Melanie Martinez is back from the dead: most recent "PORTALS" era and the art of Crybaby's evolution
Melanie Martinez, a worldwide famous songwriter, and singer is known for her childish antics and voice along her songs, which mask the truly dark and heartbreaking message of the song. This, however, changed by a tad with the newest release of "PORTALS", her most recent album, released on the 31st of March this year, preceded by two singles, "DEATH", on March 17th and "VOID" on March 29th, and recently performed the entire album's deluxe version (including "POWDER", "PLUTO" and "MILK OF THE SIREN", released 5th of April) in Lollapalooza, Argentina. It embraces a "fairy core" aesthetic where it becomes a bit distorted and bizarre, very different from her normal style.
Let's start by explaining what's behind Melanie, who is that pink alien… faerie… pink creature in the picture above, and how that character relates to her previous albums, "Crybaby" and "K-12". Buckle up though because this article is very, VERY long. Melanie's life is also quite a ride, might I add…!
I have reduced her journey in the first two albums to the best of my abilities to keep the article a bit shorter. However, if you look only for the information on her PORTALS album (recommended since those occupy half of the article), feel free to skip through the "Crybaby album" and "K-12 Album" sections, it should be just fine.
Remember: if you relate to any of these songs (or not) in a hurtful and/or traumatic way to an intense extent, always reach out to professional help, a teacher, a peer, or at the very least, a trusted adult as soon as possible. The school is a safe space that, when appropriate, encourages the release of such matters :)
To begin with her journey throughout her first few albums (that do not include her "The Voice" performances, singles, or "Dollhouse" EP), she created this character called "Crybaby", who is also pretty much her alter ego, as well as characterised by Melanie's same features: a baby-like face with soft features, her signature half-dyed hair which is half black and half a pastel colour, most commonly pink or white, and infant clothes full of ruffles, silk, puffy sleeves and, of course, light colours. Crybaby's family is insanely disarranged as, according to "Dollhouse" and "Sippy cup", her mother is an alcoholic, her father has an addictive custom to cheating on his wife, and her brother is a drug addict, most specifically to cannabis. They, however, are seen by others as a perfect family. Then again "don't let them see what goes down in the kitchen" and "D-O-L-L-H-O-U-S-E, I see things that nobody else sees" is recalled throughout the song.
Summary of the "Crybaby" album (I'll set this for you in the exact order of the album and Crybaby's story!):
Crybaby- This song basically describes Crybaby: her birth name is given after her compulsive crying. It describes her issues with bullying too, given the fact that she is named after an offensive name who constantly cries for superficial matters.
Dollhouse- This song goes on to describe her family and how she is the one most sane within them. To its true nature, it points out the issue of people idolising celebrities and not knowing what their life is truly like. They only put out to the world what is most positive and leave behind matters that are "ugly"
Sippy cup- it talks about how Crybaby's mother murdered her father and his mistress. The sippy cup in question is actually a metaphor for the lack of willingness to see reality for what it is and the unwillingness to confront it, especially when it comes to relationships. The recurring "syrup" that comes up in the song multiple times refers to her mother's alcoholic addiction.
Carousel- This song recalls Crybaby's first love: her love is unrequited, and she feels like falling behind, going around in circles to be able to catch up with her partner, forbidding her to evolve within the relationship. The song has a more fantastical feel to it to capture the feeling of being in a relationship for the first time.
Alphabet Boy- This song refers to both Melanie and Crybaby's first "breakup song". It refers to a guy she once dated in college who majored in music, he kept attempting to teach her to write songs as if there were a rule or mathematical equation when her flow was freer and heart-driven. She, within Crybaby's perspective, is affirming that she is smarter than her ex and shouldn't be treated as a baby.
Soap- this song talks about the fragility of a relationship when certain words are shared. In this particular scene, she struggles to express her love to her crush as it would put their relationship in an awkward situation, and it feels like 'washing your mouth out with soap'.
Training Wheels- Her crush, Johnny, Is now in a relationship with Crybaby! This song describes how she wants a more serious relationship and how she can help overcome his fear of commitment. As you might've realised, the metaphor here is that she wants to "remove the training wheels".
