By Joey Nolfi
April 25, 2019 at 02:44 PM EDT

“I wanted the beats to be really hard,” says Marina — the now-mononymous singer-songwriter recently self-liberated from “the Diamonds” portion of her star-making stage name — about the fierce sounds walloping through her new two-part album, Love + Fear (out Friday). “I kept saying to my producers: ‘You have to go harder on the drums! Don’t be scared!’”

It was that advice she had to take on her own terms, however, after suffering a creative “meltdown” ahead of a two-year hiatus that nearly took her out of the recording industry for good.

Rewind to 2017, when Marina took the Glastonbury stage with dance-pop collective Clean Bandit to perform their single “Disconnect” — a proper return to the glistening, groovy beats that soundtracked the excessive-fame satire encased in her 2012 album Electra Heart. From the crowd’s perspective, her voice, moves, smile, and signature charisma were all there; but something wasn’t right, and only Marina knew it.

Zooey Grossman

“I remember thinking, oh sh—, this doesn’t feel the same,” she tells EW, adding that a dark cloud of apathy crept into her consciousness. “Perhaps the negative reasons of wanting praise and wanting acceptance disappeared. I didn’t need it anymore. But, as an artist, that freaked me out. Why am I doing this, then, if I’m not doing it from a place of ego? Does that mean I’m not going to be a good artist anymore? I just thought, I’ve done three albums, and that’s enough.”

Cue a spiritual sojourn off the digital grid (she purchased the world’s tiniest smart phone and enrolled in psychology courses): a literal disconnection which rebooted Marina’s approach to music with a new, shortened name (for liberation’s sake, of course).

“I faced my own fear,” she says of the mind-clearing musical break that served as the thematic foundation for Love + Fear, her first album since 2015’s rock-
influenced LP Froot. “Accepting and addressing that uncertainty is part of the beauty of living; you can’t have love without pain and vice versa.”

Instead of glamorizing despair, as she’s done in the past, Marina instead uses the varied “bangers” on Love + Fear to coexist with (and sometimes rise above) the titular emotions, which she says go hand-in-hand in the human psyche.

“You can make helpful, meaningful art without being self-destructive,” she observes, crediting a new, grounded perspective for her inspirational lyrics about karma, joy, and following your instincts. “I see art as how you see the world, not necessarily rehashing what happened to you time and time again.”

So, how does the new Marina experience life?

“[I had a] tendency to use negative experiences as inspiration in art [by] trying to exorcise something,” she says of the demons splayed over danceable beats on past cuts like “Primadonna,” “Teen Idle,” and “Shampain.” With this album, she says, songs “came from a genuine desire to enjoy life,” as evidenced on the glittery self-empowerment anthem “Enjoy Your Life.”

“I’m singing it as if I’m talking to someone,” Marina says. “But, I’m really singing it to myself.”

And it’s that soft, remedial energy she needed to ground herself in the craft once again — after she made sure certain tethers to her past were dead. Literally. As in completely deceased.

“Her ghost isn’t even in the room,” Marina responds with a laugh when asked if the “fantasy” of Electra Heart — a persona that both indulged and lampooned the patriarchal gaze and the cutthroat pursuit of celebrity — still haunts Love + Fear‘s equally fierce production that, ultimately, hits deeper. “She’s gone. She and I can’t exist at the same time, so she had to die. But that’s because Electra Heart is a character. My name is Marina.”

Love + Fear, then, doesn’t play like a pop star reinvention as much as it does an optimistic manifesto for future greatness (and a twinkling eulogy to the spirit of former selves). Just don’t call it a reinvention.

“What are you reinventing? You are you, whatever you’re wearing and however you look. I don’t think it exists,” Marina says. “You can construct an image, but I don’t think you can reinvent yourself. Because you’re an ever-changing, fluid body anyway.”

“With this album, there’s no reinvention,” she finishes. “It feels very simple and natural.”

In other words: the spacey, boppable vibes of Love + Fear land with softened grace — no matter how hard the tunes slap.

A version of this story appears in the Summer Movie Preview issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Friday or available here. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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