Marina Kaye is the Dark Avant Pop Artist You Didn’t Know You Needed

Reviewed by: Epiphany Johnican

Many people brag about being one of the first few fans of major artists. While 21-year-old singer-songwriter Marina Kaye is fairly known in France, now is the time to join her American fan club. Winning France’s Got Talent put her in the spotlight in her home country, but she’s come a long way over the last four albums. Her music is something we can imagine soon playing on major US radio stations.

Twisted which was released earlier this month, is the epitome of avant-pop. It is mystical. Different. And indescribable. But here is an attempt to put words to this edgy masterpiece.

From the jump, the title track provides a fresh, yet subtle and familiar sound. Describing her music as “pop with techno vibes” would be an understatement. Her vocals, coupled by the piano and orchestral musical sounds, make one feel as if they are listening to a gothic opera. Her music sounds like eerie pop, and certain snippets mellow out to R&B. 

Kaye’s mild voice is alluring, although calm enough to hold its own with the chamber pop production. Her vocals, which alternate between soft and powerful, is reminiscent to Selena Gomez. If Selena Gomez’s voice and The Weeknd’s beats were put in a radio blender, you would get a cup of Marina Kaye. 

Kaye’s sound is a reminder that vocal control is more impressive than hitting five octaves. Kaye knows how to play with the vocals in a way that keeps you on your toes. In “Anywhere But Home,” she drags out certain words in vibrato and then sings subsequent lines in staccato. This technique she uses in the very first verse (“Can you be my escape, thinking I’m starting to break. Wanna go where there are no street signs, Cause’ I don’t wanna be myself tonight”) continues throughout the song and is consistent as a theme throughout the album. 

With Kaye, you never know what you will get, especially when it comes to her style. “Visions” is an example of that. It starts off spooky, in a way that would likely lead to rock. But instead of the much expected guitar rift, there is a funky r&b rhythm. And just when it seems there are only so many subgenres of pop and rock, “Blind Heart” comes in with a country rock tone. 

What unites every song across the record is the underlying theme of love, fear, anger and power. The lyrics of “Alone” demonstrate that:“Why would you ask me to do the right thing/ When you know the truth and you know it’s frightening/ Oh I know it’s gonna get painful/ So don’t trust the face of an angel” This track incorporates those aforementioned themes. But the juxtaposition of these themes also represents the stage of growth Kaye experiences as she transitions and matures through life.

While all of “Twisted” is truly worth playing on repeat, “Blind Heart” and “Anywhere But Home” would be my most recommended tracks. Blind Heart’s repetitive chorus is just short of an anthem, but it carries the same power. Blind Heart sums up Kaye not only as an artist, but as a person. The song is all about self-awareness, and it represents Kaye’s growth over the last three albums. Despite growing up as a self-described “shy” and “weird” child, “Blind Heart”’ shows her maturer outlook on life. “Anywhere But Home” is one of the catchiest songs on the album; it is an upbeat track that anyone can dance to. 

“Questions” tugs at the existential crisis that many people have been feeling throughout this pandemic. And ending with “Questions” is a tease. It symbolically leaves listeners feeling unresolved. The final track should wrap up an album’s story. “Questions” sparks more curiosity. For me it translates to feeling a bit dissatisfied. For others, it could leave them longing for more of Kaye.

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