Pity Party- this song was originally an EP that came before the album itself, which describes her parties. She decors everything with pretty bows and colourful balloons, "a heart in every cursive letter" or her invites to all of her friends just for no one to show up. It really shows that it is a metaphor to put effort into making everyone like you when it doesn't really work. She comes into questioning rather she should laugh it off or allow herself to cry when she has a whole cake all for herself, but ends up just not caring anymore.
Tag, You're It- This song comes after her breakup with Johnny, who just literally decided not to come to her party at all. REPETITIVELY… She is left broken and vulnerable, leading to a big bad wolf kidnapping her by luring her into a white van with candy. At this point, babe just lost all hope of being rescued as the lyrics repeat in her head, driving her insane.
Milk and Cookies- This song is her escape from the wolf: she bakes poisonous cookies and feeds him with them. Another win for Crybaby!
Pacify Her- This time, Crybaby isn't hung over any guy but just decides to steal "Basic B*tch"'s boyfriend "Blue Boy" away, just for the funsies. This might just be a figment of her father reflecting on her.
Mrs. Potato Head- this song can be understood very easily even when listening to it for the first time. This song is more of a commentary on the fact that women undergo surgeries even if they're already beautiful, mostly because they're forced to in Hollywood film productions. Melanie also comments in an interview that Crybaby is becoming more confident in her own skin.
Mad Hatter- This song simply states that it's ok to be yourself. It's a song about self-expression and acceptance, using "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" as an example, specifically the "Mad Hatter". Crybaby begins to embrace her insanity, and that is very clear in the lyric "So what if I'm crazy? The best people are".
Is that section done? Geez, that took a long time, but we still have a long way to go, this is only the beginning of Crybaby and her journey.
The following album describes her journey through a K-12 school. It was released on the 6th of September, 2019, along with a movie on the 5th of September (which will be linked at the end of the article). Fun fact, each song on the album is dedicated to a specific year in school, from first to twelfth grade. It is fun to find your own grade within the album, which Melanie constructed to relate to others according to Crybaby's experiences!
Summary of the "K-12" album:
Wheels on the Bus- This song describes Crybaby's first contact with her classmates which is… uncomfortable, to say the least. As she steps onto the bus, the students are acting outright inappropriately, where there is explicit action happening with students on the bus: intercourse, drug use, harassment, and bullying. The bus driver, most likely to be a metaphor for authority figures, can notice it all but just choose to ignore it all.
Class Fight- This song is about Kelly, the mean girl in this whole story, and another one of Crybaby's crushes, Brandon, and how jealous she is of Kelly. Brandon doesn't seem to like her all that much in the movie, but Kelly does mostly everything to have Brandon notice her. The song may just be about how women are constantly pitted against each other. After Crybaby's hypothetical conversation with her parents, her dad told her to choke Kelly in a planned fight and, well, she uses her powers to extend her braids and chokes Kelly.
The Principal (I've made a presentation for music on this song, too!)- The principal is a direct criticism against Donald Trump, the President of the United States at the time. It describes him as cruel, greedy, selfish… you name it. He puts down innocent people and causes havoc just to get his way and raise more money of his own.
Show & Tell- This song is very similar to "Dollhouse". It basically talks about the same topics and discusses the fact that idols are now just becoming displays and objects for society to "buy and sell", even without their own consent. In Crybaby context within the movie, she's just placed on a stage and controlled by the teacher as she dances for her class, strings attached to her, much like a marionette, then ripped up open and absolutely dismembered, guts exposed and all. She's fine afterward though, she is taken to the nurse's office where her friend, Angelina, fixes her up with magic. And that leads us to…
Nurse's office- Here, only in the song (in the movie, Crybaby and Angelina are actually being tortured and falsely medicated by the nurses until an angel, Lilith, rescues them but refuses to take them to the afterlife), Crybaby undergoes bullying and tries to make up an illness to get out of class and join the nurse's office. There is someone behind her seat cutting her hair and the teacher calls her out for complaining. After faking a seizure, she finally escapes.
