Monday, February 1st, 2010

Marina and the Diamonds – Hollywood

Fortunately, here’s Marina to dig us out of that hole (p.s. we underrated the shit out of this)…


Dan MacRae: Beware of America. It’s an evil place where dreams are crushed and men speak with a deranged valley girl twang.

Alex Macpherson: A take on the American Dream so reductive and cliché-ridden that pretty much every line makes me cringe with shame for Marina, who’s doing an extremely good job so far of marking herself out as 2010’s biggest moron-in-waiting. Also, STOP SINGING LIKE THAT YOU DIV.

Jessica Popper: I think there’s a very good chance that Marina could be one of the UK’s biggest stars by the end of the year. For starters, all her songs are good, unlike Florence with her 90% boring 10% ace approach. Marina really looks like a star in the video for “Hollywood”, and the song is a bit poppier than her previous work, yet still distinctively her. With Marina and Daisy Dares You both on the verge of success, I have to wonder if Amy Studt was just 6 years too early?

Doug Robertson: A glorious hybrid of PJ Harvey and Sparks, she’s filling a gap that didn’t even exist until she smashed her way through the wall of creative stagnation and forced people to sit up and take notice.

Alfred Soto: Marina’s voice is odd enough to sit up and notice; the songs won’t keep you from sliding down into your seat, though.

Edward Okulicz: It’s hard to shake the feeling that Marina would be a more sympathetic vocalist, protagonist, storyteller — anything — if she didn’t sing as if she had large weights attached to her bottom lip.

Martin Skidmore: Her voice is rather annoying, swooping up and down in ridiculous ways. This is a bit of a shame, because when it leaps into the quite big and bright chorus, this is rather catchy and lively. If I weren’t thoroughly sick of quirky female singing, I might easily like it.

Martin Kavka: This is the first Marina single I’ve liked, although I’m not sure that the message of the song — famewhoring yourself is acceptable if you’re sufficiently self-critical about it, as opposed to those other famewhores who think that the objects of their dreams are real — makes any sense. There’s a beautiful extended cymbal crash in the chorus (emphasizing the word “obsessed” in the line “I’m obsessed with the mess that’s America”) that takes this into the sphere of the epically joyful.

Iain Mew: Marina continues to flit between styles with every single, here settling on something gaudy with a forceful processed piano backing that sounds like Keane. But, you know, good Keane. Sadly she’s lyically at her messiest and least sympathetic yet, talking about contracting American dreams but not coherently expressing either why that’s bad or why they are so infectious. And I imagine everyone’s going to talk about “actually my name’s Marina” but what really makes it grate, I think, is that the “fat security” it’s directed at doesn’t even get a noun, never mind a name.

Ian Mathers: The backing is kind of nice and might work well for someone with a better voice or better lyrics, but I’d honestly rather hear Razorlight’s take on the same thing. Razorlight. I’m just sayin’.

Matt Cibula: It’s clear that she doesn’t really know anything about America, but then again who does? I really wanted to give this a higher score to make up for my earlier hateration, but I just can’t do it; I guess I just really don’t love her voice or her “clever” lyrical touches. And I’m glad she has good self-esteem, but who thinks she looks anything like Shakira? Threw in an extra point because I think I’ll like it better in a fortnight.

Additional Scores:

Anthony Easton: [7]

12 Responses to “Marina and the Diamonds – Hollywood”

  1. This sounded good to me while I was doing the washing up yesterday, I’d have given it a 7 I think. Her voice just sounds to me like a Siouxsie impression, which is fine.

  2. Thank you, Lex.

  3. This song has managed to annoy me even more since I filed my blurb.

    When British people start bashing America, I always wonder whether they realise how much they sound like, eg, Eurosceptic Tories; it’s just yet another manifestation of the small-minded xenophobia which still pervades this island. Obviously reasoned, intelligent and specific criticism is a different thing, but I doubt even Marina’s defenders would call this reasoned, intelligent or specific. Her lyrics aren’t just clichéd, they’re prejudiced – you don’t have to even defend Hollywood to see this – and I’d hazard a guess that she’s not exactly drawing on first-hand experience of Hollywood. And there’s just nothing individual about this sort of LA-bashing – literally every “point” she makes has been made several million times over already, and if not for the try-hard “my name’s Marina” line you wouldn’t have a clue as to her identity; no wonder she gets mistaken for other chicks.

