13
11. "Hypocrates"  
  • Diamandis
  • Nowels
  • Nowels
  • Karaoğlu
4:01
12. "Fear and Loathing"   Diamandis Howe 6:07
Total length:
46:51
Notes
Online bonus contents

The UK enhanced CD allows exclusive online access to the following bonus contents:[81]

  • "Lies" (Acoustic) (video) – 4:07
  • "Primadonna" (Benny Benassi Remix) – 3:55
  • "Primadonna" (Kat Krazy Remix) – 3:39
Limited edition box set

The limited edition clamshell box set includes:[82]

  • Dark pink perspex Electra Heart ring
  • Frosted pink perspex
  • Electra Heart necklace
  • Electra Heart pocket mirror
  • Four exclusive photo art cards
  • Deluxe format of Electra Heart CD album in exclusive cardboard sleeve

Personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from the liner notes of the deluxe edition of Electra Heart.[83]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Ireland (IRMA)[93] Gold 7,500x
United Kingdom (BPI)[66] Silver 60,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format(s) Edition(s) Label
Ireland[94] 27 April 2012
  • Standard
  • deluxe
United Kingdom[76][95] 30 April 2012
Sweden[96] 2 May 2012
  • Standard
  • deluxe
Warner Music
Portugal[97] 6 May 2012
Spain[97]
Austria[97] 11 May 2012
Greece[97] 14 May 2012
Russia[97]
Australia[98] 18 May 2012
New Zealand[97]
Switzerland[97]
Italy[99] 22 May 2012
Germany[100] 25 May 2012
Netherlands[101]
Poland[102] 18 June 2012
Brazil[103] Digital download
Canada[104] 10 July 2012
  • CD
  • digital download
United States[105]
  • Standard
  • deluxe
  • box set
Brazil[103] 11 July 2012 CD Standard Warner Music

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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