The ever increasingly crowded genre of female pop singers always makes for very interesting listening for two reasons. Firstly, you can look to identify who’ll go big in terms of commercial success next. Secondly (and this is where Marina Diamandis comes up) when that commercial success doesn’t arrive on a global scale, it’s always interesting to see what artistic avenue they go down next. Thankfully, Diamandis has opted to build upon the initial impressions she has made on the music-buying public on her first two albums and began a gradual progression to a more rounded, artistically impressionable sound. FROOT, as stated above is a stepping stone record and, as every good one does, it leaves you almost incapable of waiting for what comes next.
Opening track “Happy” does anything but live up to its name as the gentile piano melody serves as a bed to some of the most emotive vocals Diamandis has ever laid down. What’s truly the best part about this track though is how thick and distinctive her accent is. In the same way as most other singers from somewhere in Europe who sing in English, she uses it to highlight an extra layer in her song craft and set herself aside from her many contemporaries. FROOT sees Diamandis enter back into the dream-pop she so readily executed on her debut release. It is very clean cut, robotic and formatted but sounds somewhat whispy as well, mostly through the vocals of Diamandis, which are whacky but authoritative at the same time.
With “I’m A Ruin”, things become all the more conventional and noticeable as a Marina and the Diamonds song. It is more pop than its two predecessors but also more mature and less mainstream than that description may initially lead you to believe. We also discover a Florence Welch-like tone to her voice which suits her style of music exceptionally well. As soon as this is discovered however, it is immediately extinguished as, on “Blue”, Diamandis does more to blend in than stand out. The song structure is predictable, formulaic and surprisingly static for such a vibrant personality – certainly more of the Katy Perry than Florence Welch (not a bad thing at all – as long as it’s Katy doing it.)
“Forget” sees a more distinguishable vocal tone for Diamandis as she allows her accent to become more prominent and dictate her pronunciation of some words. This gives her more identity as a vocalist and takes the attention off what is a good, solid but relatively simple song. On “Gold”, the musicality is softer and Diamandis reacts to this by swapping her usual forceful vocal delivery for a much more fluid, integrated-with-the-track feel which relaxes the listener and allows them to let the sounds of the track just wash over them. The downside of this, however, is that the track itself is relatively impact-less.
The airy, whispery tones of “Can’t Pin Me Down” extend this perfectly as it has a bit more force than the blueprint laid down on “Gold”. On the introduction to “Solitaire”, Diamandis is distant vocally but an immaculately produced backing track means that she still sounds in perfect control of what she’s doing. It is a hazy, introspective song but it has a stability to it that is completely and utterly down to the conviction of Diamandis’ vocals.
The not-entirely-tangible make up of the last few tracks gives way to a much more bold approach on “Better Than That” where a rhythmic melody and clunky guitars give a lot more texture than we are used to from Diamandis and her sound is all the better for it. “Weeds” shifts the albums tone once more to the kind’ve introspectiveness that has blossomed from Katy Perry in recent memory on such tracks as “Wide Awake”.
A step back is taken on the fairly meaningless “Savages”. The attention to detail that Diamandis has taken in the run up to this song is almost totally abandoned here as her vocal track is withdrawn in all the wrong places and everything just feels like she’s trying a little too hard to be a clinical, anti-pop creator – something she might be in some areas, but certainly not entirely. The bloated closing track “Immortal” is a strange note to finish with but it kind of works as Diamandis explores a dream pop narrative with a popping and bubbling backing track and just allows that to dictate the tempo and flow of her voice and tone. This is certainly Diamandis’ most rounded work so far.
On first listen, Froot will probably not be a fan favorite but, the more you revisit it, the more you’re able to see what Diamandis is trying to do here. By removing herself ever so gradually from the front and center pop world she previously inhabited and increasingly immersing herself in an entirely more artistic landscape, she is growing before our eyes as an artist. Bring on the next few records, I say.