By Abbey Dinsdale
Special for The Squall
“I like the idea of pop music . . . but it’s not being used the right way”
Melanie Martinez, originally a contestant on The Voice, debuted with her first studio album Cry Baby on August 14, 2015. She topped the indie music charts, as well as made it to number six on Billboard, with the album. Prior to the release of Cry Baby, Martinez had released several singles, most of which were featured on the album.
Categorized as as darkwave, indie pop, electro pop, and emo pop, Cry Baby succeeded in bringing a darker mix of reality and fantasy to the American music scene. As stated by Martinez, she just “wanted to talk about stuff that was honest.”
“The whole point of the album was to take childhood themes and relate it to adult situations” said Martinez. This concept can be seen when reading the titles of the album’s tracks: “Dollhouse,” “Sippy Cup,” “Training Wheels,” and “Milk and Cookies,” to name a few.
Cry Baby follows the story of a fantasy version of herself; the character of a young girl named Cry Baby. While not all of the situations encountered by Cry Baby happened to the real-life Melanie Martinez, many of the lyrics come from her own personal experiences.
The album opens with the title track “Cry Baby,” which introduces the album’s main character, Cry Baby, and explains the origin of her name; growing up, Martinez was mocked with the name “cry baby” due to her overly emotional personality. The song features the sounds of child laughter and crying, continuing the theme seen in the song’s lyrics.
Following “Cry Baby” is “Dollhouse,” one of the album’s darker, more relatable songs. This song tells of Cry Baby’s family life, as while her life appears to be perfect, she struggles with an alcoholic mother, an unfaithful father, and a drug-addicted brother.
Several songs later is “Carousel,” which discusses Cry Baby’s love life; unrequited. The song has an overall “creepy carnival” tone, the lyrics showing the idea of chasing after someone who will never love you back, and the pain that follows this sort of situation. It was based on Martinez’s own experiences with love. This song, along with “Dollhouse,” is one of Martinez’s most famous, as it was featured on American Horror Story.
One of the album’s strongest songs, and Martinez’s personal favorite, is “Mrs. Potato Head.” It is very relatable to teenagers, specifically girls, growing up in today’s society. The song, which Martinez states is Cry Baby asking her toys the meaning of beauty, tells of the toxicity of today’s beauty standards. It sarcastically states that “no one will love you if you’re unattractive,” and although does not condemn plastic surgery, asks why society sees it as a necessity.
While many lyrics came from Martinez’s own thoughts and experiences, several songs featured on Cry Baby are purely fantasy, such as the paired songs “Tag, you’re it” and “Milk and Cookies.”
Together, these songs tell the story of Cry Baby being kidnapped by a character named Wolf, and later poisoning him in order to escape. Despite the fact that these lyrics are fiction for Martinez herself, abduction is a serious issue encountered by children, adolescents, and some adults. Martinez chose to include these songs on Cry Baby in hopes of bringing awareness to these issues.
While not for everyone, Martinez certainly is an interesting artist; she does more than sing, but tells a story through her songs.
Although the album could do with less audio effects, as anyone who has heard Martinez sing live knows she is talented, the music is catchy, relatable, and “cooler” than some of the other pop icons out there. Listeners can expect semi-disturbing lyrics alongside strong messages about life, love, and society, making Cry Baby a very unique album.