Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land is a masterpiece, to say the least, with Marina’s nostalgic and recognizable electro-pop style and innovative lyrics, I’m at a loss to how great it is.
The album is a dramatically ironic take on patriarchal societal norms and the issues surrounding what has come of them, but even without a deep delve into her clever lyrics, the songs are incredibly curated to balance each other. Songs go from ballads to dance songs without feeling rigid because of her use of instrumentals. Each song connects itself through the use of electronic sounds blended with a piano, but keeps it fresh through the different technical uses of the piano from the classical use seen in “Highly Emotional People” to the repetitive notes in “Venus Fly Trap”. With her full voice that changes from a whimsical to an almost lyrical way of speaking, she is able to combine theatrical and rock singing methods into her classic pop songs.
However, the real star of the show are the lyrics.
In this album, Marina explored completely new grounds. While she’s always been somewhat of an activist, her lyrics rarely blended with her activism. While her earlier songs didn’t necessarily have superficial undertones, they were rarely targeted and like many pop artists, a lot more broadly accepted by everyone. This was completely flipped though, as now she showed her feminist feelings but also her environment and in songs like “Purge the Poison,” she blends these two points. She says that we need to purge the poison from the world, alluding to the people who destroy the planet and people who destroy through their systemic oppressions.
Or in another great song, “Man’s World”, she sings an allusion to the Sultan of Brunei. She makes reference to him because he famously passed the gay penal law which banned homosexuality and punished it with capital punishment and so Marina calls out the hypocrisy through his purchase of the “campest” hotel.
Even if you’re not necessarily able to relate to those songs she sprinkles in more personal songs like “Highly Emotional People” and “I Love You But I Love Me More” that are more applicable to all experiences.
I can’t go on enough about my love for this album. A lot of people criticized the album calling it tacky and superficial to use issues like these as a way to make an album but I disagree. I believe that, yes, while she’s making profit, she’s using her platform and talking about issues that affect her. As a woman she’s capable of singing about these topics from first hand experiences. I think rather than pushing away using music as a political statement we should embrace it and I think Marina successfully has.
This album wasn’t just a change for Marina’s image but also another step into what the music industry will become.