When I was first introduced to Welsh singer-songwriter Marina and the Diamonds with her iconic pop synth anthem “Primadonna,” I was in love with this bold, fearless style of song. Although catchy—and I hastily played it on repeat—there was an irreverence I knew I wouldn’t hear on American radio waves. From the sounds themselves to the bold, eye-catching videos she produced, there was something that felt incredibly authentic in what was arguably extraordinarily staged.
Comparatively, Marina’s (she’s dropped the whole “Diamonds” entourage) new album Love + Fear feels stripped down and emotionally exposed. But in these slowed, contemplative tunes, this display feels anything but gimmicky. On the contrary, what emerges from Love + Fear is a quiet but daring vulnerability. After taking some time away from creating music, Marina’s had time to reflect and her assertations about life are profound. Perhaps “Soft to be Strong” says it best: “To heal a heart is slow/it’s a just a consequence of pain.”
That is actually the soul of this album: the complex, inter-dependent relationship between love and fear. To love fully, to love wholeheartedly is risking fear. In fact, it’s the presence of that fear, that great pain, that means we are truly, completely vulnerable as our true selves. Fear is the gatekeeper to authenticity. The 16 songs that make up Love + Fear split into one of those two categories (though there is arguably philosophical overlap).
Furthermore, Marina has stated that the theme of “To Be Human” (and the single of the same name) is also at the center of the album and that this stems from recent political situations. In the world of Brexit and Donald Trump, we may seem more divided than ever before. But the challenges and questions explored in Love + Fear prove that we are more alike than different, and that we are “united by our pain.”
This is not to say there aren’t joyful tracks on the album. Both “Enjoy Your Life” and “Orange Trees” harken back more immediately to the bubbly pop nature we heard in Marina’s earlier work. But that’s the point—life isn’t just joy, and it’s not just pain. Life is the intersection of the two and how we navigate that tension is who we are; it’s the human journey.
What I have always loved about Marina is still present in this album: her distinctive vocals, her asymmetrical beats, and a certain quirky vibe. If you’re looking for that strong dance pop style that defined Marina’s work in 2012, you may need to hold fast to those early records (the closest track to that is arguably “Superstar”). But in my book, Love + Fear is an album of intense maturity and growth, an album of courage. It’s a strength not many artists have—to be so unflinching true to who they are.
Love + Fear is out now. Do yourself a favor and pick up your copy today.
Follow Marina on Spotify.