Melanie Martinez is not just a musician, but a storyteller. For years, her fans have followed her character, Cry Baby, through the trauma of growing up in an abusive household, escaping toxic relationships and existing within a controlling system. The last we had heard of her was in Martinez’s “K-12” film, when Cry Baby helps get everyone out of the manipulative school, and they all escape into a portal. While not explicitly confirmed, it is implied that Cry Baby never escaped.
So, what happened? Well, Martinez has finally answered the question with her new album “PORTALS.” The answer is… Cry Baby died. We don’t know the cause of her death, but the story of this album follows her ascension from her physical body into the cosmos. She sports a new look as a beautiful fairy-esque creature with four eyes and vivid pink skin.
The album begins with the song “DEATH,” which follows the birth of Cry Baby’s afterlife form. As opposed to focusing on the grief of death, the lyrics in this song praise death as merely the first step to a broader life in the beyond. She sings, “Please don’t ever worry / I know it’s morbid / But we all die one day.” Her goal with this song was to provide comfort surrounding such a dark topic.
Up next is “VOID.” This song takes the weight of mental burdens such as anxiety and stress, and tries to escape them. Martinez is highly self-aware in this track, singing, “Pipe down with the noise, I cannot bear my sorrow / I hate who I was before.” She expresses this idea of trying to quiet down the mental voices that bring you down and evolving beyond them.
“LIGHT SHOWER” offers a layered ballad of love and rebirth. Martinez spent a few years reading books on past life regression hypnotherapy and incorporated this information into her songs. Part of this was a phase where you feel like you are consumed by this shower of light that cleanses your soul of the trauma of your past life. However, it is also open to being a song towards a love interest who helps you move on from your broken past.
“BATTLE OF THE LARYNX” follows the idea of arguing with someone who would rather overpower you with the volume of their voice as opposed to logic and understanding. Martinez demonstrates this by attributing her arguing to speaking in cursive and having a musical voice, while the other person is assumed to be drunk.
“THE CONTORTIONIST” is another representation of being overlooked. This song follows the idea of quite literally bending over backwards for someone who doesn’t appreciate you. Not only do the lyrics assert this topic, but the repeated sounds of bones breaking from bending the wrong way really add suspense to this piece.
“EVIL” is one of a couple songs that call out a previous toxic relationship of Martinez’s. The lyrics discuss the idea of being stuck in a relationship with a narcissist who always frames you as the one to blame. Martinez’s rage is very clear in this song, making it perfect for all of those who have had to suffer through a similar situation.
Finally, the album ends with “WOMB.” This song offers another perspective on death, following the stream from death to life as opposed to the other way around. This song is the point in which the spirit is ready to let go of all of its past memories in order to be reborn into another earthly vessel. Finally, this song closes off with the same words that the album started with: “Life is death, is life, is death, is life, is…”
It is clear how much Martinez has grown as an artist and a person since we last saw her. I can only imagine when the film version of “PORTALS” will be released. Please listen to the album and be sure to enjoy the songs not mentioned in this review, too. Until her next release, I’ll be dancing around my room to her musical prowess.
Featured image courtesy of @MelanieLBBH, Twitter