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Marina's on sparkling form
7:00am Saturday 12th May 2012 in Music
Marina And The Diamonds are back with a new album Electra Heart, released on Monday, April 30. On the eve of a UK tour, beginning Thursday, May 3, Marina Diamandis tells Andy Welch about the album, the heartbreak that inspired it and her new eponymous alter-ego.
Marina And The Diamonds isn't the first artist to be inspired by heartbreak, and she most certainly won't be the last.
Throughout music history, the failed relationship has informed great swathes of writing. Mozart channelled a broken heart into his lustful tale of revenge Don Giovanni, and even then, in the late 18th-century, it was a familiar subject matter.
What 26-year-old Welsh-born Marina Diamandis has done with her second album Electra Heart, is create a whole new character to both help her deal with emotional sadness, and shield her from any further heartache.
"I read a quote that to avoid homewreckers, you have to become one," she explains, while dressed as her creation for a photoshoot: all platinum blonde curls, gingham dress and heart-shaped sticker on her cheek.
"That was my starting point. When a relationship ends, you feel like you never want to go out with anyone ever again.
"It's embarrassing to admit that, but self-preservation kicks in, and that led to thinking, 'If you don't want to have your heart broken again, you must then become a heartbreaker', and Electra came from that."
Keen to stress Electra Heart isn't an alter-ego, as such, more of a 'shadow' (things get complicated in Marinaworld), she says she can, through her creation, say and do all the things she can't when she's Marina.
"I figure she's a metaphor for what it's like when you're heartbroken. Everything is taken to the Nth degree; everything about her is super-feminine and pink. The blonde hair conveys purity and innocence, while actually being something more sinister. I wanted to play with the idea of the female ideal and identity, and how, when you're not compatible with someone, you start to become what you think they would like.
"Essentially I wanted to make a gimmick out of love," she continues.
"It got me wondering if other people felt the same way after being rejected, and instead of making a break-up record, I've made a record that's about heartbreak, but with darker, more humorous elements to it.
"The songs Bubblegum Bitch, Homewrecker and Primadonna are all about someone who doesn't need anyone anymore. Everyone wants to be like that, because being a victim is embarrassing."
Marina, whose surname is Greek for diamonds, won't reveal the name of the person who broke her heart, because "that would ruin all the fun", but says he only directly inspired two or three songs on the album anyway.
The way she says this hints the statement isn't quite true. It's just possible he, whoever he is, had a more profound effect on her than she's willing to admit.
"Writing the album was my way of coping with being so upset," she says, finally. "I would have gone mad without something to do. It's a bit cliched, writing about a boy dumping you, but some of the best songs ever have been about heartbreak.
"Adele has done pretty well out of it, writing a fantastic album about a doomed relationship."
She says she feels much better now, and despite all the tears, hasn't ruled out other relationships.
"I don't think I'm seeking out doom and gloom because I want the inspiration, I'm not that weird," she says, laughing.
"I am obsessed with the fact lots of artists don't have the same spark in them when they get older, though. It's because they're finally happy or don't have the same hang-ups they did when they were younger.
"Artists that are miserable continue to be creative for much longer, especially female artists, but I don't want that. I don't want to be miserable forever for the sake of music."
It's possible, having just postponed her UK tour by six weeks, that Marina isn't feeling too calm at the moment, but when we spoke, at least, she was exuding zen-like mannerisms.
"I've made something I'm incredibly proud of with Electra Heart, and I'm definitely feeling better than when I released my first album (2010's The Family Jewels).
"It took me a while to write and finish Electra Heart, but that's because I took my time and care. Not that I rushed and did a bad job first time around, but I just know so much more now, and I don't care about money so much, whereas I did before - we didn't have any.
"With the first album, I wasn't seen as a profitable act in the same way that maybe I am now."
While Marina may be seen as a mainstream act these days, she has, in the past, been very vocal of her disappointment with the way her career was going.
After shuttling back and forth between England and Greece as a child (her dad is Greek), Marina attended four universities in as many years before finally deciding on trying to realise her dream of becoming a singer.
Billed as the next big thing before her debut was released, The Family Jewels peaked at No 5 in the charts and sold more than 100,000 copies. Not bad, but for someone who dreams of world domination, disappointing.
"Well, if I'm honest, the British media had a different reaction to that sort of thing. As Brits, we're supposed to be self-deprecating, and I was slapped down for daring to say I wish my album had sold better and that I was more well known. In America, they love ambition and people wanting to do well.
"It's weird though, because I was asked about the whole thing again and rephrased it slightly to say that I felt like a failure for underperforming, and suddenly all these people were writing 'I can't believe she thinks she's a failure, she's done really well'.
"They were the people that said I'd underperformed and criticised me for wanting to be bigger! It's a very mixed world. But I rely much less on people's opinions for self-assurance this time around.
"I'm much happier now."
Extra time - Marina And The Diamonds :: Marina Lambrini Diamandis was born to a Greek dad and Welsh mum in Brynmawr in South Wales, a tiny town about 10 miles from Abergavenny, on October 10, 1985.
:: The 'Diamonds' in her name refer to her fans.
:: She came second on the BBC's influential Sound Of 2010 poll, losing out to Ellie Goulding.
:: Marina cites PJ Harvey as her biggest influence: "I have massive respect for her, such an amazing artist who never cared about being mainstream, or succeeding on a level of money and fame. That's the way to be with art."
:: Don't expect any raunchy videos from Marina: "I think a lot of women took hold of [raunch] because they think it's empowering. It isn't. It's just another way of dealing with a seedy part of our culture."