Marina and the Diamonds
|Marina and the Diamonds|
Diamandis performing at the Roundhouse, London, on 21 February 2016.
|Birth name||Marina Lambrini Diamandis|
10 October 1985 |
Brynmawr, Blaenau Gwent, Wales
|Instruments||Vocals, piano, keyboards|
Born in Brynmawr and raised in nearby Pandy, she moved to London as a teenager to become a professional singer, despite having little formal musical experience. In 2009, Diamandis came to prominence upon placing second in the BBC's Sound of 2010. Her debut studio album, The Family Jewels (2010), incorporates indie pop and new wave musical styles. It entered the UK Albums Chart at number five and was certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry. The album's second song, "Hollywood", peaked at number 12 on the UK Singles Chart.
Her follow-up record Electra Heart (2012) is a concept album about a character of the same name. It integrates prominent elements of electropop, and its producers include StarGate, Dr. Luke and Diplo. It became her first number-one project in the United Kingdom, where it was also certified gold, and its lead single "Primadonna" is her highest-charting track in the UK Singles Chart, reaching number 11. Diamandis describes Electra Heart as "tongue-in-cheek" and considers it to have been better received in the United States, while some British fans disliked the change in musical direction. The song "Electra Heart" portrays the death of the character. Diamandis's synthpop-inspired third studio album Froot (2015) became her third top-ten album in the United Kingdom, and her first top-ten entry on the US Billboard 200 where it charted at number 8. Produced entirely by Diamandis and David Kosten, it was praised for its cohesive sound and introspective lyrical content.
Diamandis has described herself as an "indie artist with pop goals" and often analyses components of human behaviour in her music. She is additionally recognised for her retro, surreal and cartoonish fashion styles, and has been described as an artist with a cult following, and a gay icon.
Early life and career beginnings
Diamandis was born in Brynmawr in Wales, and grew up in the nearby village of Pandy. She has one older sister, Lafina Diamandis. Their Welsh mother and Greek father met at university in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and divorced when Marina was four. Following the divorce, her father returned to Greece but would visit on occasion, while Marina lived in a bungalow with her mother, sharing a bedroom with her sister; she described her childhood as "simple and idyllic," as well as "peaceful, very normal, poor."
In her childhood, she attended Haberdashers' Monmouth School for Girls, reflecting that "I sort of found my talent there… I was the one who always skived off choir, but I had an incredible music teacher who managed to convince me I could do anything." However, she felt that she "stuck out" by being from a lower-income family than the other girls at the school. At the age of 16, she moved to Greece with her father "to connect with my heritage and learn to speak the language" and sang Greek folk songs with her grandmother. Having earned an International Baccalaureate at St. Catherine's British Embassy School in Athens, she returned to Wales two years later. She and her mother then moved to Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire. "Obsessed with becoming a singer, almost as if it was a disease," she worked for two months at a petrol station in order to earn money to move to London.
Despite not having a musical background, Diamandis was able to create lyrics due to her childhood love of writing. She first began writing music when she was 18 years old; she moved to London to attend dance school, but quit two months later. She studied music at the University of East London and transferred to a classic composition course in Middlesex University the following year, but after two months she dropped out.
Knowing that the Spice Girls were formed by an advertisement in The Stage, Diamandis applied for auditions listed in that newspaper. She travelled for several unsuccessful auditions, including opportunities with the musical for The Lion King and a boy band organised by Virgin Records, during which she managed to leave her CV to an A&R Representative, but was unable to audition at the time of the appointment as she felt sick. In 2005, she created the stage name "Marina and the Diamonds"; after coming to prominence, "the Diamonds" was established as a reference to her fans, instead of her backing band.