Drama Club- Drama Club exhibits a critic against society and its norms. It sends out the message that people play a character separate from their genuine person for popularity and, at the very least, to fit in. In the movie, she is forced to play a domestic wife for a performance that brainwashes other students. She melts off a student's face, causing chaos and breaking this curse, leading to the students breaking off the school principal's limbs and putting an end to this madness.
Strawberry Shortcake- Crybaby is taught from a young age that their value depends on how desirable she is to men. It talks about how "pain is beauty" and the extremities women go under just to seem more appealing to men. Then, they blame themselves for basically giving off their body in a silver plate for guys to eat off of.
Lunchbox Friends- here, we see a crybaby being taken away from her friend group to join a more popular group of "barbies". This song is a criticism about how people design their friendships to seem more adequate to social etiquette, where they spread gossip about people they don't know, don't care about each other at all, and use one another to climb their way up a popularity ladder.
Orange Juice- This song is about another character, Fleur. She is a part of the "Barbies", forced by Kelly to incorporate beauty standards. She has bulimia, and this song is dedicated to one's body dysmorphia and eating disorders, much like the commentary on plastic surgery on "Mrs. Potatohead". Crybaby tells her "You wanna know something I learned about bodies? They don't define us, we aren't our bodies. They're temporaryI know it seems impossible but don't expect shallow people to love you. They don't even have the capacity to understand how amazing you are. And we all have to learn how to love ourselves without the approval of others".
Detention- The detention, in this case, is the music industry. People think art has to be pretty and visually cool, but it is not all flowers and sunshine. Melanie criticises the fact that people have to mask their feelings and uphold the image of a perfect person, even when suppressed and vulnerable, mistakes are unacceptable.
Teacher's pet- right off the bet, this song clearly talks about sexual abuse on school grounds. In the movie's context, Angelita is seduced by a teacher and gives in for better grades, other than being convinced that he is actually attracted to her in a more innocent way. In reality, he decreases her in size to cut her open, as a metaphor for sexual exploration. He is stopped by Crybaby, walks in on him, throws him into a wall, transforms Angelita back to her normal size, and Angelita slices him open instead with a butterfly knife.
Highschool sweethearts- Crybaby expresses her desire for an honest and loving long-term relationship, where her lover would love and admire every aspect of her and appreciate her for every flaw of hers, also suggesting that she'd murder them if they dare cheat, and for potential lovers to not waste their time trying her if they don't think they can handle her and all her antics and unique attachment style.
Recess- in the film, this song is played during a lockdown that the principal's son has planned for Crybaby not to ruin the school as she and her friend group had planned meanwhile a 150th school prom dance happens. This song's pre-chorus could be a reference to how the music industry forces people to burn themselves out for work, but mainly, the song is about Melanie taking her grandmother's advice about letting go of the manipulative people who use you for their own end of the line, as well as maintaining your mental health balanced.
Phew... only two more to go! Boy, Crybaby's life truly is insane. And to even begin to consider that she is almost a self-insert of Melanie in a parallel world is mind-blowing!
After the release of K-12, we get the After School EP, released on September 25th of 2020, which was predicted to become a film too about Crybaby going through college since, well, it's just what comes… After school. After all, she decided not to follow the angel, Lilith, into the afterlife and live life to her fullest, learn from her mistakes, and let that be a lesson to her. This EP, however, does not relate to Crybaby at all, and it is not until our current year, or so 3 years later, that Crybaby comes back to life.
So where is crybaby? Where did she go? And who is the name of the four eyes of this giant pink creature? Well, we did skip a good portion of Crybaby's life here, because… she's dead.
From here on, MusicSceneMedia.com must take the spotlight because they can probably introduce Portals better than I can. "Portals" was announced with a viral video back in February with the stunning visual of a mushroom, bearing the carved words 'RIP CRYBABY' on its stalk, confirming the death of her alter-ego. Sort of. Lyrics from the track DEATH (the first song in her album) would prolong her life explaining, 'My body has died, but I’m still alive'. Portals serve as the closing of Crybaby’s trilogy, detailing a 'through line story from death to birth' as the singer has described it herself."
