Florence + the Machine is the work of British singer/songwriter Florence Welch, with 'the machine' being her (rotating) backing group, though the name originally referred to her original collaborator (and current keyboardist for her backing group) Isabella Summers when the group was "Florence Robot/Isa Machine" to be shortened to its current moniker. After her debut album Lungs made number one in the United Kingdom (six months after release, and repeatedly), she became one of 2009's frontrunners in a burst of popular, powerful female pop music. Her second album, Ceremonials, switched tacks abruptly and took the world by storm in a burst of overpowering soul music.Welch is known for quite macabre lyrics — "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)" was her reaction to being asked to make an upbeat record for marketability! —, love-or-hate performances and haunting vocals.They contributed the song "Heavy In Your Arms" to the Twilight Saga: Eclipse soundtrack, and performed a song forSnow White & the Huntsman. One of their songs were also used in Revenge's finale, to great acclaim. Florence contributed her vocals to "Sweet Nothing" by Calvin Harris, and he remixed "Spectrum" for radio. Both charted #1 in the UK. Most recently, the song "Over The Love" was made for The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby movie soundtrack, which appears to be a song from Daisy's perspective.
Florence and the Machine provide examples of the following tropes:
According to Word Of God, Florence loves the subject of drowning. Mentioned by description in Ceremonials liner notes, she's fond of the jumping off the edge and "enveloping" feeling which drowning often described as being. This is said to be similar to her relationship to music. Drowning turns up in "Drumming Song", "Swimming", "Heavy In Your Arms", "What the Water Gave Me", "Never Let Me Go", and "Heartlines", along with being alluded to in the music video for "Rabbit Heart", and "Lover to Lover". It's implied in "Hurricane Drunk".
Religion and spirituality is also a common theme in their music, maybe even more than drowning. Heaven and hell, the devil, voodoo, churches, dead and the afterlife, and a ton of other stuff pop up in both albums and their music video. "Bedroom Hymns" is an entire song comparing religion with love. Word Of God confesses that Florence is obsessed with religion and spirituality, even though she's not religious herself.
Audience Participation Song: "You've Got the Love", "Never Let Me Go", "Dog Days Are Over", "Rabbit Heart", "Shake It Out", "No Light, No Light".
Cover Version: On the Lungs album, "Girl with One Eye", "You've Got the Love", "Addicted to Love" and "Hospital Beds" are all cover songs. She's also done a few covers live, including "Halo" by Beyonce, "Take Care" by Drake and "Oh! Darling" by The Beatles.
Creator Breakdown: Lungs and Ceremonials have come from Florence breaking up with the same guy twice.
Darker and Edgier: "Sweet Nothing" gets rid of all metaphors previous in her previous videos.
Deadpan Snarker: Florence, again. When someone asked what she'd do to celebrate winning a BRIT award, she said, "I'll do laundry."
What The Water Gave Me alludes to Virginia Woolf's suicide.
I'll let the water take me
Early Installment Weirdness: Because of a change in her sound to the one she became famous with, the indie rock-esque "Kiss with a Fist" has become this. The recording that appears on Lungs is almost identical (or is) to the one that appeared on her 2008 debut single.
Echoing Acoustics: Lots of reverb is used in the tracks "Never Let Me Go" and "Leave My Body".
Egocentric Team Naming: Florence is the singer, Machine is her creative partner (and band keyboardist) Isabella Summers. The first name of their duo was even Florence Robot/Isa Machine.
Human Sacrifice: "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)" is about sacrifice but not really taking a life. If anything she is referring to how artists have to sacrifice their image and style (that being what her label wanted her to do). The song is also about her fears.
"I'd written all these dark songs, and the label suggested we should have something that was a bit more upbeat. In the process of trying to do that, I realised maybe I was sacrificing something. So I had a really upbeat piano and drums, but the lyrics that came out were 'This is the gift/It comes with a price/ Who is the lamb/And who is the knife?' The rabbit heart is a reference to fear. I'm so afraid of what's about to happen. Of being in the spotlight." This is Lampshaded at the live shows where she says 'Find someone you love and sacrifice them."
"I can TAKE your heart, and then TAKE your soul" in "Seven Devils", amongst others.
Their possible second obsession besides The Ophelia. Sacrifice and exorcism are often mentioned in their works.
Before her backing band settled down to a more or less stable lineup, The band was (and probably still is) basically "Florence, and whatever backing musicians are on hand at the time" - sometimes it was members of the Test Icicles or Noah and the Whale or maybe her some of her musician friends or sometimes lucky concert goers.
Originally she performed with an actual drum machine for backing.
Incredibly Long Note: "No Light, No Light", at the end of the bridge, which is usually replicated live with a combination of circular breathing and modifying the microphone.
In "Shake it Out", the last note of the bridge is sustained in the background of the last chorus. Florence's cries of "what the hell" during the outro also qualifies.
Intercourse with You: "Bedroom Hymns" is one long comparison of religion to the ecstasy of sex. What else could "bedroom hymns" be besides singing by the wardrobe?