Inspired by the example of Daniel Johnston, Diamandis decided to compose her own music and stop going to auditions; she taught herself how to play the piano and recorded music on a keyboard. She self-composed and produced her earlier demos with GarageBand, and independently released her debut extended play Mermaid vs. Sailor through Myspace in 2007. She held discussions with fourteen music labels, rejecting all but one as she believed it was the only one which would not dictate her image. She came to the attention of Neon Gold Records' Derek Davies in 2008, which managed her for six months, and was hired as the supporting act for Australian recording artist Gotye. In October, Diamandis finalised a recording contract with 679 Recordings (eventually renamed 679 Artists), a subdivision of Warner Music Group.
2009–10: The Family Jewels
Diamandis's debut single "Obsessions" was released on 14 February 2009 through Neon Gold Records, while her first extended play The Crown Jewels EP followed on 1 June. That summer, she performed at BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend, the Glastonbury Festival, and the Reading and Leeds Festivals. She also performed at iTunes Live, releasing a second EP in July 2009 of performances from that festival.
In December 2009, Diamandis was ranked in second place on the Sound of 2010 poll organised by BBC, behind singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding; she was one of three nominees for the Critics' Choice Award at the 2010 BRIT Awards, which also went to Goulding. "Mowgli's Road" was released on 13 November 2009, with Diamandis describing it as "uncommercial", but it received attention after its video was shared by bloggers including Perez Hilton and Kanye West. It was followed by "Hollywood" on 1 February, which reached number 12 on the UK Singles Chart.
Diamandis's debut studio album The Family Jewels was released on 15 February 2010; it debuted at number five on the UK Albums Chart with first-week sales of 27,618 copies, and was eventually certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry. Atlantic Records signed Diamandis to Chop Shop Records in the United States in March 2010. Through the label, she released her third extended play The American Jewels EP on 23 March, and later released The Family Jewels in the United States on 25 May. The latter project debuted at number 138 on the US Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 24,000 copies. On Billboard's Top Heatseekers and Top Rock Albums charts, it peaked at numbers 2 and 49 respectively.
"I Am Not a Robot" was serviced as the third single from The Family Jewels on 26 April, and peaked at number 26 on the UK Singles Chart. "Oh No!" followed as the fourth single from the record in July, and reached number 38 in the United Kingdom. The fifth and final single "Shampain" peaked at number 141 on the UK Singles Chart, consequently underperforming by comparison with its preceding singles. To further promote The Family Jewels, Diamandis embarked on The Family Jewels Tour, which visited Europe, North America and Australia throughout 2010 and 2011. In January 2011, in an Australian radio interview, she expressed disappointment at her career, particularly in her failure to attract an American audience. She put this down to inaction by her label and American listeners' contemporary taste for "pumping beats" by artists such as Lady Gaga.
2011–13: Electra Heart
In summer 2011, Diamandis and Swedish recording artist Robyn performed as the opening acts for American recording artist Katy Perry's California Dreams Tour. On 30 September, Diamandis released the track "Radioactive" through the iTunes Store; it peaked at number 25 on the UK Singles Chart. Her second studio album was preceded by its lead single "Primadonna" in April 2012; the song is notable for being Diamandis's highest-charting track on the UK Singles Chart, where it reached number 11. It is certified silver by the BPI and platinum by the respective authorities in Australia, Denmark and New Zealand.
The final product Electra Heart is a concept album lyrically united by the ideas of "female identity" and "a recent breakup." Diamandis created the titular character "Electra Heart" as a protagonist for the project; she portrays the personas "Teen Idle," "Primadonna," "Homewrecker," and "Housewife," which represent several female archetypes of stereotypical American culture. The project was released on 27 April 2012, and debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart with first-week sales of 21,358 copies. It became Diamandis's first chart-topping album in the United Kingdom, although at the time it was additionally distinguished as the lowest-selling number-one record of the 21st century in the country. The album was certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry for exceeding shipments of 100,000 units, and gold by the Irish Recorded Music Association for surpassing 7,500 sales.
