In 2010, Wales native Marina Diamandis burst onto the music scene with her new wave-infused debut studio album, The Family Jewels, under the catchy stage name Marina and the Diamonds. Two years later, she conquered the pop music world with her sophomore effort Electra Heart—a concept album revolving around a character she created to represent and critique female archetypes in American popular culture, which received critical acclaim in the United States but didn’t resonate as much in her native UK. She became known for her unconventional fashion sense and stage presence, complete with theatrical on-stage costumes to go along with it, and was quickly labelled a “pop enigma” known to subvert typical popular music conventions. As early as 2009, Diamandis described herself as an “indie artist with pop goals,” and has spent the majority of her career forging her own path. Her synthpop-inspired third studio album, Froot (2015), dealt lyrically with Diamandis’ struggles with depression and was considered to be more personal than her previous releases. During that time, she was starting to feel the pressure all around, and decided that it was time for a break.
This year, Diamandis has made her long-awaited return to music as Marina—without the Diamonds. “I couldn’t really go back to music for a while after Froot because I’d been doing this for almost a decade, and I just had started to feel as if too much of my sense of self was connected to my artistic profession, I suppose,” she told W magazine in March. Instead, she decided to return to school to study another passion of hers, psychology, and spent six months studying at the University of London between 2017 and 2018. During that time, she also started her own blog, MarinaBook, to share thoughts regarding mental health and general well-being. Overall, she just had a yearning to feel like a human being again. “I have been completely obsessed with being an artist since I was 15, and I’m 33, so it’s been quite a large chunk of my life,” she said.
Part of that yearning was the inspiration to drop the Diamonds from her stage name in favor of a mononym—simply Marina, since she believes the entire point of being an artist is bridging the gap between art and reality. “I don’t want to be some kind of elusive star,” she explained. “I felt like I should feel like that in the past, but I’ve realized that’s really not part of what I want to do in this life at all … It’s not that I didn’t feel authentic before; I just felt a pressure to appear to be a certain way to people at some points, and I don’t feel like that anymore at all.” With the Diamonds and everything they represented behind her and with a newfound confidence in front of her, Marina has released her fourth studio album—Love + Fear—two 8-track collections that form a set. The title is inspired from a theory by psychologist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, which alleges that there are only two human emotions, love and fear: “All positive emotions come from love, all negative emotions from fear. From love flows happiness, contentment, peace, and joy. From fear comes anger, hate, anxiety, and guilt. It’s true that there are only two primary human emotions, love and fear. But it’s more accurate to say that there is only love or fear. For we cannot feel these two emotions together at exactly the same time. They’re opposites.” Marina was instantly inspired by this, since she thinks it’s the most universal thing that bonds us all. And on the album, she certainly reminds us that there is a lot of overlap between the emotions.
Love + Fear is most definitely Marina’s best album to date and may even go down as her magnum opus. Combining the philosophical and existential themes she explored on Froot with newfound socially conscious topics, she reminds us that trying to figure out humanity is anyone’s best guess—since we’re all in the same boat. Love + Fear goes much further lyrically and conceptually than her previous efforts, which seems fitting as her growth as an artist is easily documented and visible throughout all of her studio albums. On Love, she sings about looking to nature during a time where she felt physically detached from the world and expresses jealousy to spiders for having their place in the universe completely figured out—relatable, right? She preaches and repeats self-love mantras to remind herself that she’s okay as much as we’re okay, and laments that she, let alone everyone else, has yet to truly figure out what it means to be human. Marina sings about love on Love, but there’s also a looming sense of anxiety. But on Fear, she seems more comfortable in embracing her insecurities, trying to understand and accept the age-old unpredictability of life, and despite the underlying theme of fear, Marina is still optimistic about finding love—whatever form it may come in—on Fear. If Love comes across as maybe a bit too pleasant and focusing only on the proverbial positives in life, Fear makes the record feel like a complete album: a variety of conflicting emotions in a whirlwind of upbeat bops and slower ballads, with an incredibly intelligent touch of social consciousness and an attempt an at answer to humanity’s lingering questions not only for this generation, but for all of time.
Dropping “the Diamonds” in favor of being simply Marina might as well be a reassessment and reinvention of Diamandis’ entire career, since she feels both familiar and pleasantly refreshing on Love + Fear. She also seems clearly rejuvenated from her break from music, both lyrically and vocally, like she really has nothing to lose. “[Being an artist is] not my whole life anymore,” she told Vogue this month. “I love music, but I really come from a place of feeling like I have nothing to lose, and I think that’s healthy. I’m here because I want to be here and not because a fourth album was due, because I’m not someone to go through the motions. If I didn’t do music, there are so many other things I could do.” From telling us to let go of insecurities and anxiety to enjoy our lives as much as possible, to reminding us that life is strange and that kindness is a requirement to be strong, the album is a complete listening experience of love, fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, and happiness—all at the same time. And since we are all pretty much in the same boat in this world, maybe embracing all of these emotions at once is what it truly means to be human.
Jeffrey’s favorites from Love + Fear: “Handmade Heaven,” “Superstar,” “Orange Trees,” “Enjoy Your Life,” “True,” “Life is Strange,” “Karma,” “No More Suckers,” and “Soft to Be Strong”