"Hurricane Drunk", which is a delightfully happy song. The first lines of the chorus are "I'm going out/I'm gonna drink myself to death."
Florence said "Dog Days Are Over" is about being destructively happy, and the lyrics strongly imply that whoever the song is about is trying to avoid this happiness.
"Struck from a great height/By someone who should have known better than that?"
Florence lampshaded this when she explained how "Rabbit Heart" came to be.
I'd written all these dark songs, and the label suggested we should have something that was a bit more upbeat. In the process of trying to do that, I realised maybe I was sacrificing something. So I had a really upbeat piano and drums, but the lyrics that came out were, ‘This is the gift/It comes with a price/ Who is the lamb/And who is the knife?
In "Ceremonials", "Breaking Down" has an upbeat rhythm, yet its lyrics implies insanity on the subject's part.
Further stated verbatim in the Track By Track in regards to this song.
"Lover To Lover" describes the subject metaphorically descending to Hell, while having an uplifting soul vibe.
"Kiss With a Fist" has an 80's rock tone, with lyrics describing a couple violently in love, to the point many critics thought the song was about domestic abuse.
On the other hand, the original version of "Kiss With a Fist", called "Happy Slap", was faster and more maniac. In the middle of the song, Florence is clearly fighting back laughter, further adding to the overly happy yet quite violent song.
An earlier version of "Swimming" had more of an indie rock tone, while the final version averts this.
Long Title: "What The Water Gave Me", "I'm Not Calling You A Liar", "Only If For A Night", "All This And Heaven Too".
Masochism Tango: "Kiss With A Fist": "You hit me once, I hit you back / You gave a kick, I gave a slap / You smashed a plate over my head, then I set fire to our bed".
Melismatic Vocals: "I don't need the birds let them fly-away-ay-ay" in "Leave My Body".
Masquerade Ball: The music video for "Shake it Out" takes place during a 1920s masked ball, complete with masks.
Murder Ballad: "Heavy In Your Arms" seems to be from the perspective of a woman whose boyfriend drowned her in a river.
Mood Whiplash: "Lover To Lover", which is a sort of upbeat screw-you-I’ll-do-what-I-want song, going into "No Light, No Light"'s apologetic and sad lyrics and soft vocals, which goes into the Tranquil Fury of "Seven Devils”, which is another screw-you song, on Ceremonials.
Precision F-Strike: in her Track By Track she calls "Lover to Lover" a "Fuck You"-like song.
Pimped Out Cape: While singing "Shake It Out" on The X Factor, Florence wore a dress with six white capes held in place. She didn't move around a lot.
Record Producer: Paul Epworth (probably best known for Florence's own "Cosmic Love", "Howl", "Rabbit Heart", and "Blinding" from Lungs as well as Adele's "Rolling in the Deep") produced the entirety of Ceremonials.
Refrain From Assuming: "Spectrum" is the real title of that song. It is not called "Say My Name" no matter what urges the song gives you to say it is that.
The Calvin Harris remix of "Spectrum" is called "Spectrum (Say My Name)".
Revenge / Best Served Cold: "Seven Devils" is about this topic and it was featured in The 2011 Series Revenge, as well as used in one of the trailers for Game of Thrones's second season. Girl With One Eye is also an extremely vengeful song.
Rearrange the Song: The live version of "What The Water Gave Me" features elements of the released demo. There's also an added Epic Instrumental Opener, sometimes adding a full minute to songs already over 5 minutes.
Sanity Slippage Song: "What The Water Gave Me", "Dog Days Are Over", "Hurricane Drunk", "Seven Devils", "Kiss With A Fist", "Breaking Down", "Lover To Lover", "Bird Song", "Falling", and "Swimming".
Subverted with "Leave My Body" which is about her wanting to lose her mind in her own singing and music in general.
On many of the tracks on her albums, Welch is one of the backing vocalists. In a few cases, she is the only backing vocalist and her voice has been overdubbed to create a chorus of one...eg "Leave My Body".
An earlier case is in "Rabbit Heart". Word Of God claims that the person who mixed the chorus had a nervous breakdown.
Singing Voice Dissonance: She whispers softly soprano when she talks, but her voice is extremely powerful and a deep strong alto.
Something Completely Different: Florence has recently stated her interest in dabbling with dance music; in 2012, Calvin Harris remixed "Spectrum" (giving Florence her first UK #1), and she returned the favor by lending vocals to his single "Sweet Nothing".
It's easy to misconstrue her lyrics to having religious themes, as she often refers to Heaven, Hell, the devil, and angels.
"Drumming Song" is chock-full of sexual imagery, and religious imagery. The video even takes place in a church, and there's a case to be made that the backup dancers are angels. Or devils. Or just hallucinations.
The performance of "Shake It Out" on The X Factor used lots of religious imagery, from Florence's dress to the background to a gospel choir.
The music video for "No Light, No Light" takes it farther than "Drumming Song", using Christian, Voodoo, and Illuminati imagery.