I got red in my ledger. I got red in my ledger, and I’d like to wipe it out.
Do you know what it’s like, to be unmade?
You know that I do.
That’s a tough way to live.
It’s a good way not to die, though.
-Natasha Romanoff, The Avengers (2012) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), respectively
Electra Heart was constructed, crystalline perfection, never a hair out of place. FROOT is something different, something organic, something sweet on the verge of turning, like strawberries too late in summer. FROOT is vulnerability, but I say that with a caveat that is more important than the original statement: it is vulnerability with a point, a deadly purpose. It is showing your weak spots on purpose, daring someone to stretch out and jab them, so that you can rip their arm from its socket without ever moving from where you stand. It is, I guess, not necessarily the antithesis of Electra Heart but its natural continuation. Electra Heart was a diamond cocoon, and the wet fragile thing crawling from its wreckage is Marina Diamandis, unmasked; it is FROOT. I should have used scare quotes there. I say unmasked but what I mean is she is showing us what she’d have us think is her underbelly. What I mean is that sometimes you have to give parts of yourself away in order to maintain the upper hand.
Sometimes I think I’m not that strong
But there’s a force that carries me on
Sick of my small heart made of steel
Sick of the wounds that never heal
‘Cause I have lived my life in debt
I’ve spent my days in deep regret
Yeah, I’ve been living in the red
Oh, ’cause I can’t forgive and I can’t forget
I’ve put my money where my mouth is
For the first time in my life
I’ve made mistakes, but I believe that
Everything was worth the fight
‘Cause in the end, the road is long
But only ’cause it makes you strong
It’s filled with peaks and twists and turns
Sometimes you have to learn to forget about it
Acknowledging your vulnerability is not weakness. Owning it, accepting it, leaning into it: these are things that we struggle with every goddamn day. I do, at least. It is difficult to reconcile with yourself the idea that you are a soft-skinned thing, so easily bruised. So easy to peel. Electra Heart was vulnerability on the offensive, preempting attack: I already know what you’re going to say so I’ll say it for you. That kind is easy for some people, the bristly kind. It is easier to never let anyone in than it is to be hurt by someone. FROOT is vulnerability of a different kind. It is letting someone in on your terms, letting them see you in flickers and flashes, one veil at a time. It is real; I feel like I need to stress this a lot when I’m talking about this: just because something is planned, calculated, orchestrated does not make it any less the truth. Sometimes you require a narrative in order to let yourself know things about yourself. Sometimes the only time you can admit you are weak is when you are using it to your advantage, and that doesn’t make it not real. What I am saying is this: Forget about it is not the same as Learn to forget about it, and that is the dripping heart of FROOT.
Happiness isn’t always happy, is the thing. It is a struggle beyond words, it is an uphill fight daily, it is trying to stand on sand that is constantly shifting beneath you and every time you feel it move you flinch because maybe this is the time it’s gone forever. Being happy and realizing that you have the potential to be happy are two different things, and there is a world between them, and it’s the latter that FROOT is about. Like, listen! This album is kind of a bummer! It is couched in some amazing echoey synthy beats but a lot of it is very sad and reflective, when you get down to it! But – and I think this is so important – it is about potential. It is about the possibility of growth. You can’t be a silk flower but the sooner you acknowledge that the sooner you can appreciate how meaningful it is that you’re here at all, a living flower, petals curling and falling. Elisabeth was right when she said decay is still change – you are always becoming something new.
The knowledge that you can change is, I think, one of the scariest things you can allow yourself to have. It takes guts, the bleeding, visceral kind. To know that you can change is to know who you are in this moment, and I’m circling back again to Natasha. To change, to become someone who wants to wipe out the red in their ledger, you have to first admit that you are a person who has red in their ledger at all. To live you have to not die, which seems like nothing at all but which is actually everything. These are semantic distinctions but they are also things that are oceans apart, things that often never come into contact with each other at all unless you’re really honest, and really brave, and really lucky. And you can be those things – you can, you can – but it is scary and hard, and sometimes you need to go about it obliquely. Sometimes you have to contemplate the end of the world before you can admit that someone means something to you. We tell stories, all of us; we talk about things that happened to us in the third person, we tell half-truths because they feel realer than the truth would, we expose our weaknesses but only as much as we can bear, in ways that we can bear, we do all of these things to explain ourselves to ourselves, to reconcile our existence, to lay the transparency of our living self over our not-dead self and find that they match more closely than we’d imagined. Knowing that you can change is the terrifying realization that you might change, that you might want to, that you might not be out of the chrysalis yet after all. It is sometimes more than I can bear, to be something alive in this world, something that can grow, something that can be killed, something that is shaped and damaged and nurtured by everything, all at once, something that experiences things, god, I want to be a silk flower sometimes, I get it. I get it. But I’m not, and neither is Marina, and neither are you. We are fruiting, reaching for the sun through concrete and smog and the battering journey that is simply existing in this world, and we are not dead. We are not maybe alive, yet, but there is time, there is rain, there is the knowledge that we can be. It’s never too late, is I guess the crux of this, and of this album. It’s not necessarily happy news, but it isn’t not, either.