It’s British-Women-As-Genre Wednesday!!!…
Keane Tzong: Now is not the time for back-door bragging!
Alex Macpherson: “Better to be hated than luff! luff! luffed! for what you’re not” — indeed. What Marina is not is someone with either insightful things to say or interesting ways of saying them, nor a pop star whose presence or vocal mannerisms are anything other than grating.
Pete Baran: Can we describe that as blacking up in the video? It’s a nice little build, and a pleasant enough track, but it does feel a bit of an album track punted out due to lack of strong singles. And in a world of quirky female vocal stylists this isn’t doing enough to stand out.
Alex Ostroff: Almost a year ago, this was the song that sold me on Marina, convincing me that underneath all the tics and affectations, drama school mannerisms and songs about crackers, there was a thinking, feeling, introspective person who had something to say. Marina’s debut is good but flawed, and most of her songs have at least one moment where I wish she had pulled back a bit, but “I Am Not a Robot” remains the Crown Jewel in her discography. Building from plinky pianos and Regina Spektor-esque vocals, it slowly unfolds into something genuinely affecting and anthemic. In it, she ambivalently calls the object of her affections out on his calculated distance from emotion, risk and life in general. By the end, her confidence has grown, and the phrase “I’m vulnerable” has been transformed from an admission, into a declaration, and finally into a celebration.
Matt Cibula: I like the Abba-ELO-ness of this, but as always I think she is a clunky songwriter on the conceptual scale — is the song about him or about her?
Michaelangelo Matos: I’m charmed despite myself. I don’t do well with British pop’s archness, but this got me in its clutches rather pleasantly, which counts for something when it comes to archness. I guess you could snipe that the title chorus is a bit protest-against-pop-too-much, but whatever.
Alfred Soto: “Guess what — I am not a robot,” she assures at the 2:40 mark, at which the song finally starts to chug interestingly. The rest sounds like Sarah McLachlan yearning to be Annie Lennox.
Anthony Easton: I, for one, think that robots can dance, and feel, and love — this song is profoundly robotist, and that is wrong (nice returning of a metaphor to its original power).
Doug Robertson: It’s a shame that she’s not a robot, as that way we could all have one in our flats, coming up with subtly brilliant slices of electro pop on a regular basis. And also so that we could it take the voicebox to the robot repair shop to try and sort out the slightly annoying and gimmicky vocal inflexions that she seems unable to avoid breaking into on every other word.
Martin Skidmore: Marina doesn’t have the extraordinary control and astonishing swoops of Kate Bush, but it’s what she’s trying for.
Jonathan Bogart: I like her twitchy, cooing foghorn of a voice. I like the touch of electronic manipulation on the background vocals on the title phrase (though there should be more). I like or anyway admire the way the song crescendos without ever peaking or valleying. I don’t like the fact that when she says “let the drum beat drop” the beat doesn’t change at all, just gets slightly louder (at least will.i.am least gets this right). I don’t like, or more precisely don’t care about, the lyrics. When she writes something with half the wit with which she sings the word “vulnerable,” I’ll be interested.
John Seroff: This is the fourth single Marina and the Diamonds has put on the Jukebox and the third I’ve grappled with. Each time, it’s been the same problem: lovely voice, way too mannered. Her lyrics are ham-fisted, her ever-present affectations are uninspired and unhelpful to the songs and the production is consistently overblown. Once Marina finds a bit of restraint I might well come around, but her current blend of derivative diva-ishness and indulgent tics like ‘Robot’s minute-long coda of heartbeat leave her entirely too grating for me to embrace.
Katherine St Asaph: Marina keeps releasing singles that are just OK. I’m not averse to quirkiness, singer-songwriters or the two combined. I’ve no problem with her vocal style or lyrics — well, except for “let the drumbeat drop,” a lapse in judgment so glaring it merits an entire docked point. But I want her to make something brilliant, and this still isn’t it.