ancient dreams in a modern land by Ibtasam Elmaliki July 20, 2021
Marina’s fifth studio album, Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land, is the pop record for the modern age, and she calls it her “best album” yet. Marina Diamandis, the Welsh and Greek singer-songwriter, previously known as Marina And The Diamonds, takes on a different sound and aesthetic in her new record.
Two years in the making, she ditches the pop formula to make radio hits, and makes it authentically hers.
Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land, Marina’s shortest album that’s 100 percent self-written, has an 80s, campy vibe. It’s nostalgic from her first 2010 record, The Family Jewels, but displays Marina’s more mature side.
The album explores a woman’s place in the modern age; critiquing the male patriarchy, and the capitalism tied in with it, while dealing with heartbreak in the most mature way.
Marina Diamandis song “Purge The Poison,” takes on a variety of topics, critiquing Hollywood elites, capitalism, and America’s War on Terror, as well as mentioning the Free Britney movement, and global warming.
With catchy songs and strong lyrics, ADIAML definitely shows Marina’s growth as an artist, stabilizing her place in the pop world.
However, it’s been a month since its release and fans are still urging for another Electra Heart.
Marina Diamandis made her mark in America after Electra Heart’s release. The 2012 cult classic record, was 31 on the US Billboard 200, and became her highest-charting album in the U.S.
Fans were attracted to the electro pop dance songs, but mostly the dark aesthetic. Ten years, and three records later since Electra Heart, and fans on Twitter are still demanding a part two. Comments like “we want your electra heart era back” pop up under her promotional tweets for her new work.
It’s no surprise since Marina Diamandis’ album remains timeless, managing to stay relevant on platforms with a younger audience. Songs from the record such as “Bubblegum bitch” gained popularity once again through TikTok videos.
What made the era so iconic was how much creative effort Marina put in, even creating a persona, “Electra heart”, the protagonist of the album story.
Electra was a mentally unstable hopeless romantic, cold-hearted, and materialistic but afraid of heartbreak; the image of perfection, while decaying slowly inside, a suicidal barbie.
The character was inspired by the four archetypes; House Wife, Beauty Queen, Homewrecker, and Idle Teen.
Dedicated to the persona, she adorned Electra’s signature look in interviews, never leaving her house without her platinum blonde wig, a 50s look, and the iconic small eyeliner drawn heart on her cheek (a reference to wearing her heart on her cheek instead of her sleeve to avoid heartbreak).
Tumblr users, her targeted audience, quickly fell in love with Electra, and thus began the “Sad girl” era.
The “Sad girl” tumblr era, which started in 2012, heightened in 2014, and still continues to mildly live on, is a controversial one.
The “Sad girl” icons of the era comprised mostly of female artists who had somber music. Some of these artists included Lana Del Rey, Halsey, and of course Marina Diamandis.
The dark themes in Electra Heart that fans related to were; suicide, depression, mental illness, narcissism, eating disorders, being over-sexualized, and the male gaze.
An example is lyrics from her song, “Teen Idle”: “Wish I’d been a prom queen fighting for the title, instead of being sixteen and burning up a bible, feeling super, super, super suicidal.”
These stood as relatable lyrics to lost teens trying to find themselves.
Tumblr was a way to make friends who liked the album, while being able to have shared experiences with other users who experienced any of the themes that the album expressed. However, although it was a platform to feel like you belonged, there was a big problem with it.
There was little to no space for getting better, or seeking help for mental illnesses, instead it was romanticized. Teens would spend hours on the internet, getting into a deeper hole, instead of getting better.
This also became an issue when artists’ creative integrity and freedom were now being challenged because of the way their music was being consumed.
Becoming a “Sad Girl” artist was deemed as cool and glorifying, a good thing for marketing but horrible for artist’s mental health since now they felt like they had to sing somber songs in order to have appeal, thus what happened with Marina post-Electra.
A lot of thought processing and a long break. After FROOT, Marina’s 2015 album post-Electra Heart, she confessed she was unhappy and took a much-needed three-year hiatus before releasing new music.
Coming back to the scene in 2019 for her album Love + Fear, to find her place in music again, and take back her own artistic integrity.
“With Electra Heart, it was disappointing for me,” Marina reveals in a recent NYT interview. “Not because of the music, but because people think you’re different from who you really are,” she says.
It was a long path to self discovery, which required getting off of social media.
“Because of the internet and the close proximity people feel to an artist, they also feel that they have ownership,” says Marina in an interview with NME where she discussed her new album.
“And I had to say no to that… people are gonna change and some part of the fan base might not like it but then you know that’s the way that music shifts and moves. You can’t stop yourself from doing that to please other people.”
Making radio hits is something her younger self cared about but her present 35 year old self doesn’t care as much, preferring to sing on topics that interest her, thus the inception of her latest record ADIAML.
“I do feel like that ship has sailed, and in a positive way. I feel like I’ve had those moments but as an artist that’s not what really excites me anymore. It’s more like what am I interested in at the time and what do I wanna explore in myself,” she says.
Marina is just the pop star we need; an artist who’s not shy to address important issues, stepping out of the box on what constitutes pop music, while continuing to evolve.
But most importantly, she is letting fans know it’s ok to be a woman just figuring yourself out.