    I mean, goddamn, at least Madonna had the excuses of a) being an old woman and b) having a huge classic back catalogue when she came out with her own tiresome bullshit on this subject. I just can’t see how Marina is meant to be either interesting or sympathetic. I can’t believe this is being marketed as any sort of “biting critique” of anything!

  4. Don’t think it’s being marketed as a biting critique of anything. Or at least, I don’t think she would say it’s a biting critique so much as an attempt to process her experiences. As per the endless VW argument, I tend to hear someone puzzling out their own reactions to stuff rather than making definitive statements.

    A lot of her writing on her blog (which I think the record label has unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for her, deleted) has touched on her own attraction to and wariness of the trappings of the music industry, and this seems like a fairly clear extension of that. This is the woman, after all, who wrote a screed about the video for Loba and how she felt it forced Shakira to compromise/exploit herself and then, after commenters argued the point, changed her mind upon seeing Did It Again. Of course, the post wasn’t about Shakira, but about how Marina felt (ambivalent!) about the image construction and self-promotion that are part and parcel of a music career in 2010.

    Her lack of knowledge about Beethoven or whatever is going to be the easy latch-on point for people to dismiss her (a la Florence can’t name albums from 2009! or La Roux is a racist twat!) but being well-informed (which she’s acknowledged more than once that she isn’t, or at least not as much as she’d want to be) and being probing and thoughtful are different things. The lesson of 2009 was that the quirky pop girls need to watch their every move, always know and say exactly what they mean, and never change their minds, because we’re a judgmental and unforgiving lot out here. Marina seems vaguely aware of that, but also willing to examine why that is and what that means for her as a woman and a musician.

    The problem is that nuanced examinations of this sort of thing aren’t always best suited for pop songs, especially in this case. So, this is probably only a [6] in my books. There are a lot of really great things about Marina – ear for a good hook chiefly among them – but plenty of room for growth. More than Boots or Florence or La Roux or Ellie, I think she’s going to take a lot of crap, in part because her music is more about herself than any of them.

  5. My original comment has a lot more along the lines of what lex says in his, but I do wonder why it is that what I said about Ke$ha’s voice in the blurb for her song was objectionable but “STOP SINGING LIKE THAT YOU DIV” isn’t.

    Not trying to pick a fight, lex (and I certainly agree with you here), just genuinely curious as to what you feel the dividing line is.

  6. IIRC I agreed with you about Ke$ha’s horrendous voice!

  7. Oh for goodness sake………its only pop!

  8. Only?

    FWIW, I’d take this song over Madonna’s “Hollywood” any day because it’s got a much better, catchier chorus. The verses to this are definitely damaged by some of her tics (the ‘ol LA bit might be the most risible) but the chorus is a good one. Doing quite well in the charts, it seems, but it’s a shame it’s happening for this and not the excellent “Mowgli’s Road”.

  9. My bad then, lex – I thought I recalled a discussion about classism or something. Might not have been you, might not have been that song. It’s still a topic I think is interesting – like I said, I agree you about Marina’s voice, but is there a point where we tip over from aesthetic dislike to some sort of weird political issue?

    I wasn’t really going anywhere with this, it just sort of occurred to me.

  10. I think it was with me over that song, but we basically agreed about her voice.

  11. “More than Boots or Florence or La Roux or Ellie, I think she’s going to take a lot of crap, in part because her music is more about herself than any of them.”

    This is interesting because I actually prefer all of those acts to Marina whose ideas just seem the weakest on the whole…and maybe I think that because it is more introspective or about her as you say. “Is this person really interesting/inspiring enough to make that worthwhile’ way”?

    I find her/her songs pretty boring but hmm:,why-i-love-america_8.htm

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