After the first album was released, you admitted to being bummed that it didn’t live up to your expectations commercially. What were your expectations with The Family Jewels, and are you feeling more positive about Electra Heart?
Looking back on all of those interviews from that era, I look like I’m on the edge of a nervous breakdown. (Laughs) So I think that might have influenced my promotional duties at the time. I was really stuck in a rut, and I think I was ambitiously disappointed.
It wasn’t that it didn’t do well. Looking back, I can’t actually believe that I sold that many records on an album that was pretty alternative except for two of the songs. I guess I am really ambitious and I want to be one of the greats – and there’s nothing wrong with being honest about that. With this album, I didn’t really have any of those expectations. I’ve let go of a lot of that baggage while writing the album. I’ve just changed my perspective completely.
When did you realize that you wanted to be famous?
I didn’t really interpret it in that way. At 9 or 10 years old, I knew from the bottom of my heart I was going to be an entertainer, in that I wanted to perform in some way – but I didn’t really know if I would be dancer or an actress. I definitely didn’t really think about being a singer until I was 15, and then I knew what I was going to do with my life.
Fame and the media’s effect on us come up a lot in your songs. Why are you so interested in exploring those topics?
To be honest, it’s less about fame and more about praise and performance. If you look at all of the lyrical themes that are connected with that subject, it’s more about theatrical terms – like primadonna or the starring role in theater – so it’s not about being famous or being known. It’s more about feeling like you’re No. 1.
I was in a relationship where I felt like I was second best and I just thought, ‘I’m not going to stick around.’ I was completely in love with him, but I just walked away. You’re the only person who can look out for you, and no one should really settle for second best. It almost seems like it’s an obnoxious thing to say for some reason. But I don’t think it is. (Laughs)
Who inspired “Teen Idle”? Did you have any one in mind for that song or the rest of the album?
There’s a bit of Brit-Brit on the album. I mean, “Bubblegum Bitch” is basically Britney Spears peeled inside out. Britney is our teen idol, so that’s what we all relate that term with. It’s just so strange how everyone relates to that song (“Teen Idle”) – that’s been the biggest shock of the album, and I’m so happy about that.
You didn’t expect that?
No, I just thought the lyrics were too specific and obscure. But that’s the nicest surprise as a writer sometimes, when people come to you and you realize that everyone just goes through the same shit in one way or another.
You were looking to Marilyn Monroe and Marie Antoinette for this album, too. How did they work into it?
That was more of a visual thing. I’ve been looking for people who have always been portrayed with a certain duality to them in public. I’m really interested in that for some reason. I think villains are interesting. I wanted Electra Heart to have a villainous side to her.
Electra Heart is an alter ego?
I don’t know. I always think “alter ego” means something completely different. I think it’s a character that I formulated in order to be able to talk about things that I was too embarrassed to talk about.
How much of that character is actually you?
Quite a lot. It has to be. If you made it, then it’s real. If you’ve created it, it has to come from somewhere. I think people make stories up, but it has to evolve from some truth somewhere along the lines. It’s just like “Primadonna” – there are parts of my personality that are like that. I am kind of precocious, but it’s not exactly something that you would market yourself as being, because it’s not a very likable character. Maybe Electra Heart allows me to act or to write in a certain way and to write about universal truths.
Without seeming too narcissistic?
Exactly. Because “Primadonna” is a fun song, and people see the irony in it but also the truth: that we all know sometimes we can be like that or we know someone who can be.
Is Electra Heart more sexually adventurous than you? Would she have a lesbian encounter?
(Laughs) No, I don’t think she would. But I do portray her as a bit slutty, and I don’t really know why! Maybe I’m trying to live through her because I’ve never been one-night stand-y or anything. I’m a stage mom trying to live through her daughter.
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