Photo by Tracy Fuentes
In middle school, I discovered Marina and the Diamonds (now MARINA) via Tumblr. It was the time when MARINA, Lana Del Rey, The 1975, and Arctic Monkeys dominated the Tumblr feeds of teenagers. While many people clung to the aesthetics of these artists, creating the indie-grunge-skater skirt-flower crown-Doc Marten boots-cigarettes aesthetic we have since moved on from, one song above the rest stood out to me, and I’m still clinging to it: “Oh No!” By MARINA.
The catchy tune is enough to get it stuck in your head for a while, but this song has stuck with me from middle school to college because of the parallels I see between the lyrics and my own mind.
Don’t do love, don’t do friends / I’m only after success
MARINA sings of achieving her goal of fame, but I attributed the lyrics to my academic and personal goals. While I’m not as single-minded as the singer of the lyrics, from a young age I’ve felt a need to succeed academically for various, evolving reasons. To make my parents proud, to get into the best colleges, to be better than those I didn’t like, to avoid trouble, to be praised. I’ve never been cutthroat about it, such as sabotaging someone else to get ahead, but I’d sacrifice sleep, food, and personal time if necessary.
Unlike MARINA, I craved validation that friends could give me. A long-time goal of mine was to be cool and popular because I never felt that way. My friends were always the cool ones, I was the nerdy and studious one. It hurt and I wanted to change. I would copy my friends, the popular characters in books and shows, and celebrities. I had to listen to Arctic Monkeys. I have to buy a record player, a Polaroid camera, a denim jacket. I need to wear Doc Martens. I need to be uncaring, self-deprecating, sarcastic yet fun to be around. Whatever it takes to be cool.
One track mind, one track heart / If I fail, I’ll fall apart
MARINA sings here about how if she fails to make it as an artist, she’ll fall apart because it is the only thing she wants in the world. There is nothing else for her if she cannot become a famous musician.
I put my heart and soul into my academics. I’ve cried many, many times over a test score that was below an A (usually math). I’ve cried out of frustration when I couldn’t figure something out, feeling like the stupidest person in the world (also usually math). I didn’t want to ask for help unless other people also admitted their struggles, due to my fears of looking stupid.
I took it to heart if someone seemed to not like me, even if they simply showed a preference for someone else to be their friend. If someone made fun of me, even in a friendly way, I thought they secretly meant it. When I did something embarrassing, I would beat myself up over it for days, some instances so bad I would think about it months later and get angry at myself.
Every perceived failure resulted in me tearing myself apart in anger.
‘Cause I feel like I’m the worst / So I always act like I’m the best
No lyric has ever described me as perfectly as this one. MARINA, thank you for putting it into words.
Because of how badly I made myself feel whenever I even slightly messed up, I felt as if I was the most flawed person in existence. But to show the despair and struggles would make me uncool, would call too much negative attention to my faults, would be a flaw itself. So I tried to at least seem perfect if I couldn’t actually be perfect.
So never ask for help or they’ll see your incompetence. Don’t show you’re upset or tired or sad or any emotion other than anger, passiveness, or happiness because they’ll think you’re weak. Share only the good moments so they think highly of you, but don’t brag or else they’ll dislike you. If you make that joke they might not think it’s funny, so it’s best to not say anything at all. Never participate in class because you could be wrong and everyone will laugh at how stupid you are.
To write this essay and post it for anyone to read would be absolutely unthinkable.
Oh! Oh, no! Oh, no! Oh, no, oh!
I believe I’ve grown from this mindset that plagued my middle and high school years, but when I hear these lyrics, I still relate to them so much. I’ve tried to move on from my unhealthy, self-destructive ways of thinking, but my lust for validation and success remains. I want to graduate with the highest honors, go to a prestigious graduate school, and yeah, I still want some people to think I’m cool (see, I changed it from everyone to some people. Progress).
This ambition helps me to be a good student and achieve my goals, but I don’t want to fall apart after every little mistake I make. I don’t want to be constantly stressing about what people think about me. I want to like myself, faults and all.
So thank you MARINA, for this masterpiece. The lyrics validate me in a different way than what I was aiming for. I hope that a few years from now, I can listen to this song and no longer relate, but still appreciate the lyrics and my growth.