Mary Bellamy’s review of “The Family Jewels” by Marina & the Diamonds


Band: Marina & the Diamonds

Album: The Family Jewels

Critic: Mary Bellamy

Publication: Drowned in Sound, 2010

Writing Disorders: Idea Fever, Jargon Palsy, Infectious Punctuation

Longest Sentence: 70 words

Stuffiest Phrase: “the almost-perfect pop paean to outsiderhood”



Mary, for the most part I use RipFork to illustrate recurring themes so that readers can see just how ridiculous music writing can be. So it was a pleasure gathering up your perfectly chiseled clichés to use as a teaching tool. But I’ll admit I also want to make you and other writers look foolish. You see, I’m hoping against hope that you’ll be wounded enough to swear off writing this kind of stuff and instead use the time for another hobby. But maybe it’s too much to ask that you pick up a guitar, pluck a bass, or sing in front of people instead of writing about other people’s music like you’d scratch a patch of scabies. After all, criticizing you publicly could just as easily backfire and give you a renewed vigor to continue writing such bloated absurdity. But hey, a guy can dream.


Now that we’re down to business, I don’t even know where I should begin with your 900-word lump of dung. How about at the very beginning?


“In attempting to straddle the tricky divide between ‘credible’ and ‘pop’, Marina and the Diamonds ends up encountering similar problems to label-mate Little Boots.”


Much like the band with poor straddling form, I can only guess what this tricky divide entails or why it matters. If you’re referring to your own narrow standards, what are the odds that Marina & the Diamonds had them in mind while recording their album? By the way, what’s with the quotation marks? Are you referencing the great music historian B.S. McCrockoshit, or are you using the quotes to define “credible” and “pop” as nebulous terms that you can nonetheless use to definitively judge a band’s work? I know which one my bet’s on. To be honest, I wouldn’t have even noticed, but this wasn’t the first time you went heavy on the air quotes. You write like Chris Farley reads the news:


The Family Jewels is a ‘fun’ sounding record of cartoonish proportions (more on how that sits a little awkwardly with the lyrics later)”


Phew, thanks for the reassuring announcement. I broke into a cold sweat thinking you weren’t going to explain later how this record sits a little awkwardly with the lyrics. I really can’t tell you how grateful I am that you used an awkward parenthetical aside to reassure me about your coming explanation of awkwardness.


Did I mention awkward? Let’s touch on your strange obsession with the word “esque.”


“the uber shiny pop of the Abba-esque ‘Shampain”

“the quite charming Amanda-Palmer-esque ‘Are You Satisfied?’”

“injecting every other line with a Britney-esque braying.”


Speaking of injecting every other line, were you traumatized by the phrase “sounds like” as a child? What’s with this crippling phobia of similes that don’t rely on hyphens? I’ve examined a few virulent cases of this weird tendency in the past, but none were as “cartoonish” as yours. You used “esque” twice in one paragraph. You wrote seven parenthetical asides, not counting the ones examining lyrics. Mary, do you even read your articles before you submit them? I have my doubts, because some of the criticism you’re lobbing at this artist describes your own writing:


“a somewhat wearying bombardment of the senses.”

“You end up needing a bit of palette cleanser in between tracks”


Oh, but referencing five songs in the space of 100 words is succinct? It might have cleansed my palette if you’d thrown in a few links or even an embedded video between your Kate Nash diatribe and Kate Bush diatribe. I could rattle on about how you wrote an opinion piece in the second person and how you never met an adverb you didn’t like, but I’m just going to focus on your damp logic for the rest of this. I particularly enjoyed this nugget:


“It’s a record that musically says “Y-E-S to everything” and isn’t itself sure of what it is. Does Marina want to be a British Regina, penning lovely piano tunes like ‘Numb’, or is she taking aim at being the UK’s answer to Gwen Stefani, as tracks like ‘Oh No’ and ‘Girls’ would suggest?”


Thanks for writing this glob of nonsense, Mary, because it gives me a chance to touch on a larger theme coursing through music criticism. You see it all the time: critics one day complaining about an artist’s lack of variety, and the next day bemoaning a lack of cohesion if she tries to shake things up. What are the odds you’d spare Marina the flowery onslaught if she stuck to “lovely piano tunes?” Would you have heralded it as a “coherent piece of work” instead of an “increasing cacophony of styles?” I’m no psychic, but I’ve got a suspicion that you’d find just as many weak reasons to rate her effort a 5 even if she did.


I don’t like to write longer screeds than the people I bully on RipFork, so I’ll let you off the hook, Mary. Keep me updated on your progress with learning that instrument.