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LiveBaltimore: Marina & the Diamonds w/ Icona Pop @ Ram’s Head
December 11, 2012 | 2:00PM

We’ve all been there: we love an artist for being over-the-top and relentlessly honest, because those can be rare qualities in an underdog. We love them for refusing to behave as if they are an underdog. We want them to gain success by remaining this way, because it’s supposedly a statement about individuality and non-conformity, or something inane to that effect. So naturally, we all feel a little let down when that artist does a complete 180 to reach that success, and we believe they’ve abandoned what made them special to us. But the thing is, we still want to believe in them, so we keep giving them chances. It’s because of this stubborn admiration that I ended up at Ram’s Head on Sunday night, hoping that Marina and the Diamonds would convince me.

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I am cheering for Icona Pop to take over US radio. I want them to be overplayed Ever since a friend sent “I Love It” to me, I could not believe that this wasn’t already a Top 40 hit. This is the first full US tour for the Swedish synthpop duo, and they’re succeeding in making a name for themselves. Staying true to their craft, Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo mixed their songs live, presenting them in ways I’ve never heard before (and there are so many remixes of “Manners” as it is). A room full of fifteen year old girls and their gay best friends (did I mention I was babysitting?) were quickly catching onto the lyrics of “Nights Like This,” and watching them frantically yell the words back, you could tell that they were falling in love. I have never been so happy to hear the shrill screams of peppy high school girls.

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From the first note of Homewrecker, it’s obvious- Hollywood has infected Marina Diamandis’ brain, but I’m ecstatic that it did. This is the performance we’ve been waiting for. Something’s always been lacking in her past shows, and each time she inches just a bit closer to convincing us that she’s the “ambitious bitch” that she claims to be, but just barely misses the mark. This time, her personality overpowers any of her many flashy costumes. At one point, she emerges in a pageant dress, donning a sash that reads “Miss Selfish Bitch,” and I finally believe that she exists somewhere in the character she’s created.

Not only did her glittering confidence breathe life into an album I had almost given up on, but it revived personal favorites like “Oh No,” which wasn’t memorable the first time I heard it live but truly stood out this time around. For the most part, it’s because Marina finally appears to believe the things that she says about herself. “Power and Control,” a song I’ve never cared for was what really did it for me, because I never thought I’d hear Marina sound this grand. I began to wonder if we “original” Diamonds had been too hard on her, because Electra Heart wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t what we wanted. And Marina told us herself, she isn’t concerned with what anyone wants from her.

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But being a sweet “Bubblegum Bitch” means she gives it to us anyway. We’re treated to “Shampain” and “Hollywood,” and they feel brand new rather than part of her past. It’s fantastic to see that the Diamonds are dedicated, as they belt out old lyrics just as loud as the new ones. And she’s just as in love with her Diamonds as they are with her.

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At one point, I have to wonder: how does Marina feel knowing that her Diamonds are the kind of girls she probably hated when she was a teenager? Looking around Ram’s Head made for some absurd people watching, and that alone could have made my night. There were even several girls dressed up like her with bouffants, tiaras, pink dresses and gold heels they couldn’t walk in, I realized: these are the girls that Marina sings about in “Girls.” Wouldn’t she have rolled her eyes at girls who obsessed over pop stars to the point that they dressed like them at their concerts? I suppose that when you have fans of your own, you don’t see them that way because they’re no longer your peers. In this case, they’re the ones that made you number one on iTunes.
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Just like any Marina fan who fell in love with The Family Jewels and just couldn’t connect with Electra Heart, I hated to think that Marina had turned her back on the things that made her truly unique. No one wants to believe that someone they’re rooting has abandoned style in pursuit of commercial success. But let’s be honest– if this is what it took for Marina’s ridiculously confident self to shine through, it was well worth it. To see her completely at ease on stage, owning all her lyrics with a sweet smile and riding the energy of a screaming crowd– there are no more question marks. I’m even starting to believe in Electra Heart.

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More Icona Pop photos:

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