On Self-Love, Primadonnas and Being Kinda Difficult

I suppose the tides of my musical loyalties began to turn at the start of 2012. Incidentally, it was also the time when I decided to self-love.

After a string of disastrous rendezvous with increasingly dysfunctional and elusive men over the past few months, and in the midst of January exam week, I had a mini breakdown. My relationship with the latest unscrupulous suitor, a builder with an advanced commitment complex was in tatters and I found myself, once again, lying on my bedroom floor, sobbing away to the sound-track of Careless Whisper.
My best friend Tom dropped by bestowing tea and sympathy and announced, in a dramatic, sepulchral whisper that he’d discovered an anthem chronicling my life.  Tom’s music is suicidally depressing and I anticipated that before long my status as a tragic love pariah was to be confirmed by the tormented wailings of some painfully alternative teenager.
But I was wrong. As I lay sprawled and incapacitated, my resident DJ for the broken-hearted played me Lana Del Rey’s latest offering “This Is What Makes Us Girls”. I eyed Tom suspiciously as Lana lamented her best friend that swayed in the wind, high heels in her hands, “mascara running down her little bambi eyes”; nothing if not an unwelcome and untimely moment of lucidity and further awkward confirmation of my physical and emotional  disintegration. But as I processed the message of the song; that the ability to feel such great emotion is what makes us human; and that we needn’t persecute ourselves over it, I felt considerably better. I began to celebrate being single.

One month later, glamorous fashionistas suddenly materialised on the pavements as we trudged along the Strand to uni. Of course it was London Fashion Week. I was still recovering from the shock of our new compulsory modules necessitating that I read Old English and the Bible to really absorb the artistic visions occurring around me. Needless to say, they hadn’t escaped Tom’s radar.
I’m not talking about the fashion. During another one of our habitual all-nighters ploughing through set texts, Tom took advantage of my temporary stupor as I was slumped on my desk to load the Burberry A/W catwalk show from LFW on my laptop. I admit I was a little bewildered why he was showing me the footage; but all made sense as I listened to the music serenading the models stalking the catwalk, evaporating skyward through the great glass greenhouse style building; the hauntingly beautiful tones of Joan Armatrading and Rae Morris (an up and coming singer-songwriter from Blackpool). And then, Tom’s star attraction, a Marina and the Diamonds track from her first album The Family Jewels entitled ‘Numb’. The song is intricately woven with orchestral strata, choir harmonies and of course, Marina’s soaring vocals that fluctuate like the hills and valleys of her Welsh birthplace.

Burberry Prorsum Womenswear Autumn Winter 2012 Show

“You’re hooked aren’t you?!” Tom crowed victoriously.

For anyone that isn’t familiar, Marina and the Diamonds are a British band fronted by Marina Lambrini Diamandis, a half-Welsh, half-Greek singer-songwriter. The Diamonds are not her backing musicians however, rather her devoted fans.
Of course I nonchalantly shrugged and changed the subject. Or rather changed the music back to my beloved Nineties Club Classics. There is nothing more vexing than having to admit that music you previously denounced as painful you know will become your secret delight.
Then, Saturday afternoon, as I’m sat trekking through Beowulf, I receive an enraged facebook message from Tom, who is currently marooned in the wilds of rural Somerset for Easter holidays. It was entirely in caps locks, and fumed something about how he hated his life and how Marina and the Diamonds were launching the new album ‘Electra Heart’ at G-A-Y Heaven that very evening.

I did tell him not to go home.
It was already half-past five. I panicked, thinking I would not be able to go because everyone was home for Easter and there was no way I could go masquerading through London to the biggest gay club in the city on my own. Luckily, an old college friend Louie, who is studying at a different university nearby was still in London and agreed to come along with me. 

