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Marina and the Diamonds: The Stage Is Her 'Seedy Honeymoon Motel'

©Robert Sebree
Marina and the Diamonds

The Welsh singer gets more focused and theatrical live

By Kathy Iandoli
Special to MSN Music

In 2010, Marina Diamandis performed before a crowd of 500 Diamonds (the "diamonds" are her fans, not the backing band) in New York's murky Le Poisson Rouge. As she sang her single "Hollywood," she belted the hook with both fervor and promise: "I'm obsessed with the mess that's America."

Fast forward two years and America's obsessed right back. Packing New York's 1,500-capacity Webster Hall recently, the experience is totally different from the previous one. Young ladies arrive clad in various looks from throughout Marina's youthful career: from her jet-black locks and red lipsticked beginnings to the latest blond-with- visible-roots and Tammy Faye Bakker lashes off her latest album, "Electra Heart." Fans are crying as they nail the lyrics, word for word, to songs like "Homewrecker," "Lies" and "I Am Not a Robot." Marina is arguably more polished this time around, both aesthetically and creatively. On "Electra Heart," she enlisted A-list producer Dr. Luke to assist in the crafting of smart pop masterpieces that would work as well in Walla Walla, Wash., as in her native Wales. It's not a hard sell, as this diamond combines pinup-girl looks with lush vocals, sounding like no other female artist presently recording music. Taking time out in the midst of her tour, Marina elaborates on her journey thus far and offers life lessons how to be a heartbreaker.

MSN Music: What differences have you noticed touring "Electra Heart" versus "The Family Jewels"?

Marina Diamandis: For "Electra Heart," it's done right because I really wanted to create something that was consistent and had an overall theme or image, at least. On the first album, there was no type of consistency in any shape or form  with the music, but also with the image or the live show. That's just because, you know, it's my first album. It's a lot more focused now and probably a bit more theatrical. I think with this album I wanted to take the pop model or that kind of pop formula and apply it to my kind of background, which was dark, depressing music. I think it worked really well. I have a bit more production now, too, which is very enjoyable. I enjoy the fact that I have based it around a fictional character, but really have been able to develop the idea and develop the villainous side of the character and the show. So now the stage is almost like a seedy honeymoon motel that's got, like, a fuzzy TV and, like, a hat stand where I do all my costume changes. It's really fun.

When "The Family Jewels" came out, had you any idea that your fan base in the States would grow to where it is now?

I hoped for bigger, really. Now that I look back on it, I was amazed that I actually had a fan base with that type of album. Although it wasn't super alternative, it wasn't super pop either, so it's really nice to be able to see that it's going where I always wanted it to. That's why I did make this sort of album and I was interested in working with pop producers and people who could bring me to a large audience because that's who I want to perform to. It's kind of all linked to the actual performance element of it. Even though I obviously love music, I just really love performing to large audiences.

Bing: Marina and the Diamond videos, songs and more

How do you create universal pop music when it feels like pop's current style in the U.K. is so different from the style here in the U.S.?

Interesting question because I feel like American pop production governs the universal kind of code of pop. Whatever's made in America goes straight on the radio in the U.K. Even though it's becoming more common from the U.K. to have artists get on American radio, it's not as likely that will happen. I don't really know how you balance it, but I worked with Dr. Luke for that reason, to be able to open me up to a bigger fan base. I think people don't really want to say that, but I don't care really. I mean, it's like, I obviously worked with him because he's a huge success with other artists, so it's kind of a basic thing. But you know; I don't ever work with anyone who I don't like. I just thought he was a good guy and I liked being with him.

So what do you put on your tour rider?

Boring crap like rice cakes, hummus. We do like a good whiskey or a good vodka. I like vodka and soda with lime, so I always put that on. It's like the healthiest, most non-hangover-y drink.

What would you give as one tip on how to be a heartbreaker?

My number one tip is, you should act disinterested. It's terrible, but it's true, isn't it? You should not be normal or friendly or like, text them back immediately. You've got to make them work for it. And don't sleep with them for ages! Seriously! If you do on the first night, they're not going to be interested.

Kathy Iandoli has written for publications including The Source, YRB, BUST, XXL,VIBE, RIME and Vapors, and her work has appeared online at MTV, AOL and MSN Music sites. She is the former Alternatives editor of AllHipHop.com and the current music editor of HipHopDX.com.

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