"Power & Control" was released as the second single from Electra Heart on 20 July, although it peaked at number 193 on the UK Singles Chart. Later that month, it was announced that "How to Be a Heartbreaker" would be released as the second single in the United States and the third single in the United Kingdom. Diamandis commented that she had written the track while Electra Heart was being pressed in the United Kingdom, and consequently missed the cut-off for initial inclusion on the record; however, it was featured in the revised track listing for the American version. It peaked at number 88 in the latter country. Throughout 2012, Diamandis travelled for The Lonely Hearts Club Tour, her second headlining concert tour, and Mylo Xyloto Tour headlined by Coldplay, for which she served as an opening act. On 8 August 2013, Diamandis released a music video for the previously unreleased title track "Electra Heart"; it depicted the death of the character, and symbolically ended the promotional campaign for Electra Heart.
After spending one month in New York City, Diamandis announced in February 2013 that she had begun writing material for an upcoming third studio album. The single "Froot" was released on 10 October, her 29th birthday, and announced as the title track.
The album was announced to be released on 3 April 2015 with a new track from the album being announced each month. However, due to an Internet leak, the release was brought forward. Entirely produced by Diamandis and David Kosten, the album was praised for its cohesive sound. Froot debuted at number 8 on the Billboard 200 chart, and is currently her highest charting album in the United States. It also peaked at 10, 6 and 4 in the UK, Canada and Ireland respectively.
In early 2015, it was announced that Diamandis would perform at Lollapalooza Brazil, Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and the Boston Calling Music Festival in March, April and May 2015 respectively. From October 2015 to the following October she embarked on the Neon Nature Tour across Europe and the Americas; each performance was split into three acts, one for each of her albums, with most songs coming from Froot. Her 4 November performance at the House of Blues in Boston was broadcast live by Yahoo. During a question-and-answer video, Diamandis said that subsequent tours would be different, as her usual tours had been "a hard lifestyle." In April 2016, she said she would take a break from music after her tour. She returned to performing two months later, clarifying that she would rather work on a consistent basis than a cycle of touring and resting.
Musical style and influences
As a child, Diamandis took inspiration from the differing musical tastes of her parents – Dolly Parton, Enya and George Michael from her mother, and Haris Alexiou from her father – while also admiring pop acts of the era including the Spice Girls, Britney Spears and S Club 7. Diamandis has revealed that "Madonna was the reason I wanted to be a pop star from the age of 15," however she also stated that she did not listen to music "properly" until the age of 19, when she took influence from acts including PJ Harvey, Fiona Apple and The Distillers. She began smoking two years later in an attempt to sound like The Distillers' frontwoman Brody Dalle, "but it never worked, and now I'm just stuck with a bad habit." She has cited Dalle and Spears as her musical influences, and has expressed a particular interest in Daniel Johnston and the lo-fi production he uses. She has jokingly stated that "I probably have a bit of a different sound because I don't really know what I'm doing!," referencing her lack of formal musical training. Diamandis has synesthesia, and as a result associates particular colours with musical notes and days of the week.
A self-described "DIY musician" and "indie artist with pop goals," Diamandis considers her music to be "alternate pop". Lester wrote in 2008 that Diamandis's musical direction was "hard to fathom", given the frequency with which she alternated "simple keyboards-based ballads" and "quirky new wave-inflected numbers." Whereas The Family Jewels incorporated prominent elements of new wave music, Electra Heart was heavily inspired by electropop musical styles. Diamandis opined that the United States was more welcoming of said musical transition than the United Kingdom, and suggested that the American audience embraced the humour behind the latter "tongue-in-cheek record". Froot is a pop record, with elements of europop and pop rock.
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At the start of her career, Diamandis was compared to other British female singer-songwriters, with Paul Lester from The Guardian writing that she had a "zeitgeist-y female essence", although she took exception at such comparisons and said that all she shared with Kate Nash was "a vagina and a keyboard." During the Electra Heart era, she called comparisons to Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Lana Del Rey "really annoying", preferring to be classed as herself. Her vocals have been compared to those of Karen O, Regina Spektor, Kate Bush, and Florence Welch, with an androgynous timbre akin to those of Annie Lennox and Heather Small. When reviewing The Family Jewels, Joe Copplestone from PopMatters noted that Diamandis's vocal delivery occasionally overpowers the "inventive" melodies showcased in her songs.
