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(I wrote this review in January 2011, and posted it on Amazon and my websites.  A year later, and I am even more captivated by the beautiful music of this amazing artist.  As part of my Project 365 on WordPress, I am reprinting my review.  Marina’s music is available from her website – www.marinav.com, iTunes, and Amazon)

“Hauntingly beautiful” is how the LA Times describes the music and voice of Russian-born singer/songwriter Marina V.  Were I limited to only two words to describe Marina’s latest album MY STAR, those are the two words I would use, as well.   Fortunately, I am not limited to only two words… fortunate for me, because this girl is a talker!  I want to tell you more than just how Marina’s music is “melodic and passionate” and “hauntingly beautiful”.  Music must be more than just that… it must connect!  This is what Marina does through her songs… her spirit, her soul… connecting with ours.

From the opening notes of the first track on this amazing album, “You Make Me Beautiful”, where Marina’s virtuosity on the piano is showcased, to the last track, “Magical Christmas”, Marina’s incredible voice captures and enthralls her audience.  The words and music set the mood beautifully; each and every song on MY STAR is a treasure, to be listened to over and over again.  Like The Beatles and Tchaikovsky, two important influences on Marina’s music, her music has a timeless quality that will endure.

Marina writes from her heart, of experiences she has lived through and felt.  She sings about life and love… love sought, love held, love lost, love eternal, love enduring… her rich, soulful voice conveys such deep emotion… and passion… it grips the listener’s heart… if you have ever been in love, you can’t help but be touched by these songs.  They are simply amazing; beautiful, soulful pieces of art!  It is almost as if she has looked into my heart and has seen what makes it sing… what makes it cry… what makes it… hope.

I first heard Marina V through the Microsoft Windows Playlist 7 project, and fell in love with her instantly!  “You Make Me Beautiful” is a beautiful, inspiring song, and I was so very delighted to see it as the first track of MY STAR.  I think it sets the tone for the whole album.  There is a verse in particular that, were I to be asked what my wife/partner /soul mate does for me… this would be it.  Tina, honey… you truly do –

“You make me beautiful,
Believing in me.
You make me beautiful,
And deep within I find the best side of myself.
I know no one else,
Makes me feel beautiful like you.”

I can’t help but be touched by Marina’s music, and to me… that marks a great artist from an ordinary one.  Music, to truly capture me and hold my attention, must reach out and take my emotions… make me laugh… cry… sing… dance…it must touch my heart…it must give me something I can relate to.  Marina does that… beautifully.  She opens her soul to the listener… and shares her heart.

“Blue For You” asks the plaintive question… “What am I supposed to do without you?”  The soft-spoken lyrics and simple melody tell an eloquent story of a love that has gone away… a love given, but not returned… that tugs at the soul.  For me, it recalls the heartbreak of awaking to a note on the pillow and an empty space in a bed once shared by two.  It is a very poignant song.

The title track of this album, “My Star” is a brilliantly paced number that reminds us that love is something that you have to work at, through good and bad, through changing seasons, or else it grows stale and people drift apart.  But, it only takes one person not to give up… “to be there if you fall”, to give more than they have gotten.  Hope… as long as there is hope, love will triumph.  The lyrics in “My Star” are really quite powerful and moving.

I have often wondered how artists arrived at the name for their album… in the case of MY STAR; the answer seems obvious, as one of the songs is titled “My Star”.  But, I wonder…not to take anything away from Marina’s other works, but this album is undoubtedly Marina’s best to date… it is the “star” of her collective works.  Perhaps then, there is a double meaning in the album’s title.

The first time I listened to “Thursday Song”, I was riding the train home and right there in a crowded passenger car, I cried.  The words touched something deep inside me… they touched my very soul.  It was like Marina had read the pages of my diary, like she was right there in the room with Tina and me.  One promising to listen and not judge, to never turn her back and always be there… the other promising to make her proud… always stand by her… “you’ll be my hero”.  This is what love means… giving all of yourself.  I still cry when I hear this song… every time.

“Killing My Dream” is a song about someone who didn’t appreciate the true beauty before his eyes, or care about the hurt he left behind.  Marina bares her soul in this song about a high school sweetheart, a very shallow one, who apparently thought he could “do better”.  I am thinking that the young man is very much regretting that decision!

I had actually listened to Marina’s cover of “Don’t Cry” several times before I realized that it was a cover of Axl Rose’s 1991 song about a doomed relationship.  The song is breathtaking.  With her beautiful, emotion-charged voice, Marina makes this her own, bringing a soulfulness and intensity that… “sorry, Axl”… the original artist does not.  It really comes down to what an artist puts into a piece, whether or not it really connects… one heart to another.  Marina does this oh, so beautifully!

Trying to “fit in” and find ourselves in an often chaotic world takes courage and an inner strength.  In “Unbalanced”, Marina expresses a sentiment we have probably all felt –

“I gotta find some peace,
Make sense of all of this;
Find myself in this madness.”

Through her music, Marina finds herself and inspires others to find themselves.  Marina expresses herself beautifully in these two songs.  “Weight of the World” reminds us that we are not alone in the world, and that “fitting in” is not always easy, but in the end… if we remember that we are not alone and our situations are not unique to us alone…we can “lift the weight of the world”.

I love that Marina includes one song in her native Russian on each of her albums.

“Tonkaya Ryabina” is a traditional Russian song, performed a cappella in Marina’s native tongue.  It is a song about a woman mourning for her loneliness.  I do not understand the words, but they touch something inside me and I do get a sense of the loneliness and mourning.  This is a beautiful, sad, poignant song.  Close your eyes and listen… really listen!  Does it not stir your soul?

“Magical Christmas” is the last song on this incredible album.  Marina’s beautiful voice creates a mood of wonder and possibilities for the holiday season.

It’s two o’clock in the morning as I wrap up this review of MY STAR, which is undisputedly Marina V’s best work to date.  I’m sitting up in bed… the soft glow of my constant companion Bella illuminating the dark… my slender fingers dancing over the smooth gray keys as words become sentences… become paragraphs… filling the endless white space on the small screen before me.  As I finish, Marina’s second album, SIMPLE MAGIC, is playing through the tiny ear buds.  There is a track on this album, “Guardian Angel”… it is heartbreakingly sad, almost… but, perhaps that will be for another day.

I look over at the sleeping form next to me… my guardian angel.

Мирное и хорошее здоровье,

Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw
Portland, Oregon
© 2011 – Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw
(May not be reprinted without permission.  Please direct inquiries to: veronicathepajamathief@gmail.com)