Why be a wallflower when you can be a venus fly-trap?
These are the words that echo through my bathroom acoustics as I sing along in my Friday night shower to herald the end of a long week. Ever since its release on June 11th, Marina’s fifth album Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land has been accompanying me on my Sunday runs, my work breaks and even my bedtime routine.
There’s something incredibly satisfying about growing up alongside the artists you love, and both Marina and I have come a long way since her Family Jewels days. Lyrics like ‘cause I feel like I’m the worst, so I always act like I am the best, were prescribed as medicine and motivation as I pushed through the lows of what was my high school experience.
Hearing and seeing her flower in this new era, has not just been a treat as a long-time fan (I mean just look at those aesthetics! We stan a pin-up psychedelic futuristic environmental queen), but it almost feels cathartic too. It is no secret that Marina has struggled with mental health issues for a long time, up to the point when her hiatus a few years ago felt more like definitive retirement and once she returned, completely dropped the ‘and the Diamonds’ part of her stage name and simply became ‘Marina’. These challenges and experiences are themes intricately explored in her work and it’s exactly what draws her fanbase back to her no matter how many years go by.
And although this album is no exception to the rule, fitting very well into Marina’s musical universe, there is no denying that it feels different and healthier for both her and her fanbase. The introspection that marks so much of her soul-wrenching lyricism is not heavy anymore but instead liberating. I can’t help but wonder if therapy and even some strong daily self-affirmations were involved in the making of this album.
This is something that immediately grabbed my attention when listening to her singles, and later, the collection of 10 songs that make up the record. Beyond the very explicit (and honestly understandable) middle finger to the patriarchy and capitalism in her songs, Marina seems to be genuinely healing and sharing many of her new self-fulfilling prophecies with her audience. The beauty of it, however, lies in the fact that none of it feels forced or pretentious.
The narrative of Marina’s work and life makes phrases like, ‘You don’t have to be like everybody else. You don’t have to fit into the norm. You are not here to conform,’ feel more like advice coming from a lifelong friend who is wise beyond their years, instead of eye-rolling positivity mantras that mums throw our way when trying to comfort us. Having these kinds of phrases on a loop does something deeper to a person’s mind and outlook than we recognise. There is research to suggest positive daily affirmations can change the way we see ourselves and the world for the better.
Marina uses both music and visuals in this era to really evoke not just feel-good bops, but full-blown empowerment anthems. Utilising a powerful femininity force that has been missing from mainstream pop culture for far too long, as captured in Man’s World and Purge the Poison.
Re-appropriating femininity, with all of its caring, softness and fluid characteristics has always been an act of resistance in a hyper-masculine world like ours. Regardless of sex and gender, anyone embracing the features of the feminine can use its healing force not just for themselves but for the collective good. Reconnecting with these parts of ourselves will save us and the earth in the process.Certainly one of the central messages conveyed by Marina in this era.
Of course, I already knew ‘I don’t wanna live in a man’s world anymore’ even before Marina sang it in her mezzo-soprano voice, but hearing someone you look up to share the same feelings is an extremely validating experience. Many of the affirming and positive hooks used in the album have made their way into my brain like most catchy pop songs do, except this time I find myself gaining confidence with each repetition.
Just like Marina, the growth and change in mindsets I’ve experienced over the last few years adds to my willingness to embrace this much-needed positivity. And if there is any truth to the saying ‘fake it til you make it’, then listening to Marina’s empowering songs is the fastest shortcut to cultivating this energy. Which I could secretly attest to judging by the way I feel after my shower jams.
Marina’s Ancient Dreams in a Modern World is available anywhere you listen to your music, so why not go find some of your own mantras within her words soon?