Things are never quite as simple as you anticipate. The website stated that to gain entry to the club and see the band perform you needed to acquire a wristband from the sister club G-A-Y Bar in Soho. As my geography is quite poor and we neglected to properly check a map before we left, it took a while darting past raucous pub dwellers and eccentric characters before we managed to locate the bar, get a wristband and then meander back through the streets to Charing Cross, where Heaven is nestled down a side street.
Thank goodness we were early and there was no queue. We were able to waltz straight into the club. On the other hand we looked ludicrously keen. It had only just gone half past ten and Marina wasn’t due to perform until one o’clock on the main stage. A few solitary characters were shuffling in the mainstream pop floor. There was more life, and thankfully, more people upstairs where all the old Nineties classics are blasted out in an unashamed celebration of times past. The time soon passed with Usher, Britney and Christina for company.
At midnight we went back downstairs to the main dance floor which was by now filling up fast. I decided to bag my place at the front of the stage fast so I could film Marina singing. I stood, propped up on the edge of the stage for an hour and ten minutes with my lukewarm beer. But it was worth it.
At ten past one, the stage was prepped and all excess alcohol mopped up. The press photographers were ushered over to either side of the stage, the musicians took their places, and the owner of Heaven came on to announce that whilst Marina had cancelled all her scheduled performances that week due to a throat infection, she had bravely battled on to launch her new album-and that we should all lend our fullest support. He needn’t have asked. Legions of die-hard 'diamonds' had turned out; the crowd glittering in their spangled lycra a little more than usual. Some guy kept needlessly yelling in my ear “MARRY ME MARINA”.

As the eerie electric keyboard notes of ‘Homewrecker’ perforated the hum of the crowd, Marina slowly emerged out of the clouds of dissipating mist. There is absolutely no denying she looked amazing; regal and simultaneously satirical in a spectacular pink pseudo wedding dress (holographic lame bodice with buoyant frothy net skirts, pink suede platforms and a flowing flower embroidered veil.)  A wry smile playing upon her candy coloured lips, and in her characteristic detached musing that opens the song, Marina drifted centre stage playing the wide-eyed bride.

“Every boyfriend is the one
Until otherwise proven
The good are never easy
The easy never good
And loving never happens like you think it really should

Deception and perfection are wonderful traits
One will breed love
the other hate
you'll find me in the lonely hearts
under 'I'm after a brand new start”

The impact of the immense visual and auditory sensuousness was almost a bit too much for my fatigued brain. Thoughts and phrases were already flying through my head like paper aeroplanes. I'm sure I wasn't the only one looking wide-eyed. Before I could digest her beauty or singing, she abruptly metamorphosed into a defiant, vivacious seductress, flirtatiously winking and blowing kisses to the crowd as she sang to the thumping chorus.
I was busy trying to decide her possible style inspirations;  a mosaic of retro glamour, cartoon humour, American fifties prom queen. Essence of Madonna, Marilyn and Marie Antoinette laced her peroxide curls and heavily mascara’d lashes like gossamer strands. In my strange mind, I found myself likening her to those wonderful marzipan pieces of fruit crystallised in sugar that you buy for fruitcakes. She did look good enough to eat, in my defence.
 Apparently the inspiration for ‘Electra Heart’ was the corrupt American society and an “ode to dysfunctional love”. Marina didn’t want to be perceived as victim of heartbreak; rather she candidly critiques the unconventional side of female nature; some might argue the imperfections. Of wanting to be desired; wanting success and fame. Maybe I was a little intoxicated by the jamboree, but I only saw a generous sprinkling of female empowerment and independence as she hollered “I don’t belong to anyone”.

Marina really gave you no ammunition to suggest her vocal chords were under strain as she smoothly moved into the infectious ballad “I Am Not A Robot”, a song from her first album The Family Jewels, which flickers between the vulnerability and insecurity of someone wishing to fulfil their dreams, and an audacious  alter-ego who is on that ruthless pursuit. As you can imagine, pretty soon she tore the veil from her curls.
The next song ‘Oh No!’ showcased Marina’s capricious stage presence, with devilish poses, balletic port de bras and cartoonish looks of surprise. So too was ‘Hollywood”’ as she provocatively belted “I’m obsessed with the mess that’s America”.

