Having grown up in the entirely under-stimulating world of suburbia, I, like my pubescent counterparts, spent my fair share of time on the internet as a teen. Angst-filled and thirsty for culture, I passed the hours by scrolling through thousands of miles of Internet feed, especially on Tumblr. It was on this bizarre and addicting vortex of a blogging website that I discovered some of my favorite artists, authors and musicians. Namely, Marina and the Diamonds.
Marina has since become a musical staple of mine, turning on her tracks when I’m in need of familiarity. Her bubblegum melodies, paired with her throaty British-accented voice, make for an incomparable soundscape. With the release of her latest album, Froot, my love for Marina has turned into full-fledged obsession. If I had a dollar for every time I listened to Froot, I would probably be able to fund my Spotify account for the next century.
Marina is beautiful, has a killer fashions sense and is witty as hell. But what I love most about Marina is her ability to capture and put into words what it is like to be a young woman right now — complicated, contradictory and confusing. Her ABBA-esque electro pop offers an abundance of insight about the world we live in and how to take it in stride. Here are the essential lessons:
Do not take any shit from fuckbois (or their female equivalents): Though simply put, this lesson is deceptively hard to execute. I came to this Marina-induced realization shortly after listening to “How To Be a Heartbreaker” for the first time (though this mantra could be derived from much of her work). “How To Be a Heartbreaker” flips traditional gender roles upside down and gives women power in situations of seduction. The track is flirty and somewhat sarcastic, with cheeky lyrics such as, “Singing I lo-lo-love you/ At least I think I do.” It busts down the expectation that women should be docile and complacent, especially in situations in which they are uncomfortable. Is some guy bothering you with his incessant stories of how he sometimes borrows his cousin’s sick motorcycle in an attempt to get in your pants? You’re not a doormat; you can walk away.
Sometimes you need a little company: On Froot’s initial track, “Happy,” Marina tackles the double-edged sword that is wanting to be wanted — longing for attention but not wanting to seem needy. She sets the scene of an introverted narrator, a woman who is satisfied with herself but has a nagging suspicion that something is missing. Singing “I realize to be happy/ Maybe I need a little company,” shows that being happy with who you are does not ensure permanent protection from loneliness. You can maintain your street cred as a self-sufficient, badass feminist and still want to hang out with your significant other all weekend.
Contradictions are OK: Everyone is guilty of hypocrisy at one point or another. Being hypocritical is somewhat intrinsic; it is impossible to maintain a singular opinion on everything. But contradicting oneself isn’t always a negative — it suggests a multiplicity of self. In “Can’t Pin Me Down,” Marina challenges modern culture’s need to neatly organize everything and everyone into a distinct category. Lyrics such as “All these contradictions pouring out of me/ Just another girl in the 21st century” and “What is it that you are having trouble to define/ I am never gonna give you anything you expect,” suggest that life should be lived on a continuum. There is a freedom in never having to be exactly one thing or another. Embrace it.
Being young is weird and kind of creepy: The idea of youth is one cloaked in images of friendly hangouts, first loves and harmless rule breaking. In reality, the lengths some young people go to in order to achieve this façade of perfection is anything but charming. There is a distinctly problematic duplicity that comes with being a teenager; you are no longer a child but not technically an adult. This confusion of identity can create a multitude of tumultuous situations. Hauntingly accurate, “Teen Idle” depicts the reality of growing up. Addressing substance abuse and body image, Marina sings “I wanna drink until I ache/ I wanna make a big mistake/ I want blood, guts and angel cake/ I’m gonna puke it anyway.” Obviously, not every teen experiences thoughts as negative as these, but Marina takes these seemingly mature issues and makes them accessible to teens. The lesson here is that no one’s life plays out like an ‘80s romantic comedy; perfection is essentially unattainable and that’s OK.
Letting your guard down is not a sign of weakness: People seem to have this weird, misconstrued notion that those who keep themselves emotionally closed off from the world are more mentally tough than those who are openly accepting. I’m not really sure how we, as a society, thought up this idea, but it’s bullshit. In “Fear and Loathing” Marina comes to the realization that “There is no crime in being kind/ Not everyone is out to screw you over/ Maybe, oh just maybe they just wanna get to know ya.” I feel like this is such an important concept for teenagers to grasp, as we often think that being too emotionally available is “uncool.” The sense of freedom that comes from letting go of anxiety and loathing is so much more satisfying than being known as that “cool, brooding kid.”
Through my time spent trolling the internet for what I then thought was the greatest exposure to art and culture in the world, I’m eternally grateful to Tumblr and my fourteen-year-old-antisocial self for joining forces to introduce me to Marina and the Diamonds. How else would I have learned to deal with those pesky, immature boys my freshman year of high school? Would I be an emotionless drone, too afraid to let anyone in? Or would I be gunning for that picture perfect teenage life? I’m happy to say I don’t know.