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The Family Jewels (Marina and the Diamonds album)

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The Family Jewels
The face of a young brunette woman, lying sideways on a floral patterned background
Studio album by Marina and the Diamonds
Released 15 February 2010
Recorded 2008–10
Genre
Length 45:35
Label
Producer
Marina and the Diamonds chronology
The Family Jewels
(2010)
Electra Heart
(2012)
Singles from The Family Jewels
  1. "Obsessions"
    Released: 14 February 2009
  2. "Mowgli's Road"
    Released: 13 November 2009
  3. "Hollywood"
    Released: 1 February 2010
  4. "I Am Not a Robot"
    Released: 26 April 2010
  5. "Oh No!"
    Released: 2 August 2010
  6. "Shampain"
    Released: 11 October 2010

The Family Jewels is the debut studio album recorded by Welsh singer Marina Diamandis, professionally known as Marina and the Diamonds. It was released on 15 February 2010 by 679 Recordings and Atlantic Records. Diamandis collaborated with several producers including Pascal Gabriel, Liam Howe, Greg Kurstin, Richard "Biff" Stannard, and Starsmith during its recording. She identifies the lyrical themes as "the seduction of commercialism, modern social values, family and female sexuality."[1]

Contemporary music critics gave The Family Jewels fairly positive reviews, with the vocal delivery dividing opinions. The record debuted at number five on the UK Albums Chart with first-week sales of 27,618 copies. The album was eventually certified Gold by the British Phonographic Industry and has sold 195,358 units in the United Kingdom. The Family Jewels performed moderately on international record charts; it peaked at number 138 on the Billboard 200 in the United States.

The Family Jewels was supported by five singles, all of which were supplemented by accompanying music videos. "Mowgli's Road" was released on 13 November 2009, although "Hollywood" became its first charting track after reaching number 12 on the UK Singles Chart. Follow-up singles "I Am Not a Robot", "Oh No!", and "Shampain" respectively peaked at numbers 26, 38, and 141 in the United Kingdom. The record was additionally promoted by Diamandis' headlining The Family Jewels Tour, which visited Australia, Europe and North America from January 2010 through December 2011.

Background[edit]

Diamandis on the NME Radar Tour, October 2009

Born and raised in South East Wales, Diamandis moved to London at the age of 18 to study music, despite not having a musical background. After dropping out of four institutions and failing in auditions, she began composing her own music.[2] After the success of her Myspace-released debut EP Mermaid vs. Sailor in 2007, she was signed by Neon Gold Records the following year and by 679 Artists in October 2008.[3] In 2009, after playing at a variety of festivals including Glastonbury in the summer,[4] she ranked in second place in the BBC's Sound of 2010[5] and was one of the three nominees for the Critics' Choice Award at the 2010 BRIT Awards.[6]

In a 2012 interview with Pridesource, Diamandis said that the album's title came from a slang term for testes, but she had been too coy to admit it before.[7]

Composition[edit]

Diamandis explained that the album is "a body of work largely inspired by the seduction of commercialism, modern social values, family and female sexuality", intended to be "enjoyed and consumed as a story and theory that encourages people to question themselves".[1]

"I think it’s a really diverse album stylistically speaking because I'm such a flexible writer. So there's a lot of pop on it, but there's kind of a lot of leftfield experimental stuff as well. It’s basically an album about what not to be."

— Diamandis explaining the album's musical style to Clash, January 2010[8]

In a review for Q, writer Hugh Montgomery noted genres such as disco ("Shampain"), bubblegum punk ("Girls") and cabaret ("Hermit The Frog").[9] The opening track, "Are You Satisfied?", ponders the meaning of a fulfilling life; a writer for The Line of Best Fit likened it to the thinking of Danish existentialist philosopher Søren Kierkegaard.[10] In a January 2010 interview with The Daily Telegraph, Diamandis admitted that she "cringes" at the lyrics of the song "Girls", which "could be seen as a bit misogynistic", including the lines "Girls they never befriend me/'Cause I fall asleep when they speak/Of all the calories they eat"; she clarified that the lyrics concerned her own psychological problems with weight.[2] A Neon Gold press release for a limited double A-side of "Obsessions" and "Mowgli's Road" described the former as a "bold and ambitious ... master work" and the latter as a "a high intensity, left field pop smash".[11]

