Melanie Martinez, an indie, creative, storytelling artist has just released her second album “K-12”.
Since being discovered by Adam Levine on the singing talent seeking show “The Voice”, she has made an impression on young audiences. From her half-dyed hair, to unique style choices, to creating songs in a story format through creative words and visuals, it was assumed that she would have a skyrocketing career.
In 2015, Martinez became an alternative icon for many after she released her first debut album, “Cry Baby.” Her eerie voice and alternative choice on lyrics, paired with innocent visuals, attracted and intrigued a large audience.
However, after Martinez’s album debut, she took a four-year break from music. During the alternative-pop star’s break, she faced many struggles that ultimately had a negative effect on her career.
From fans leaving her for thinking she’d never come back to the public, to a startling sexual assault accusation in 2017, during which an at-the-time close friend of Martinez, Timothy Hellen, accused her of rape. Martinez then later denied the accusations in a statement on Twitter (that has since been deleted).
After having her career nearly wiped in a flash, returned to the music business with a bang. Not only did she release a 13-track album, but she also directs, stars in and writes a one and a half hour film to go with all the newly released songs.
The album has more powerful messages and stunning visual effects than “Cry Baby,” and introduces the music industry to new sounds and choreography. The premiere of the film was celebrated by being released in all theatres for one day only (the same date as the album’s release: Sept. 6) and [as of now] holds a total of over 24-million views on YouTube.
The film — sharing the same name as the album — mixes the tracks from the “K-12” with stunning visuals and a complex storyline.
The artist’s musical comeback shares a very similar sound and style to that of “Cry Baby”. Electronic pop mixed with haunting vocals and deep messages are prominently featured in both of her works. However, Martinez manages to do a better job of creating new and interesting beats in her second album. “Cry Baby” lacks the level of imagination and creativity displayed as “K-12”. Martinez’s debut contains more erupt drum patterns and less intricacy and pace changes than her second album. In her second album, you can identify and hear more maturity and vulnerability in her voice, which leads the way to the second part of her story.
“K-12” shall reign as lyrically strong to all still currently in school systems and young, developing girls.
In the film, Martinez creates a storyline by having us follow her character Crybaby (an updated and adapted character from Martinez’s first album) as she enrolls in school.
The school theme connects all of the tracks together perfectly, expressing Martinez’s opinion on how schools treat their students, social life for students, and overall stress to fit in with your peers. The morals are represented in the film throughout: Crybaby experiencing control by teachers, discovering teacher-student abuse, helping a friend through bulimia along with facing many other uncomfortable issues.
Wheels On The Bus
At the beginning of the film, Crybaby is getting ready to start school. You can hear a voiceover in the back—supposedly to represent her own thoughts to herself. As she exclaims how she had dyed and embroidered her uniform, she leaves her house and is off to the bus stop. As she walks to, and steps on the bus (which is completely pastel pink), its engine roars and starts the first song on the album: “Wheels On The Bus”. As the vehicle takes off, it begins to rise and float in the sky.
As the first track continues to play, its tune strongly resembles the popular well-known children’s song (also titled) “Wheels On The Bus”. The song’s innocence completely contrasts the lyrics, setting the scene for Martinez’s album. The artist sings cheerily, “I’m trying not to look across the aisle, ‘Cuz Maya’s letting Dan put his hand up her skirt.” The lyric serves as a nod to the sexual harassment that goes on in schools, and how it’s so easily glossed over and how students often falsely act like they’re fine.
It’s a bold way to kick off the project, considering that Martinez has previously been accused of sexual harassment herself. However, Martinez’s opening lyrics go smoothly with the album’s message. The theme of contrasting happiness and sadness, light with dark and innocence with sin is prevalent throughout the album.
“There will be a lot of recurring themes that contrast between light and dark or just duality in general,” Martinez said.
Show and Tell
Another recurring theme Martinez explores through her track “Show & Tell” is control. The fourth track on the album sets a dark tone with a repeating cranking sound in the background; reminding many of an old music box or wind-up toy. The song brings an old-fashioned quality to the track which again matches her overall message.
“You pull me by my hair so I don’t go nowhere,” Martinez sings. This line is used to comment on how society treats her. Whether it be the paparazzi, aggressive fans or haters reacting to the allegations against her.
“Buy and sell, like I’m a product to society,” Martinez sings in the song.
Although the track could be considered simple, the lyrics convey the common feeling of being trapped in a continuing cycle. However, without much variation in the beat and melody of the song trails off into a more creepy vibe and expected aesthetic.
“Drama Club” is initially very similar to Martinez’s previous tracks. With dark, electronic background music and a repetitive beat, the song doesn’t break her self-made mold. However, rather than having an expected bridge, Martinez adds 20 seconds of distorted piano. This is an intriguing touch that adds a unique surprise for listeners who weren’t expecting it.
In the music video, this bridge aligns with a scene where Crybaby strays from the school play’s directions and yells out at the crowd to “wake up”. The distorted piano matches the characters. The end of the song’s video wraps up with Crybaby leading the trance broken audience to the principal’s office to finally take vengeance. Although this alternative bridge is better understood while watching the video, it helps break the repetitive pattern of the song and adds more mystery to her music style.
The titles of many of her newest tracks, such as“Lunchbox Friends,” and “Orange Juice,” give the illusion of pure innocence. However, the lyrics and overall meaning tell a different, deeper and relatable story.
Topics that are considered uncomfortable by many are explored in depth throughout “K-12.” Martinez is able to do a fantastic job not only addressing these topics, but stating that there is a problem with them. From losing innocence in “The Wheels on the Bus” to a girl facing bulimia in “Orange Juice,” Martinez is able to successfully dig deep into issues prevalent in our society and how they can be tied into our school systems.
Although “K-12” might not be the best album of the year, anyone who has the opportunity to listen to it (or watch the film) should do so. With intricate messages and themes that are usually avoided in music, paired with unconventional instruments and sounds, Martinez breaks the mold of typical pop artists. So, if you want to be angry at our society, while going crazy to pretty dope songs, then “K-12” is perfect for you.
ALL SONGS ON ALBUM:
Wheels On The Bus
Show and Tell
High School Sweethearts