Some things to know about “Primadonna,” the latest by Marina and the Diamonds off Electra Heart
1. This is part four in a video series–although they’re all separate scenes, so you could probably rearrange them or watch “Radioactive” after this instead of before it, with no real effect aside from maybe upsetting Marina.
2. “Primadonna” is a big ball of irony sprinkled with mockery and shoved beneath a blonde wig, roots be damned. But it’s the sort of irony that allows you to conveniently get Dr. Luke, Cirkut and Diplo (well, Diplo-in-name-only) to produce your teaser single, the sort of remove where you can poke fun at the very pop sound that nets you a new audience. Writer Tim Finney called this genre tourism–you get to be pop, but you’ve got a ready-made rebuttal for anyone who’d call you on it. This is fairly common–Lady Gaga did the exact same thing around The Fame, for instance, and Madonna has pre-emptively justified half of MDNA this way–and it’s not always bad. For it not to be completely annoying, though, two things need to happen. First, you’ve got to actually be going for this in the first place, rather than tacking the “it’s ironic!” explanation on after poor reviews. Marina’s Electra Heart interviews, not to mention track titles like “Bubblegum Bitch,” “Teen Idle,” “Archetypes” and “Valley of the Dolls,” all of which are either creepy, winking, insulting or all three at once.
3. Secondly, the track’s either got to stand alone without all the irony or do something interesting with it. “Primadonna” doesn’t quite work on its own, mainly because Marina never sounds quite comfortable in the upper register or singing these words; it’s the musical equivalent of what’s going on with her hair and costumes. The song’s most interesting, in fact, when Marina grumbles down into her lower register, sounding way more ferocious than any princess-gowned coquette ever would. That’s something you don’t get often, even if the “I’m a star” song is barbed.
4. That said, “Prima donna girl” is a bizarre conceit to hang a chorus on; it’s essentially saying “first lady girl.” But maybe that too is deliberate! See, this is the problem with writing about deliberately ironic tracks. You never know which criticisms are going to get laughed off.
5. Is this where a rating should go? OK. 3.5 stars, edging toward 4. Maybe if I borrow the office’s blonde wig (the office has one!), that extra half-bolt might strike?