Diamandis claimed that she made producer Liam Howe take 486 vocal takes for "The Outsider".[12][13] "Hollywood" takes inspiration from Diamandis' previous obsession with American celebrity culture,[5] while in "I Am Not a Robot", her favourite track from the album, she sings to tell herself to accept imperfection, with lines such as "you've been acting awful tough lately, smoking a lot of cigarettes lately ... don't be so pathetic"; she expected audiences to be able to relate to the song.[14] "Numb" reflects on the dedication and sacrifice needed during her early years in London;[2] "Oh No!" and "Are You Satisfied?" have similar lyrical themes.[15] "Oh No!" was a late addition to the track listing, causing some reviews of the album to not include it.[12] The album had initially been scheduled for release in October 2009, and was delayed by Diamandis' self-confessed perfectionism.[16]

Release and promotion[edit]

Music videos[edit]

In 2008, Diamandis filmed videos for the tracks "Seventeen" and "Obsessions".[17] The following year, photographer Rankin directed the accompaniment for "I Am Not a Robot", which used much body glitter.[18][19] The video for "Mowgli's Road" featured Diamandis and two dancers, with puppeteers standing in front of them to give them the impression of having concertina limbs; it was shot over 17 hours.[16]

Polish artist Kinga Burza shot the "classic pop video" for "Hollywood", with the aim to "make her audiences fall in love her even more, perhaps crave a little popcorn and feel inspired to dress up for fun".[20] Burza also filmed the video for "Oh No!", with an aesthetic based on "zany neon" MTV graphics and the fame-hungry lyrics.[21] The video to "Shampain" made an homage to Michael Jackson's Thriller.[18]

Dan Knight made a video for Chilly Gonzales' "stripped-down" remix of "Hollywood" that was intended to be the opposite of Burza's official video. In the video, Gonzales and Diamandis perform on a 1980s Estonian music show complete with subtitles.[22]

Singles[edit]

Diamandis performing "Obsessions" in May 2010 at Edinburgh's Assembly Rooms, during The Family Jewels Tour

"Obsessions" was Diamandis' first single, released on 14 February 2009,[11] and "Mowgli's Road" followed on 13 November 2009.[23] She chose the song as an "uncommercial" taster due to its oddness, but it received attention after being shared by bloggers including Perez Hilton and Kanye West.[24]

"Hollywood" was released as the album's second single and Diamandis' first major release on 1 February 2010.[1] It reached number 12 on the UK Singles Chart.[25] It was followed on 26 April by "I Am Not a Robot", which peaked at number 26 on the same listing.[25] "Oh No!" was released as the album's fourth single on 2 August only in the UK and Ireland; it charted at number 38.[25] "Shampain" was released as the album's fifth and final single on 11 October, again only in the same region,[26] and reached number 141 in the UK.[27]

"I Am Not a Robot" was nominated for the 2010 Popjustice £20 Music Prize for best British single, eventually losing to "Kickstarts" by Example.[28]

Tour[edit]

Diamandis went on her first headlining tour to promote the album, performing in Europe, North America and Australia. Dates included the Glastonbury Festival 2010, South by Southwest and the Falls Festival. In parallel to headlining her own tour in the United States in mid-2011, she was an opening act for Katy Perry's California Dreams Tour,[29] and finished by opening for Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto Tour at the Manchester Arena that December.[30]

After a performance at Manchester's Deaf Institute on 21 February 2010, Contactmusic.com writer Katy Ratican awarded Diamandis a 9/10 rating, stating "Next time she plays Manchester, it will be to a sold out Academy 2 audience, with a top-selling album gracing the merchandising stand. Marina won't be playing to a few hundred people above a trendy bar in the foreseeable future".[31]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 68/100[32]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[33]
BBC Music Fairly positive[15]
Clash 6/10[34]
The Daily Telegraph 4/5 stars[35]
The Guardian 3/5 stars[36]
musicOMH 3.5/5 stars[37]
NME 9/10[12]
Q 4/5 stars[9]
Spin 7/10[38]
The Sunday Times 3/5 stars[39]
The AV Club C[40]
No Ripcord 4/10 stars[41]
The New York Times Fairly positive[42]
The Independent Negative[43]

The Family Jewels received mostly positive reviews. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 68, based on 21 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".[32]

