Melanie Martinez is making pop music on her own terms. The 20-year-old is a former contestant on Season of NBC’s The Voice. Melanie became an overnight sensation when she gave her own dark spin on Britney Spears’ hit song “Toxic” back in 2012.
On her debut album, Cry Baby, Martinez is perfectly capturing the spirit of a Gothic Lolita while singing full-on pop music mixed with hip-hop instruments and toy sounds. Like most Lolitas do, Martinez plays around with childlike themes and kid-like imagery. Martinez’s album includes tracks like “Alphabet Boy,” “Carousel,” “Doll House,” “Mad Hatter,” “Milk and Cookies,” Pacify Her,” “Pity Party,” “Training Wheels,” and “Tag, You’re It.”
This album isn’t all fun and games. Melanie is not a woman who likes to dress up like a little girl. If you listen closely to each song, you’ll see that each song has mature and dark themes that are not exactly child’s play.
“But listen closely and you’ll find mature themes and social commentary that put a thought-provoking twist on a youth culture that’s been raised by Disney princesses and Katy Perry.”
Melanie Martinez even claims that Cry Baby is all her own work even though she worked with several producers and songwriters. She hints that some of the songs are based on real life events, while other songs were made just for the fun of it. However, Martinez did not reveal which songs are actually based off her real life.
“Cry Baby is like this fairytale version of me. A lot of it is based on real events and some of it is made up to make it more whimsical.”
The singer says she was inspired by her own Gothic Lolita look. Melanie wanted to make an album that appeared sweet from the outside but came off dark on the inside. Melanie even has a vision for her upcoming tour, which she calls a “creepy, haunted-nursery vibe.”
“I would go into the studio and think of a bunch of titles that related to childhood, and I would go deeper in and figure out how that title would fit in with what I’m doing as an adult. The thing that got me excited about it was that it’s possible to look at music as art and paint a picture using the contrast between light and dark. The light is the cute kid, the frosting on the cupcake part. The dark is that dark, gooey center.”
She was also inspired her final Voice performance, when she performed her song “Dollhouse” for the first time. After finishing in third place, Martinez just wanted to begin the writing process once she hit the studio. Then she progressed into writing songs that mixed childlike innocence with adult situations. The songwriting process also helped Martinez realize who she was as a person.
“When I started, I was very unsure of who I was. There were a lot of things in the songs that I didn’t realize I was saying. But more and more, it fell into place… I got more comfortable in my skin.”
Don’t let the looks of Melanie Martinez’s debut album fool you. Although it’s not strictly for kids, Melanie’s music is perfect for those who find singers like Halsey and Lana Del Rey too sexual for their tastes. As previously noted via Fuse TV, Martinez offers a refreshing “PG alternative,” although the singers’ sounds and styles are similar.
Her debut has already received its share of mixed reviews. That’s because there are some who understand what style Martinez is going for her on her new album.
“The ‘Cry Baby’ name serves as the basis for a whole album of titles that either bring to mind babies or early childhood. At first glance, this infantilizing approach can be both disturbing and strange, but in practice on the actual album, in practice, this is quite artfully done even down to the album’s clever story-book-style liner notes. […]
“[…]This is a 47-minute, visceral and venomous cultural critique cloaked in a backdrop of ethereal calliope-influenced electronics. We can try all we want to play and pretend to be perfect but deep down we all walk around with some degree of lasting damage. This is a brilliant and gripping record which is equally beautiful and twisted. It will haunt you in the best way possible. It is a pop record that will make you think about your life and maybe even your mistakes.”
And there are some who are too creeped out by the singer’s image to listen to her music.
“Martinez has a nice vocal quality and a lot of potential, but I’m not entirely on board yet. It’s something about her branding. Martinez, a former contestant on ‘The Voice,’ is only 20 years old and the fact that’s she’s barely legal makes the creepy, sexualized fun house/pre-K nightmare vibe unsettling.”
Some would argue that Melanie Martinez is no different from the J-Pop/K-Pop girl groups who are known for infantilizing their looks. Martinez’s Cry Baby is available on CD and in standard vinyl LP, along with digital format on iTunes.
[Image: Kevin Winter/Getty Images]