I don't know about you, but I love narrative fiction and I also love music. And there's something so witty and powerful about when the two are combined.
Obviously this is not a new phenomenon. And there's a lot of shit passed off as 'story telling in pop.' But I am suddenly actively appreciating artists whose lyrics specifically want to tell you a story about someone or something.
Recently, Marina and the Diamonds have taken a sort of funny turn that I don't know if I can condone. To assure myself that I do still like her, I've been rewatching stuff from her first album. I say 'rewatching' as apposed to 'relistening,' because her videos are always an intrinsic part of the narrative aspect of her song. My favourite it Hollywood, for several reasons:
- It poses complex questions about the desirability of the American aesthetic in terms of pop culture, life and moral choices.
- She states that she is, 'obsessed with the mess that's America.' A statement that calls herself into moral questioning, because she is openly admitting her admiration that she conversely knows manifestly not to be good.
- She tells the story of a Polish girl in America who is after the modern, glamourised 'American Dream,' while expressing her own desires to have this life she knows to be false, and, simultaneously, commenting on all of our desires to adhere to this idea of beauty, desirability and aspiration.
- The video is a witty and beautifully executed addition to the song's layered messages, making the aesthetic both desirable and ridiculous in it's pastiche of Americana. This is further highlighted by the sinisterly produced hook that starts the song: 'American Queen is the American Dream.'
- The clever and insightful lyrics:
'She is a Polish girl in America/ Tall, tanned hot blonde called Anya/ I asked her, "Why would you wanna be a Hollywood Wife?"/ "Because I don't want to end up living on a dive on Vine".'
'Hollywood infected you brain/ You really wanted kissing in the rain/ I've been living in the movie screen/ Puking American dreams.'
'Your mind is just like mine/ All filled up with things benign/ You're looking for the golden light.'
Not your regular lets get drunk, get on the floor, get in the sack sort of pop lyrics. Tres bien, Marina.
I can hear what you're thinking: Sure, there are about a million other examples in folk, nu-folk, rock, indie and all other kinds of music. What about amazing left-field artists like Joanna Newsom, Bob Dylan etc, etc? And you are right. But what I like about this specific example is the apparent mainstream nature of it all. It's like it's subtly sabotaging it's own world but in a way that might initially go unnoticed.
Her more recent single Primadonna hints at a similar interest in deconstructing the apparently desirable American pop image, but the lyrics are nowhere near as insightful. I can't help feeling she's succumbed to it a bit. The blonde hair with big black roots is an interesting statement though. And she has been releasing singles from Electra Heart in singles titled as Part 1, Part 2 and so on, implying they are parts of a story that makes up the album, or facets perhaps. In interviews, she has said this entire album is about love. Urgh. But it still has some MATD idiosyncrasies. I still have faith.