Hugh Montgomery of Q magazine noted that the singer's "imaginative reach" was "complemented by a winning pop savviness",[9] while Luke O'Neil from The Phoenix stated that "[t]he likes of Kate Nash and company have flitted through this piano siren/exuberant dance-diva territory, but never mind, because this gorgeous genre starts now."[44] Leonie Cooper from NME rated the album nine out of ten stars, finding flaw only in the titles of "Shampain" and "Hermit the Frog".[12]

More mixed reviews were critical of Diamandis' vocal delivery. Lou Thomas from BBC Music commented that "[t]he consistently diverting changes in style across the album are fine—the wonky 80s shoulder-pad pop of 'The Outsider' is nothing like anything else here, for example. But over 13 songs of Sparks-voice and many similar staccato piano riffs listeners may feel bludgeoned by Marina and her slightly overbearing presence", concluding that her eccentric vocals would polarise opinions.[15] Sean O'Neal wrote on The AV Club that after "dozens of squeaky Regina Spektor-ish enunciations" and "Kate Bush trills", the "overbearing need to prove herself just ends up being exhausting".[40] Joe Rivers of No Ripcord praised "Are You Satisfied?", "Hollywood" and "Oh No!" but was put off by sudden "howling" in "Hermit the Frog" and a "throaty growl" in "The Outsider".[41]

A negative review came from The Independent's Andy Gill who considered "Shampain" and "Hermit the Frog" as "every bit as annoying as their punning titles, with queasy, prancing piano and synth figures". He found certain vocal techniques in "Mowgli's Road" and "I Am Not a Robot" to be "infantile", and evaluated the lyrics of "Girls" and "Hollywood" as shallow. Gill added that the content of "Rootless", "Obsessions" and "The Outsider" did not match with what would be expected from the titles.[43]

The NME placed the album at number 33 on its list of the Top 75 Albums of 2010.[45]

Commercial performance[edit]

The Family Jewels debuted at number five on the UK Albums Chart with first-week sales of 27,618 copies.[46] It remains Diamandis' best-selling debut week, after her second studio album Electra Heart entered the chart at number one with first-week sales of 21,358 units.[47] The Family Jewels was later certified Gold by the British Phonographic Industry,[48] and had sold 195,358 copies in the United Kingdom as of April 2015.[49] The record debuted at number seven in Greece and number nine in Ireland;[50][51] it was eventually certified Gold by the Irish Recorded Music Association.[52]

The Family Jewels performed moderately on several international record charts. The record reached number 12 on the German Media Control Charts,[53] and entered the Ö3 Austria Top 40 at number 18.[54] It peaked at number 88 on the Dutch MegaCharts,[55] number 100 on the Swiss Hitparade,[56] and number 132 in France.[57] In Oceania, the album reached number 79 on the Australian ARIA Charts.[58] With first-week sales of 4,000 copies in the United States,[59] The Family Jewels entered the Billboard 200 at number 138;[60] furthermore, it respectively charted at numbers 2 and 49 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers and Top Rock Albums charts.[61][62]

In an interview for Australian radio in January 2011, Diamandis said that her career that far had been "more like a failure than a success", particularly in the American market. She attributed this to the inaction of Chop Shop Records, her label in the United States, as well as a move in musical tastes to "pumping beats" by artists like Lady Gaga. She cancelled performances in the United States in order to begin work on a new album.[63]

Track listing[edit]

Credits adapted from the liner notes of The Family Jewels.[64]

The Family Jewels – Standard version
No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "Are You Satisfied?"   Marina Diamandis 3:21
2. "Shampain"  
  • Gabriel
  • Howe
  • Stannard[a]
3:11
3. "I Am Not a Robot"   Diamandis Howe 3:35
4. "Girls"  
  • Diamandis
  • Howe
  • Gabriel
  • Gabriel
  • Howe
3:28
5. "Mowgli's Road"  
  • Diamandis
  • Howe
Howe 3:12
6. "Obsessions"   Diamandis Howe 3:38
7. "Hollywood"   Diamandis
3:50
8. "The Outsider"   Diamandis
  • Howe
  • Diamandis
3:17
9. "Hermit the Frog"   Diamandis
  • Howe
  • Diamandis[a]
3:35
10. "Oh No!"  
Kurstin 3:02
11. "Rootless"  
  • Diamandis
  • Howe
  • Gabriel
  • Gabriel
  • Howe
3:28
12. "Numb"   Diamandis Howe 4:16
13. "Guilty"  
  • Diamandis
  • Stannard
  • Howes
  • Stannard
  • Howes
3:40
Notes
  • ^a signifies an additional producer
  • ^b signifies an original producer
  • ^c signifies a remixer

