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Melanie Martinez

Melanie Martinez Steps Into New Worlds on Portals

Leaving her old persona behind, the NYC-based indie-pop singer applies her macabre tendencies to more personal stories. 

by Ben Boddez

While indie electro-pop phenom Melanie Martinez has always been releasing music under the guise of a character, Cry Baby – who seems to have suffered a tragic off-screen death – her latest project, Portals, finds her retaining the uniqueness of her work while still letting listeners in on her own life and perspectives.

With an overarching theme of rebirth and the cycle of life continuing to play into her typically macabre approach, Martinez sets to work on applying her horror imagery – complete with sound effects of creaking doors and snapping bones. She frequently touches on the dissolution of a high-profile relationship and the negative impact of social media, which threatened to hurt her career when false allegations arose between album cycles. She powerfully compares this to a spreading spiderweb we’re all getting stuck in, waiting for the arachnid to sink its teeth in.

Martinez’s flair for the cinematic – which saw her last project accompanied by a feature-length film and brings us the imagery of strange, four-eyed creatures hatching from eggs during this album’s promotional cycle – is a huge part of why her songs can be so compelling, right down to the vocal performance she brings to the table. Her instrument is already one of the industry’s most unique, the breathy sneer now frequently given more space to shine over somber acoustics but still rising above the electronic cascades. But attacking her poppiest hooks like an actress on the verge of tears certainly makes them hit even harder. Now closing in on a decade of relevance, Martinez laid the foundation for all of the bland TikTok knockoffs featuring a cutesy persona, a gothic vibe, and lyrical shock value. In that regard, she’s still at the top of her game.