Marina Diamandis has never really been someone to conform to pop’s mediocre standards. Like her peers Lana Del Rey and Lorde, she has been a proud oddity whose musical releases have been as infrequent as her chart appearances. It’s been four years since her glammed up and vibrant FROOT showcased her true vocal prowess and lyrical ingenuity. It’s dangerous not releasing music for four years. Only Adele has ever pulled it off successfully. Now, obviously, Marina is no Adele, but that has not stopped her from defying everybody’s expectations and dropping her most vulnerable piece of work yet.
Handmade Heaven is a noticeably stripped down progression from the glitz and glam of her past discography. The powerful and authoritative vocals on FROOT have been substituted for a far more fragile and tender persona. The electropop dance elements that called back to the 90s is no more. Instead, we have this atmospheric, ambient production that is far more reminiscent to the somber tunes of Lana Del Rey’s Lust For Life and, surprisingly, Taylor Swift’s Delicate. It’s a far less glamorous image and is likely the explanation for the omission of ‘And The Diamonds’.
Handmade Heaven, as the title suggests, explores the narrative of belonging to a place that was built with you in mind. As she sings,
I envy the birds high up in the trees
They live out their lives so purposefully
I envy the spiders, the squirrels and seeds
They all find their way automatically
she explores the everlasting question, “What is my purpose?”. While the life around her work their days like clockwork, Marina herself is unsure as to her role in her surroundings. She doesn’t feel the innate instinct to do something, unlike the animals in her surroundings. She isn’t necessarily lost, because being lost would suggest that there is a path to begin with. With Handmade Heaven, Marina tinkers with the idea of making your own path. Choosing your own destiny.
This is supported by the verse, where she belts,
But in this handmade heaven, I come alive
Bluebirds forever colour the sky
In this handmade heaven, we forget the time
’Cause birds of a feather fly together
Marina herself explains the chorus quite well, tweeting,
In a way that kinda reminded me of Lorde’s Homemade Dynamite, Marina is on the search for others of her kind. People she can vibe with, or in her words, the same wavelength. However, unlike Homemade Dynamite, Handmade Heaven comes from a darker place.
She feels lonely. Not physically, no. She’s surrounded by friends, family, fans and the press. In a manner that exudes the same energy as Lana Del Rey’s Ride, which I had previously evaluated, Handmade Heaven is a quest in search of the one. While Lana fell from grace and entered into self-destructive lifestyles on Ride, Marine chooses a far more introspective approach and looks within. As she tweeted, she creates an imaginary paradise. One that is blissfully ignorant of all the worldly chaos in favor of happiness, albeit one that, at some point, is destined to break. Both of these songs choose to ignore the real problem and instead create temporary solutions that solve the issue for now. Lana chooses to drown herself in alcohol, drugs, sugar daddies and money, while Marina opts to alter her mental perspective and place herself in this escapist cocoon of hope.
It sounds amazing. At least, it should.
The production makes it very clear that this song doesn’t celebrate. It’s not a triumphant victory over internal demons. Is this an acknowledgment of the future demise of this handmade heaven? Maybe. Who knows. This is Marina, anything is possible.
There is one thing for certain, however. Judging by the lead single off her upcoming studio album, it’s safe to say that Marina’s ability to put out great music has not diminished over her hiatus.
Guess diamonds aren’t really a girl’s best friend now are they?
Sit on my own, look over the town
The skyscrapers glow like they’ll never fall down