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from the liner notes of The Family Jewels.[64]

  • Marina Diamandis – vocals (all tracks); piano (tracks 1–3, 6, 8, 12), glockenspiel (track 3); mixing (tracks 4, 11); casio VL-tone, production (track 8); additional production (track 9); organ (track 12)
  • Chris Allan – cello (tracks 1, 3)
  • Rebekah Allan – violin (tracks 9, 12)
  • Niel Catchpole – violin (tracks 7, 13)
  • Guy Davie – mastering (tracks 1–9, 11–13)
  • Alison Dods – violin (tracks 1, 3, 7, 13)
  • Steve Durham – drums (tracks 1–3)
  • Pascal Gabriel – production, programming (tracks 2, 4, 11); synths (track 2); all instruments, engineering, mixing (tracks 4, 11)
  • Liam Howe – production (tracks 1–3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12); programming (tracks 1–3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 12); bass (tracks 1, 2, 5, 6); mellotron (tracks 1, 3, 6, 9, 12); synths (tracks 1–3, 6, 8); additional piano, electric guitar (track 2); mixing, Philicorda (track 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 12); all instruments (tracks 4, 11); acoustic guitar, glockenspiel, spoons, whistle (track 5); engineering (tracks 5, 6, 8); Jew's harp, santoor (track 8); mandolin, recorder (tracks 9, 12)
  • Ash Howes – mixing, production (tracks 1, 7, 13); keyboards (track 1); programming (tracks 1, 2, 7, 13); additional keyboards (track 2); all instruments (tracks 7, 13)
  • Greg Kurstin – keyboards, engineering, guitar, mixing, production, programming (track 10)
  • Oli Langford – viola (tracks 7, 9, 12, 13); violin (tracks 7, 13)
  • Stephen Large – string arrangements (tracks 7, 13); piano (tracks 9, 12); Hammond organ (track 12)
  • Dougal Lott – assistant engineering (tracks 1–3, 9, 12); Pro Tools (track 5)
  • Alex Mackenzie – drums, harpsichord (tracks 5, 6); additional piano, mandolin (track 6)
  • Mat Maitland – sleeve art
  • Calina de la Mere – violin (tracks 1, 3)
  • Anna Mowat – cello (tracks 7, 13)
  • Anna Phoebe – violin (tracks 9, 12)
  • Luke Potashnick – guitar (track 1)
  • Rankin – portraits
  • Raymond67 (Freesound Project) – mechanical monkey (track 5)
  • Rachel Robson – viola (tracks 1, 3)
  • Sandyrb (Freesound Project) – human monkey (track 5)
  • Lucy Shaw – double bass, string arrangements (tracks 1, 3, 7, 9, 12, 13)
  • Richard "Biff" Stannard – production (tracks 1, 7, 13); keyboards (track 1); programming (tracks 1, 2, 7, 13); additional keyboards, additional production (track 2); mixing (tracks 2, 7, 13); drums (track 7); all instruments (tracks 7, 13)
  • Starsmith – original production (track 7)
  • Dave Turner – mastering (track 10)
  • David Westlake – drums (track 9)
  • Richard Wilkinson – engineering (tracks 1–3, 9, 12)
  • Chris Worsey – cello (tracks 9, 12)

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Ireland (IRMA)[52] Gold 7,500^
United Kingdom (BPI)[48] Gold 195,358[49]

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

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format Label Ref.
Ireland 15 February 2010
  • CD
  • Digital download
  • 679
  • Atlantic
[72]
United Kingdom 22 February 2010 [73]
Scandinavia 24 February 2010 Warner [74]
Australia 26 February 2010 [75]
France 1 March 2010 [76]
Netherlands 19 March 2010 [77]
Japan 21 April 2010 [66]
Germany 14 May 2010 [78]
Canada 25 May 2010 [79]
United States
  • Chop Shop
  • Atlantic
[67]
15 June 2010 LP [80]

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