It may sound trite to begin with some version of "time flies," but it's difficult to avoid the sentiment this time of year—The Family Jewels turned ten years old on February 15th. The debut studio album of Marina, then performing under the name Marina and the Diamonds, ushered in a wave of emotional lyrics masked by danceable pop. From the deceptively upbeat and hits–slightly–too–close–to–home “Oh No!” to the vulnerable ode to isolation “I Am Not A Robot,” the album is filled with some of Marina’s classics. On “Hollywood,” she sings about the allure of American commercialism while “Girls” is filled with a sarcastic overturning of all of the stereotypes women must overcome. It’s personal and honest, the perfect example of how pop music can be made powerful.
Regardless of how good the songs are, however, listening to them in 2020 is always tinged with a bit of near sadness. Though the album received generally positive reviews, it never launched Marina’s career in the way many expected. For the past decade, Marina walked the line between the mainstream and the underground in a way conducive to a devoted following but not the major success she seems, like many others, to want. For fans ranging from the casual listener to the superfan, this journey has been baffling..
In a recent tweet, Marina reflected on how difficult it is to describe her emotions towards The Family Jewels era. She described how she is grateful for the gift of being an artist, but was ultimately unprepared for the amount of criticism she received for doing something a bit different with her music. Throughout her third album, Froot, Marina reflects on how tired she is of waiting for success when she has worked so hard to attain it. With lyrics such as "Don't you give me a reason / That it's not the right season," in the titular song as well as "Gimme everything, all your heart can bring / Something good and true / I don't wanna feel blue anymore," in "Blue," it's clear Marina is unafraid to vocalize both her ambitions and frustrations with her position in the music industry.
Marina's evolution adds another edge to this overwhelming nostalgia. On every album she’s made, Marina has grown. Electra Heart is everything that The Family Jewels is not, and both Froot and Love + Fear feel even more foreign. Obviously, that's not a bad thing. Unlike many other artists, Marina could never be accused of monotony, all songs sounding the same. It takes indescribable talent to create and then perform such diverse—and personal—art. However, it does mean each album is of an era that cannot be recreated. Alongside the fact that, for many young adults, the Family Jewels era coincided with the equally inaccessible middle school and early teenage years, the album itself is so very bittersweet.
Nevertheless, the tinge of sadness now infused the album doesn't take away from its mastery. In fact, it adds to it. One of the main criticisms of the album, interestingly, was that some considered it to be overproduced, preventing raw emotion from shining through. However, the visceral nostalgia tthe past ten years have only brought to the album only serve to highlight the vulnerability that made everyone fall in love with it in the first place.