Diamandis's lyrical content typically analyses components of human behaviour; she has noted that she would have become a psychologist had she been unsuccessful in the music industry. The song "Savages", from Froot, reflects on humanity's proneness to violent acts. She is a feminist and wrote her song "Sex Yeah" as a "feminist statement." Rory Cashin of Slate lauded Diamandis's lyrics as "esoteric," likening her to an "emotionally intelligent outsider who knew how to perfectly articulate those weird thoughts and reactions we all have but would never admit to." Laurence Day of The Line of Best Fit considered Froot to be "an anthology of astute nihilistic, existentialist discussions".
Diamandis has identified Sophia Loren, Leigh Lezark, Shirley Manson and Gwen Stefani as her fashion icons, and Asli Polat and Mary Benson as among her favourite designers. As part of Selfridges' "Sound of Music", Diamandis and Paloma Faith designed their own window display for the London Oxford Street branch in May 2010, and additionally appeared as a "live mannequins" for the display. In November, Diamandis was featured on the website for the British edition of Vogue, where she contributed to the "Today I'm Wearing" column that month. In February 2011, she became a brand ambassador for Max Factor, who called her "colourful personality" a perfect fit for the brand. In 2013, she launched a fashion brand named 11 Diamonds and designed a line of T-shirts for it, but has had little involvement with it since.
According to Emily Jupp of The Independent, despite various changes in musical direction, an "unconventional fashion sense" has been a constant in Diamandis's career. In the video to "How to be a Heartbreaker," she "subverts the norm" by wearing more clothes than male models in the background; she reflected that "I don’t think it suits me to wear very little clothing, it just wouldn’t feel right. I’d rather people listen to what I have to say instead of staring at my bum." In 2011, when promoting The Family Jewels, Diamandis described her fashion styles as "vintage, cheerleader, and cartoon." Four years later, she described her costumes then as "very badly put together vintage, kind of glittery ensemble", and her outfits for Froot as a "mix of '70s with digital fiberware...something surreal and '70s."
She has been described as a "pop enigma", an artist who "never felt like she belonged to the masses" and one with a cult following. She has criticised the Brit Awards for ostensibly being too corporate focussed, and has called for a new ceremony ideologically between the Brits and the "left-field" Mercury Prize. Diamandis used to meet fans after each performance, but ended this practice for safety reasons during the Neon Nature Tour, instead having ten pairs of fans chosen to meet her before the show.
Diamandis estimates that gay people comprise 60% of her concert audience; she attributes her status as a gay icon to her campness and sense of humour, in addition to lyrics on being a societal outsider. In 2012, she won the Best Music Award at gay magazine Attitude's award show. She headlined an NYC Pride event in June 2016 in the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting, wearing a rainbow-striped cape. Diamandis plays down her popularity in the gay community in order to avoid sounding like a "cliché pop star" and hopes for a time when acceptance will mean that people do not label themselves by their sexuality.
She has been physically compared to her friend and label mate Charli XCX. In March 2016, the two feuded over Charli XCX's photoshoot which Diamandis considered to be derivative of her own image on Froot.
- Headline Act
- Opening Act
Awards and nominations
|2010||BBC Sound of 2010||Sound of 2010||Second place|||
|2010 Brit Awards||Critics' Choice||Nominated|||
|2010 BT Digital Music Awards||Breakthrough Artist of the Year||Nominated|||
|MTV Europe Music Awards||Best UK & Irish Act||Won|||
|UK Festival Awards 2010||Best Breakthrough Act||Nominated|||
|Virgin Media Music Awards||Best Newcomer||Won|||
|2012||NME Awards||Hottest Female||Nominated|||
|Attitude Magazine Awards||Best Music Award||Won|||
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Long-time Dalle fan Marina Diamandis is in attendance, tweeting her praise.
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