MARINA Shines Free and Heals from Heartbreak on Album Ancient Dreams: 'You Have to Be Your Compass'
"'Marina and the Diamonds?' It's cute," she says as she opens up about maturity, heartbreak and owning her femininity. "It's for your twenties, but I'm 35 now. You know?"
MARINA stands firm and confident in her power and musical prowess.
On Friday, the Welsh singer-songwriter released her fifth album, Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land - her most introspective, yet beautifully chaotic record to date as she sings from the perspective of Mother Nature, heals from her pandemic breakup and asks: "Why be a wallflower, when you can be a Venus fly trap?"
At 35 - and 11 years after the release of her debut LP The Family Jewels - MARINA revisits the campy pop-perfect sounds of her beloved '& the Diamonds' identity, but with an emotional maturity only captured by Marina Diamandis, the woman behind the last decade of musical magic.
"I lived so much of my life tied up with my identity as an artist, and that's so rigid and unnatural," MARINA tells PEOPLE candidly. "Real life doesn't work like that. I just thought, 'I need to do anything I can to make myself feel more authentic and comfortable.'"
"We all have to grow up at some point," she adds of changing her stage name. "'Marina and the Diamonds?' It's cute. It's for your twenties, but I'm 35 now. You know?"
The first taste of just 'MARINA' came with Love + Fear in 2019, a two-part, more "subdued" record with tracks that she says showed a "different side of me" and reflected her mental state during a lengthy hiatus following her album Froot.
"I felt so deeply depressed and so lost for a good two years that I tried everything to get out of it," she says. "Songs like 'Orange Trees' and 'Enjoy Your Life,' they were just desperate attempts to create happiness in my life because I didn't have it."
Though only 10 songs, Ancient Dreams can be sonically split into two.
The first half - with all of her singles, including its title track - touches on everything from global warming and femininity to Harvey Weinstein going to jail and owning one's identity to the fullest extent.
"Man's World" is a feminist anthem. "I was feeling fatigued with the current system. I want to see change," she says. "Purge the Poison," a reflection of the times we're living, sung from the perspective of Mother Nature. "That's a much more chaotic song," she says with a laugh. "The world we live in really lacks femininity. We need more feminine so we can connect with Earth and nature. So that we care again."
And "Venus Fly Trap?" "A strong-rooted song that's silly and sassy," she says of the song that accompanies a music video reminiscent of her Hollywood-dreaming Electra Heart era. But the song is much more than that.
"I think some of us in life have had experiences that have made us feel like we couldn't be ourselves, or that we had to play it small so that other people liked us," she says. "I've experienced that as a kid, but also in my career. It's a pattern. It's not really anyone else's fault. I really don't feel like that anymore. I don't think we're here to play it small and live the lives that our partners or our parents or our friends want us to live. We're here to be ourselves and to bring to the world whatever we have to bring to it."
"That song," she adds. "It's a celebration for me."
By track five, the album shifts into more reflective tracks "about the end of a relationship," MARINA says. During the pandemic, the singer and her boyfriend, Clean Bandit's Jack Patterson, split after five years. "It reflects the reality of it," she says of the album's second half.
"It is very discombobulating. It's the only word that sums it up," she explains of her breakup."It's strange because you're already in an isolating situation, but what helped me push through? My work. Being able to create and have something that anchors me has been a gift."
Like going through the grief of a lost love, her track "Highly Emotional People" sings to a former partner that struggles to share their feelings. "You know it's safe to tell me how you feel," she sings. "I never see you cry." Then, by "I Love You But I Love Me More," she reminds herself that self-love comes first, before singing on "Flowers" that maybe if he tried a bit harder, she "would've stayed."
And, fittingly, she ends the album with the lyrically powerful "Goodbye" as she says farewell to the "girl that I've been" and her former lover. "I will never be yours again," she sings. The song is the perfect coda to Ancient Dreams, while still manifesting renewal. It marks the end, but welcomes a new beginning.
Today, is she seeing anyone? "You're getting the gossip," she quips. "No, I'm not seeing anyone at the moment, but I've always enjoyed my own company. I'm pretty good, fortunately, on my own."
On her own, MARINA is more confident now than ever before.
While making this album, she's realized that her strong suits come in her self-expression and writing. She's also cognizant that, perhaps, one day she'll step away from the stage and celebrity. "As a performer, I'm not sure. At some point, I would maybe want to not always be public," she says. But from writing? "I feel like I could do that my whole life," she assures.
"As a writer, I feel limitless," she adds. "I think you've always got to be your own North Star. You have to be your compass. No one else knows where you're going. You can't let somebody help you find your path. That has to come from you."
It's as if MARINA is speaking to her younger self: the heart-on-cheek-and-the-Diamonds MARINA that sings about longing for fame and teaches you "How to Be a Heartbreaker."
"It feels like listening to another person," she says about her old records, which she admits are often "too uncomfortable" to revisit. "Songs Like 'Oh No' or 'Hollywood' or 'I'm Not a Robot,' I still love those songs genuinely. It's other songs like 'Are You Satisfied?' and 'Hermit the Frog,' where I'm like 'What the f-?' They were so mad."
"They were baby me," she adds.
Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land, then, proves that MARINA knows what she wants, why she wants it and where she wants to go with it.
Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land is out now and MARINA will perform a livestream show on Saturday night. She's also set to hit the road next February.
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