We grow into ourselves unevenly, uneasily.
I started listening to Marina — then Marina and The Diamonds — when my best friend Ian introduced me to her music in high school. We were completely enchanted by her first two albums. They were jaded but tinged with the same glamour and fantasy that they poked holes in, Hollywood and beauty and gender expectations. In her second album Electra Heart, she tries on new identities and breathes nostalgia in the music, while tearing it apart in the lyrics. It was the perfect soundtrack for us at sixteen, the kind of cynically optimistic kids who were constantly trying to craft ourselves into teen movie characters.
Fast forward to now, Marina about to release her first album in three years; we are finishing up college and trying to craft the start of our adult lives. The first single off the album, “Handmade Heaven,” beautifully showcases a new chapter.
The biggest difference in “Handmade Heaven” from Marina’s earlier work is a deep sense of earnestness and vulnerability. Gone is the ironic bite and the trying on of archetypes. It’s still undeniably a pop single, which it takes full advantage of with the grand thumping percussion and dreamy, polished melody. And yet, it feels deeply intimate. This is due largely to the heavy focus on natural imagery in the lyrics. Lines like “ But in this handmade heaven, it’s paradise / Bluebirds forever colour the sky / In this handmade heaven, we forget the time,” evoke the kind of peaceful introspection that comes from repose away from civilization. It’s not missing discontent, but there is an honesty and hope towards change. “ I carry along a feel of unease / I want to belong like the birds in the trees.”
When we talk about the ways we change and evolve as artists and as people, it sometimes seems to imply that the earlier version was incomplete or inadequate. But really, it’s all one part of a continued, ongoing story. The honesty and natural simplicity of Handmade Heaven build on the aversion to the shallow materialism of earlier albums. In turn, I owe so much of who I am, the friendships that mean the world to me, and the things I love to the person I was as a teenager.
We build on ourselves precariously, passionately.
(Song recommendation by Brianna Suazo)