Hailing from the same school of self-aware artifice as Lady Gaga and Little Boots, Marina Diamandis’ debut as Marina And The Diamonds benefits—and suffers—from the same irony-laden emptiness. Diamandis’ songs, full of sugary synthesizer whorls and theatrical pomp, often come across as tongue-in-cheek performance-art pieces masquerading as mindless electro-fluff, with Marina returning again and again to the narrative of her own success—a tale that’s obviously a trifle premature. Of course, that “famous for being famous” moxie has yielded triumph for some; the trouble is, Diamandis isn’t entirely sure what she wants to be famous for yet. On The Family Jewels, she throws herself into manic-pixie mode to convince listeners that she’s “a fucking wild card,” a quirky iconoclast who stands out from the plastic “Girls” who “wag your tails to the beat”—which means for every slick synth-pop chorus, she piles on dozens of squeaky Regina Spektor-ish enunciations, Kate Bush trills, stabs at Lily Allen’s banal realism, and listless Tori Amos echoes. Needless to say, that overbearing need to prove herself just ends up being exhausting. But the lady doth protest too much: There are hints of the darker, weirder dance-floor diva she wants to be hiding beneath the avant-garde pretensions of tracks such as “Shampain,” “I Am Not A Robot,” “Guilty,” and “Oh No!” Maybe once she finally attains the individuality-obliterating success she already claims to be struggling with, Diamandis can more fully embrace her inner pop idol.
More from The A.V. Club