Marina's launch closed with ‘Primadonna’, the first single released from her new album. Distinctive acoustic guitar chords, heady New Wave pop and the mercurial capacities of Marina’s voice show why she is more than just another ideological pop singer. On a personal level, the complexities of character that people find hard to fathom in my character seem to be echoed in her music; the hunger and ambition for success juxtaposed with those inescapable moments of fragility.
This is the real deception that Marina sings about. Not the deceptive 'tendency' of females playing mind games in relationships. The deception of seeing merely a pink, fluffy masquerade publicising what a turbulent ride love can take you on. This is Marina teasing her audience; challenging you to discern the layers of meaning permeating her music and lyrics. Guess correctly and you too can become one of her ‘diamonds’; surpassing the fickle materialistic desires of humanity and so too surpassing fickle perceptions of her music. Perhaps the difficulties Marina finds in breaking the mainstream pop market is because people have underestimated the value of a catchy rhythm and an intelligent artist. But listen to one of her songs on repeat and you notice new idiosyncrasies hidden in the folds of that you never cared to notice before. I actually believe it is the many facets of her personality that confuse the public slightly; and perhaps her honesty about her intentions to get to the top too. Personally I find that refreshing.
I like to think I identify with Marina because she’s not afraid to talk about her past; or make light of it. She actively participates in building a caricature of her inner self. She doesn’t take herself too seriously. She can philosophise about female nature in a way that isn't philosophical at all. I’m the first one to make fun of myself and my mistakes; who wants to hear about someone whose life is so inconceivably rosy that it makes you feel bad for being such a misfit? Maybe that’s why when a delightfully intoxicated fellow in G-A-Y grabbed my hand for an impromptu Argentine tango and hurled me round like a rag doll  I just went with it.

After surviving the fight to buy one of her new ‘Primadonna’ singles from reception and waiting in the seemingly endless queue of fans winding through the V.I.P entrance, I eventually got to climb the steps to where Marina was perched at a little table; a bunch of 'Sharpie' marker pens on one side and a very apathetic looking owner of Heaven on the other. Ironically, she had made a little paper sign propped up on two water bottles that apologised for not being able to speak, as she thought she had ruptured a vocal chord. Ironic because it is reportedly Marina’s nightmare to be perceived as a vacuous doll; and after belting out her hits about empowerment and human hang-ups, she sat with twinkling eyes and fluttering lashes like a mute prom queen; a divinely beautiful one at that.  She duly signed my CD with my name, her signature and a love heart. And then she was spirited away in a swish of net skirts and a flick of her blonde ringlets. The sound of Rihanna and Lady Gaga ate away at the last beats of alternative pop and the energy dissipated like curls of mist.

A random guy tapped me on the shoulder, thrusting another copy of a signed Marina CD into my hands.

“Here, do you want this? I don’t even know who she is”.

I happily agreed, disappeared before he could change his mind, and quietly hoped that it would not be too long before that man realised he had made a mistake. 


  1. This genuinely makes me want to cry with happiness. As much as I love Marina and the Diamonds, I don't think I could of done justice to her like you have here. It brought a tear to my eye... I always knew Marina could turn you.
    Honestly though, this is so well written and I concede defeat because this tops pretty much anything I've ever written in terms of music reviews. I'm so proud!

    And for anyone who's wondering, I'm Tom, and hold I am not suicidal, though I won't deny I like a good cry to my music.

    1. Thanks Tom...wouldn't be anything without you would I :) x

  2. I agree Tom! This is really well written :)

  3. I absolutely loved this post of yours. I am one to not like sad songs because they remind me of bad experiences and memories, even if the lyrics aren't even related; my mind is terrible when it comes to that.

    I haven't paid much attention to Marina's albums as of yet, but after reading your post, my interest has surely gone up!

    1. Thank you so much. Yes definitely check out Marina's new album, its slightly less alternative than the last one.

  4. Great article. well Done :)

  5. What a great description of your experience of Marina's gig. HAve to say that I'm really very envious. I had the enormous pleasure of seeing her perform at the Big Chill Festival nearly three years ago (not long after I'd started my blog actually, I remember posting photos of her). In addition to her musical talent, she had immense stage presence

    1. Thank you; it must have been great to see Marina perform in her earlier years. Her style and voice have evolved quite a lot, but you're right about the stage presence; quite a unique talent.

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  8. great post! I LOVE Marina! :)) Thanks for your comment! xxx

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