In the release of DEATH's official music video, we can clearly see the burial of Crybaby and her taking on a new form of a sort of nymph or fairy-like mythical creature. This album is heavily inspired by the significance of life, death, afterlife and how they interconnect, a theme given by Melanie's experience reading past life regression hypnotherapy books. People within the book describe experiences they have been through during hypnotherapy and have seen peaks of what might come after death. Melanie, with this album, backs up that there is life after death, indicating her spirituality. This theme is much present in DEATH and WOMB, as DEATH begins with the repetition of "Death is life, is death, is life, is death, is life, is…" and WOMB ends with the same chanting. What is most significant in the order of the songs placed on the album is that DEATH, being the end of life, is the first song on the album, whilst WOMB, being the beginning of life, is placed at the very end of the album. This backs up the idea of the immortality of a human and the cycle of life, that there is life after death. The album also follows reflections upon oneself and what Melanie has been through to indicate processes of reflection and learning throughout this transition between death and life.
For this section of the theme of PORTALS, there is luckily a highlight that Melanie has left in her Instagram briefly summarizing the significance of the title of the album, its connection to her past albums, the relationship in between all songs of the album, what her message is (story 1-2) and what every song on the album has to offer (stories 2-7). Down below, I'll only explain DEATH through Crybaby's end of the line since it is the last bit of information we get on her, but I'll link down below her Instagram highlight, and really thank Melanie for all the work she's already done for me! In the end, I'll leave a top 3 pick from my personal opinion too.
DEATH- This song introduces the form that Crybaby has taken after her death. The picture above shows an image of, well, her dead body but her still being alive. She does state in the song that "My body has died but I'm still alive, I'm back from the dead". This song was also first released as a single.
The rest of the songs contain criticisms, concepts, and real-life events that she had gone through or studied. VOID, SPIDER WEB, and LIGHT SHOWER are concepts that she has studied for this album. The songs DEATH, TUNNEL VISION, FAERIE SOIRÉE, LEECHES, and THE CONTORTIONIST refer to fictional songwriting and things she has not gone through. Finally, EVIL, MOON CYCLE, BATTLE OF THE LARYNX, and POWDER are based on her and Oliver Tree's ex-relationship, yet EVIL was truly confirmed by Melanie herself to be about Oliver. We can see, too, that the last image inserted has the corpse of Crybaby wearing the exact same outfit as Melanie was wearing at a photoshoot with Oliver, where her regret from dating him really shows how she has evolved herself (they were left on good terms though).
She is in a current relationship with Verde, otherwise known as Justin Greenwood, verdeonfilm or coachwaveone. He is a D.C.-based singer, producer, and photographer, who has also inspired Melanie throughout the production of these songs as she has used a discarded track of his to create NYMPHOLOGY (the interlude uses his unreleased beat called "Amulet").
Personally, VOID, which was her second PORTALS single, is the most remarkable song in her album, and that seems not to be my solo opinion because it is her most famous song on Spotify at the moment! This song was her first and latest song entirely produced by herself, making it even more meaningful. The theme is already explained in Melanie's Instagram highlight which is linked 4 paragraphs above, so there is no need to touch on that subject. I do, however, want to link that back to the concept of the afterlife. This is the first phase that your spirit goes through within the process of cleansing one's soul for rebirth according to Melanie's hypnotherapy readings from the books she has read. This one phase is where one is taken to a completely empty void. There is no space for anything other than self-loathing and reflect upon all the bad things you have created for yourself, the torture one goes through as their own judge whilst everything is dark, empty, cold, and dull.
She has put the song’s concept into the context of a song in a way humans can comprehend and relate to. Melanie confessed to submitting to crying out and screaming the chorus of the song. The song is described as: "A void. A dark place where you are left with your own thoughts for introspection, in order to find the light within yourself." A lyric that seems to have stuck with the Crybabies is "I hate who I was before". This is not confirmed, but it could either refer to:
Crybaby's human form. It is clear that Crybaby has struggled immensely throughout her childhood and adolescence, or…
Melanie's teenagehood and the times when she dated Oliver Tree, considering the fact that DEATH's music video has included dead versions of her in a photo shoot with his as seen previously.
