The charts better watch out whenever Frank Ocean finally returns, because Melanie Martinez unexpectedly broke six figures and delivered what is sure to remain one of the best debut weeks of the year shows what happens when you maintain a dedicated fan base waiting. Taking some time away from the spotlight after 2019’s K-12 and its accompanying film, Martinez kicked off the promo cycle for it with several videos of strange four-eyed creatures hatching. And while it might be a bit too obvious Björkian, removing the Cry Baby character, who appears to die a tragic death off-screen, and moving forward with music that retains the uniqueness of her work while allowing listeners insight into her own life. and prospects for the first time was a great move. With an overall theme of rebirth and the cycle of life, continuing his typically macabre approach, Martinez sets to work applying his horror imagery, complete with sound effects of creaking doors and breaking bones, to tell new stories. Now approaching a decade of relevance, Martinez laid the groundwork for all the bland TikTok knockoffs that feature cutesy persona, gothic vibes, and lyrical shock value. In that sense, she’s still on top of her game.
Martinez’s talent for film is a big part of why her songs can be so compelling, right down to the vocal performance she brings. Each instrument is already one of the most unique in the industry, the breathy grimace now given more room to shine above somber acoustics, but still rising above electronic cascades. The opening track “DEATH” begins with heartbeats and heavy breaths as the life cycle begins and Martinez descends on the theme with some amazing harmonies. They soundtrack an orchestral overture before a massive electropop beat and break continue to show us the ambitious spirit of it, the drum beats getting progressively more intense as the track unfolds. Really, it’s just a song to announce his return to the music scene, but it’s one of the most artistic ways he could have done it. The cinematic aspects continue as Martinez attacks her most popular hooks as an actress on the verge of tears, making them hit even harder. “VOID” has received a lot of attention since its release, and for good reason. With a heavy pop-rock drive, as if Martinez is cashing in on the recent emo boom she’s always seemed a bit destined for, she seems to be singing about fighting her old self and desperately trying to escape some of the nastier moments. of their life. The character of her passed from her, with lyrics like “entangled in my own intestines” that could only have come from her.
“TUNNEL VISION” brings us the first of a couple of great Imogen Heap-style glitchy a cappella moments, and it’s the track that feels the most like the marriage of her two characters. With some music box notes set to a modern trap beat, it feels like a spiritual sequel to it. K-12 consent anthem “Strawberry Shortcake” – now directed at a former partner. Part of what made Martinez so impactful when she came on the scene was her breathy, angelic tone that delivers forceful and sometimes horrific messages, and her superior range here, when she claims she’s more than an object of desire, still works. precisely for that reason. “FAERIE SOIREE” is a brief experiment that lasts less than two minutes before another a cappella finale, and it’s one that doesn’t quite fit: with an Afrobeats groove and Latin guitar, something about Martinez’s tone, and the less memorable melody. delivery does not fit. That tone is on full display in the next song, “LIGHT SHOWER,” a low key acoustic ballad that finds her toasting a new love interest, again, in the kinky way only she could, as the song begins to feel a bit like a theme song from the movie bones and all. Singing about finding true love for the first time after a long line of abuse, Martinez’s voice is soulful and vulnerable—it’s the kind of voice you could listen to for hours. “SPIDER WEB” closes the first half with some oom-pah circus energy and a fun breakdown as Martinez touches on the negative impact of social media, which threatened to harm her career when untruths surfaced between album cycles. She powerfully likens this to a sprawling web we’re all trapped in, waiting for the arachnid to sink its teeth into.
The track “LEECHES” essentially takes the acoustic backdrop of “LIGHT SHOWER” and the anti-hater message of “SPIDER WEB” and combines them into one song, making it feel a little less essential to the album for that reason, but it’s still great to hear Martinez’s voice without much instrumental distraction. A bit quirky and disjointed in its rhythms, it helps evoke the sense of creepy terror that the lyrics elicit as well. “BATTLE OF THE LARYNX”, on the other hand, is a full stadium pop-rock anthem. The pre-chorus might be one of the catchiest tunes Martinez has ever written, and putting his best Avril Lavigne-esque mockery over the crunchy guitars certainly helps. The little breaths in the explosive chorus and the springiness of his voice make the melodies even more intoxicating as he extracts lines and lyrics in unique ways: sometimes it really does sound like he was born with natural Auto-Tune. “THE CONTORTIONIST” is also a very prominent track here that shows why Martinez is such a unique voice in the music industry. Talk about getting entangled in knots for others, to the eerie background noises, Martinez combines a bubblegum pop melody over pizzicato strings with a completely deranged chorus riddled with maniacal laughter. Lady Gaga may have to step aside, because the track finds Martinez making her case for the next Harley Quinn.
While she’s usually a bit more poetic, a couple of the final tracks contain the more blatant nuance directed at Martinez’s ex-partner Oliver Tree. “MOON CYCLE” finds her co-opting her signature improvisation apparently in an attempt to fight misogynistic comments she made about periods, while “EVIL” is another catchy pop-rock song where she sings about the toxicity of her catching it. in her. while they were still together. The song “NYMPHOLOGY” also appears near the end, but this one sounds a little more like what Martinez haters think her music sounds like. With a high-pitched voice to make her sound like a teasing kid on the playground and some of her most inappropriate lyrics seemingly culled from her just for shock, she represents the worst parts of the image she’s thankfully leaving behind. “WOMB” closes the album and sees the cycle of life renewed, while Martínez closes the cycle with a song sung from the perspective of someone being born.
PORTALS Ultimately, it’s revealed to be a fitting title for Martinez’s latest work despite it not being mentioned anywhere, because it really finds her stepping into a new world while retaining some of the best things that drew fans to her. first of all. While some of the old still lingers, for better and worse, Martinez is still a fascinating and unpredictable act to watch.
Favorite songs: THE CONTORTIONIST, THE BATTLE OF THE LARYNX, THE COBWEB, DEATH, TUNNEL VISION
Least Favorite Track: NYMPHOLOGY