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Marina and the Diamonds, really just Marina Diamandis, was born in 1986 to Welsh and Greek parents, although she has often claimed to be from Ancient Greece. After dropping out of four different music courses at four different universities, she decided to make her own way in music, and began writing left-field pop songs. Early on, she claimed that her inspirations were Britney Spears and Gwen Stefani -- who she often covered at live gigs -- but her songs have a soulful edge pointing to a deeper source of influence. Diamandis' piano/keyboard-driven songs vary from melancholic ballads to out-and-out glam pop, but her voice and melodic style are what make her unique. Essentially a solo artist, Marina wrote the bulk of her early material alone, arranging it for a band to ensure her live shows carried the full energy of her studio recordings. Quick to distance herself from comparisons to the rest of the female solo artists who broke through in 2009, Marina was also open about voicing her opinions on more established musical peers including Lily Allen and Kate Nash. In interviews she often showed a dislike of being grouped together with other emerging artists, especially when she had nothing in common with them except gender. The variety in her music made it hard to classify or pigeonhole, and comparisons were made with artists as diverse as Regina Spektor and Elvis Costello. Her first single, "Obsessions/Mowgli's Road," was issued by indie label Neon Gold in the U.S., also home to electro-indie Americans Passion Pit. It was followed later in 2009 by The Crown Jewels EP, which contained three new songs, including an electronic remix of fan favorite "I Am Not a Robot." After playing the British festival circuit during the summer of 2009, Marina briefly retired to the studio to polish her debut album, 2010's The Family Jewels, before quickly hitting the road again. The album hit number five in the U.K., but made only a small splash throughout the world. Her second full-length studio outing, Electra Heart, was preceded by the singles "Primadonna" and "Radioactive." It topped the charts in the U.K., led by a strong showing for the "Primadonna" single, and also cracked the Top 40 in America. Diamandis' third album, 2015's Froot, was a radical departure in working style; instead of a large cast of producers, she co-produced the album with David Kosten (Brooke Fraser, Bat for Lashes) and wrote all the songs herself. While still packed with memorable, new wave-inflected pop hooks, Froot was a more personal and evocative production that showcased Diamandis' maturation as a performer. ~ Jack Semmence
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2005 in London, England