Already a sensation in the UK, singer-songwriter Marina and the Diamonds has finally cracked the American music market, winning over critics and fans with international hits like the infectious “I Am Not a Robot” and the cleverly indulgent L.A. city tribute, “Hollywood.”

Kicking off her first North American tour this month, the self-described “alternative opera drama pop” act released her debut The Family Jewels in the spring, catching the eyes and ears of a sophisticated group of listeners and early supporters, including one particularly tough sell: music-obsessed celebrity blogger Perez Hilton.

Now fighting a somewhat dry music scene in the States, Marina draws attention because she’s familiar yet manages to stay completely separate from comparison – a plus demonstrated by other successful British crossover acts like Leona Lewis and Jay Sean. You think you’ve heard her before, but you really haven’t.

With a lot of concept-heavy, lyrical wonders to digest on the album, the sound on The Family Jewels is loud, delicious and in-your-face but still very pleasant – Marina’s falsettos and operatic coos often layered with refreshed harmonic blends and dashes of Technicolor background beats. The end product is one of balance: hard and soft, hot and cold, yin and yang.

However, without the extravagant production, her vocals are pure (just watch any of her live performances on YouTube), though her unique musical styling allows her to maintain modernity even with a talent that is quite shockingly classic. Marina’s twist on the ballad “Numb” gives listeners a stripped down sampling of her voice while “Shampain” ironically channels Abba to deliver a “darker tune about vices and coping with them.”

On the comic book kiss-off track “Oh No!” Marina confidently claims a spot alongside today’s washed-out palette of female pop princesses while coming off completely her own – a hint of commercial fun à la Katy Perry with serious artistic integrity and vocal prowess like Lady Gaga. On the bubblegum track she belts, “I’m now becoming my own self-fulfilled prophecy. Oh, oh no, oh no, oh no.” After many years spent trying to break into the industry, the prophecy she references is now realized through the star’s rising success. Family Jewels exploded onto Billboard’s Top New Artist Albums chart at No. 2.

“I am very purist in the idea of fate. If you are good intentioned and natural in doing something and if your reasons are pure, it will happen. There is no one route. I know because I tried fucking everything,” the 24-year-old confesses.

This summer, Marina also made her American television debut with a performance on talk show “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.” Draped in a Mickey Mouse Americana jumpsuit, the star’s out-there image becomes holistically part of the diamond package – a feature not too different from the way musicians have defined themselves through fashion for decades. Donning colorful hues and aggressive patterns, Marina’s look is deliberate right down to her signature red lips.

“British designers are my favorite – Vivienne Westwood, Hannah Marshall. Clothes are very powerful, especially with music. When creating concepts for music videos, it’s mostly about the song, but I see songs and music visually and textually,” says Marina.  

Like the varied tastes offered on the singer’s debut, Marina’s influences are also wildly eclectic, ranging from folk rocker Daniel Johnston and tough chick Shirley Manson from Garbage to a more obvious choice, queen of pop Madonna. The opportunity to perform across the country gives Marina the chance to follow in the footsteps of her musical role models.

“Being on tour so far has been magical, and the fans have been really supportive. As people can probably tell, I think America is fascinating. There are amazing and shocking parts. The energy is different, and I found that people can be a lot more open.”

Only time will tell the public’s receptiveness to an artist as odd and charming as Marina. She is fresh and relevant, but is it enough?

On her first shot at the American dream, Marina writes, “Don’t need money, don’t need fame … I just want to make a change.” She has the ability to change today’s tired industry landscape of lifeless acoustic drudgery and tried and true radio-friendly club bangers with something new and entirely her own.

Musical candor, image and all, Marina and the Diamonds are flawless, cut-to-perfection.



Marina and the Diamonds perform Sept. 17 at El Rey Theatre. For more information, visit marinaandthediamonds.com.