In recent years, there has been a rise in popularity of indie pop music from female artists such as Lorde, Lana Del Rey, Sky Ferreira, Marina and the Diamonds and Halsey, who all gained massive fan followings through the social blogging platform Tumblr. The most recent artist to join this club of femme fatale pop artists is 20 year old Melanie Martinez, who is best known for coming in at sixth place as a constant on the third season of the singing competition show, “The Voice” back in 2012.
Shortly after her time on “The Voice,” the Long Island, N.Y. native was signed onto Atlantic Records and later released her EP “Dollhouse” whose track list included the successful single “Carousel” which was later used in the hit TV show “American Horror Story: Freakshow.” This past August, Martinez followed up “Dollhouse” with the debut of her full length concept album, “Crybaby,” which takes listeners into a manic fantasy world that is inhabited by Crybaby, Martinez’s alter ego.
If one were to go off the titles of the songs alone, “Crybaby” could easily be mistaken for a children’s album, whose track listing features rather infantile sounding titles such as “Sippy Cup,” “Dollhouse” and “Mrs. Potato Head.” However, this is not the case as Martinez uses this quirky and slightly creepy album to tell disturbing and gruesome tales that are based around actual events from her own life by uniquely juxtaposing the childlike song titles with dark lyrics that explicitly reference themes such as heartbreak, broken families, emotional abuse and unrequited love.
Starting off Crybaby’s story with the title track by the same name, “Crybaby,” this song shows that the fictional character does not feel ashamed of her nickname and her easily hurt feelings, “They call you cry baby, cry baby but you don’t fucking care.” “Dollhouse,” the second track off of the album, reveals the harsh reality of a seemingly “perfect family” that is filled with drinking, cheating and drugs through Martinez’s use of lyrics such as “You don’t hear me when I say, mom please wake up. Dad’s with a slut, and your son is smoking cannabis” and “Everyone thinks that we’re perfect, please don’t let them look through the curtains.” Easily the darkest song on “Crybaby,” “Tag. You’re It” tells the story of Crybaby’s sexual assault after she is kidnapped by a stranger in a parking lot and she gets her revenge on him later in the album in “Milk And Cookies.”
The strongest aspect of “Crybaby” is its singles. “Mrs. Potato Head” received praise from critics all around due to Martinez’s use of lyrics such as, “No one will love you if you’re unattractive” to make brutally honest observations on the pressures that society is constantly putting on young women to get plastic surgery in order to conform to the accepted standard of beauty. Writing the song from the perspective of a little girl who is playing with her Mrs. Potato Head toy, Martinez asks, “Oh Mrs. Potato Head tell me, is it true that pain is beauty? Does a new face come with a warranty?”
Although not as radio friendly as most pop albums, “Crybaby” is single-handedly one of the most artistic and cleverly executed indie pop albums released this year. Martinez’s lyrics and vocal delivery works perfectly to create a variety of catchy and infectious pop songs.