A second personal favourite of mine is the fourth song on the album, which is extremely contradicting to VOID. That's right, I'm talking about LIGHT SHOWER, the first song ever recorded for the album! This song can be described in one simple word for me in every single aspect of it: beautiful. The instrumental and vocal style is similar to that of older songs, but they seem somewhat calm, nostalgic, slow, and romantic. Of course, let's not forget that this is a romantic song. It romanticises another phase of a spiritual afterlife, a phase where a spirit is cleansed of all trauma, anxieties, worries, and sins with a shower of light rays that pierce through one's soul. Melanie describes it as "There is a place in the afterlife people under hypnosis describe as a soul-cleansing or a shower of light. A place where gem-coloured rays of light shine through every inch of your soul, cleansing your spirit of the trauma it had experienced during your last lifetime. Restoring you to your original vibration."
To be blatantly honest, this is better than any other romantic song I've ever heard. The lyrics might lead us to think she is describing what the love of a certain person feels like, washing every negative thought away by letting them into your life. It is true that this topic is not the confirmed reference for the lyrics, however, having a romantic connection and glorification of a concept such as that is so refreshing to see for once. It is a purifying process where people are taken in during a place of vulnerability. Finding that light of hope and forgiveness is a very divine feeling to glorify, and I appreciate Melanie for taking that into consideration and changing the norms of a romantic song for once.
The third song I find absolutely amazing is EVIL, simply because of the intention of it sounding as mean as possible. Man, I have no idea what Oliver and she have been through but for her to use such cruel words and graphic descriptions yet still manage to make it sound like an appropriate reaction… must've been a lot. Not to mention the tons of energy and edge put into the song. The tone is deeper and there is a very heavy baseline for it. I love it. The most aggressive line in the song would have to be:
"Every time you tell a lie, I'm praying that you choke
Should've listened to the signs, and the horoscopes
Hope you never cope, hope you slip on soap
Crack your head like an egg, wanna see the yolk
You were such a hoax"
This Lyric was also part of the caption on an extended snippet of the track on her TikTok. The moment I batted my eyes at this portion, it really screamed pure evil at me.
This song, however, is not her just being a jerk out of nowhere. Melanie describes the theme as "It's about dealing with a narcissist who ironically calls you evil just because you're able to see through their bullshit." She is only standing up for herself in a toxic relationship and giving them a taste of their own medicine, asserting boundaries, refusing to be mistreated, cutting ties, and moving on. Also quoted by Melanie (which I find absolutely savage and hilarious):
"My favourite of the conflict songs. It flowed. It was a mental turning point, where I was finally able to articulate perfectly what I had dealt with in my last relationship. I wanted the lyrics to be the most savage—every time I wrote something, I was like, ‘No, it’s not mean enough.’ I spent the entire day blowing out my vocals while recording it."
And in that note, we can conclude that Melanie Martinez is a revolutionary pop artist that puts insane concepts and emotion into her songs. The deepest of concepts have developed over time and the evolution of Crybaby is a work of art just as much as the rest of her songs are. The "PORTALS" era she is currently going through is her most genius and unique work yet, it is an experience like no other to sit down and listen to this masterpiece. Her songwriting should be studied just as much as Shakespeare's theatrical literature by future generations, just saying…!
EP- extended play, a playlist longer than a single yet smaller than an album, probably around 2-5 songs most times.
The Voice- american reality show singing competition, much like "America's got talent" or "The X factor
K-12- A school that follows from kindergarten to high school, 12th grade.
Butterfly knife- a folding pocket knife from the Philippines.
Crybabies- Melanie Martinez's fans, a specific name used for this community
Eras- Eras refer to different stages that melanie has gone through according to her albums, such as "Dollhouse era", "Crybaby era", "K-12 era", "PORTALS era", and so on. It could just be considered a phase in her journey through the musical industry or the phases of life that Crybaby has been through.
Special thanks to these articles that have helped me indescribably: