Diamonds are a girl’s best friend – until they’re not. Shedding the “diamonds” in her title, Marina Diamandis now goes by her first name only. The choice reflects a shift in her music that applies to her sound as much as her subject matter. For longtime listeners, this transition may come as a bit of a shock considering the spunky interloper of The Family Jewels, the melodramatic diva of Electra Hart and the temptress of Froot. While those albums were more assured, Love +Fear never quite resonates with any authenticity. Diamandis famously declared herself her own “self-fulfilling prophecy,” and here that prediction comes true for better and for worse—mostly, for worse.

Of the many pop acts of the ‘10s, Diamandis boasts a relatively strong showing in terms of output and following. She saw a steady rise from her Tumblr-tinted beginnings towards the more contemporary pop star she’s become. Whether or not she’s aware of this plays into the annoyance and (possible) brilliance of Love + Fear, the type of record she accused the industry of forcing upon her in “Hollywood” or “Outsider.” A line like “So sit back/ Enjoy your problems” feels disingenuous from the artist who began her debut with “Are you satisfied with an easy ride?” Yet you wonder how an artist with such self-awareness fell into this trope.

Like any medium obviously vying to be trendy, Love + Fear fails the most when it tries the hardest. The dance pop melodies poorly suit her and her subjects, instead making her ply for relevance look all the more overt. Her anthropology studies on “To Be Human” reveal nothing novel, only shallow platitudes that made a song like “Savages” also seem trivial. Dancehall elements in “Karma” make it a dead ringer for Frenship’s “Capsize,” a similarity which only further hints at an accessibility pivot.
Speaking of similarities, “Enjoy Your Life,” “Too Afraid,” and “Life is Strange” all feature variations on the same rhythms and chord progressions, a sign that maybe this album did not need to be double-sided. Admittedly, the “OoOoOoOorange” line in “Orange Trees” ingrains itself into your head with the tenacity of a palm tree to a deserted island.

If you lean into the trends, do it the way My Chemical Romance produced The Black Parade: when you play into something, play with it as well. When she plunged into electropop with “Primadonna,” Diamandis sauntered through haters and fans alike in search for her best angles. In doing so, she exemplified a moment (Tumblr self-importance) and channeled it through a bizarre pop song where the beat falls out in the chorus instead of the verses.

Love + Fear gives Diamandis a new accessory: insecurity. As one gets older, certainty gets harder to come by; imagine how much worse that must feel after a decade in the music biz? She previously hinted at her own uncertainties with Froot’s “Gold,” and this album feels like a sad culmination of that fear. “Don’t know what I’m doing with my life” she admits, but its blatant lack of direction makes you wonder if its directionless composition play into another one of her infamous roles? If so, it’s impressive, if only for the dedication alone.

Thankfully, Diamandis still boasts one defining quality – that rich, round voice capable of conveying lust, loss and casual threats. “Soft to be Strong” resounds with earned wisdom cultivated through patience and likely a bit of heartbreak. It is what imbues Love + Hate with conviction when the melodies and lyrics fail.

Artists evolve, and true fans understand and accept these changes. When she sang in “True” that, We will never change,” nobody held it against her. Then again, nobody imagined this is what she’d become.

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