I could go on and on about how Melanie Martinez should have won her season on The Voice but I’ll simply say this: she was far too talented — as a unique *artist,* not just a singer — to win a show where the singers perform cover songs almost exclusively. At the time, I had wanted her to win, and I was more than a little upset when she went home. Now I’m kind of glad she lost. Had she won, her debut album would have likely been radio-friendly pop — probably even lame bubblegum pop — so if she had to lose in order to come up with this, her amazing debut full-length, Cry Baby, then so be it.
The album opens with “Cry Baby,” which is something of a manifesto for the whole record; she’s here to stick up for the outcasts, the sensitive and the silenced. “They call you cry baby, cry baby / But you don’t fucking care,” she sings. Less you think she can’t relate, she spells it out clearly before the song is done: “I look at you and I see myself / And I know you better than anyone else.” As for the music, it’s one of the best-produced pop songs of the year. The main beat would seem to be the sound of a hammer hitting metal, which is complimented by deep, warm bass, hand claps and lots of punchy beats.
“Dollhouse,” which was previously the title track of an EP, follows with more handclaps, smooth bass guitar and assorted, looped beats and electro-embellishments. “D-O-L-L-H-O-U-S-E / I see things that nobody else sees,” she sings. “Everyone thinks that we’re perfect / Please don’t let them look through the curtains.” This sort of self-criticism is a theme on the album; she wants her listeners to know that she’s flawed, too.
One of the many things I love about Cry Baby is its explicit language. That said, Melanie isn’t one to swear for the sake of swearing. Usually, she uses “fuck” for emphasis, to bold her lyrics in your mind. Besides, she’s 20 and twentysomethings do tend to swear a lot. At least they did when I was one.
“Pill diet pill / Diet / If they give you a new pill then you will buy it / If they say to kill yourself then you will try it / All the make up in the world won’t make you less insecure,” goes “Sippy Cup.” Aside from being insightful and brutally honest, her lyrics are impressive for rhyming words that technically don’t rhyme or seem like they would fit together. The way her words flow gives one the impression that she could just as easily be making rap music.
Chances are you’ve already heard Melanie’s “Carousel” without even knowing it; the eerie song was used in advertisements for American Horror Story: Freakshow. With accordion, throbbing bass and assorted embellishments, it sounds like something you’d hear on a “Carousel.” A disturbing carousel, but nevertheless; it’s demented Merry Go Round music.
“I love everything you do / When you call me fucking dumb for the stupid shit I do,” she sings on the strange ballad “Training Wheels.” On one hand, it sounds like she’s being sarcastic when she sings those lyrics, but other lyrics suggest that she loves the guy. Perhaps she loves and hates him at the same time? People do often have mixed feelings like that.
“I’m fucking crazy / Need my prescription pills,” she sings on the razor sharp “Milk and Cookies,” which would seem to at least be partially about insomnia. Although that could be a metaphor for people wanting to put her down, as she calls it during the song. Near the end, she quips, “Sing you a lullaby where you die at the end.”
Elsewhere, there’s a bit of a throbbing, dubstep vibe to the kiss-off “Cake,” one of the three deluxe edition bonus tracks. “You buy all the ingredients except you needing me,” she sings. “I’m not a piece of cake for you to just discard while you walk away with the frosting on my heart.” After she tells the guy off, she sings that he’s just “a piece of meat,” ending the song on an amusing note, her sense of humor being a big part of her charm.
I could go on and on because, seriously, all sixteen tracks on the deluxe edition of Cry Baby are fantastic. There isn’t one song I could point to and say that it’s filler. The lush production, her likeable voice and unpredictable lyrics ensure that the album holds your attention from start to finish. It’s a record that fans of artists like Lorde and Marina and The Diamonds should embrace for its unique beats and lyrical perspective. (It also resembles Lady Gaga’s darker material.)
I was quite surprised to learn that Cry Baby is on Atlantic Records, as it’s the sort of album that tends to get self-released or on a smaller label. But they clearly appreciated Melanie’s vision and let her take her proverbial ball of creativity and run with it. Now, I just have to hope that they decide to release the album on vinyl; Amazon currently does not show a vinyl version.