Lauren Wong | The Poly Post

Review: Melanie Martinez album ‘PORTALS’ stuns fans

By Amanda Guevara, April 25, 2023

Melanie Martinez lands her first No. 1 spot on the Billboard Top Album Sales chart with her newest conceptual album, ‘Portals.’ Four years after her last album, K-12, which charted at number three on the US Billboard 200, without releasing any singles prior.

Since 2015, Martinez has been known for her eccentric style, mixing cutesy, melodic nursery rhyme beats with disturbing and explicit lyrics to tell a certain story that follows the album’s concept. Her biggest contributor was singer, producer and songwriter CJ Baran who helped write almost all the songs.

In her “Crybaby” album, she sings about a made-up character going through the ups and downs of childhood. Meanwhile, her second album, “K-12,” picks up where “Crybaby” left off as a child experiencing the trials and tribulations of grade school by using the school as an analogy for systems of power. All good things must come to an end, and Melanie does this with “Portals” which dives into the spiritual theme of life after death.

The first song on the album “Death” opens with a high-pitched voice saying, “Death is life is death is life…” with the sound of a heartbeat in the background as it transcends into an alternative pop song about the rebirth of the character “Crybaby.” The song has a techno-pop mixed with an alternative rock sound with her voice seemingly using auto-tune. Unlike her previous albums, “Portals” uses more indie rock instrumentals, and she ends some of her songs with shouting chorus lyrics.

One of the more popular songs on the album, “Void”, was fully produced and written by Martinez, expressing the need for a dark place where you are alone with your thoughts to find yourself — a void. The track features a deep bass guitar line and programmed drums that perfectly encapsulate the indie pop rock throughout the album.

One of my personal favorite tracks on the album is “The Contortionist,” which is about bending over backward for someone who doesn’t accept you as you are. It sounds like the song you listen to when you’ve exhausted yourself for someone meanwhile you don’t receive the same energy in return.

Another one of my favorite songs is in the deluxe version of the album, “Pluto.” This song resonates with me deeply as someone who is afraid to step out of their comfort zone. It serves as an affirmation of wanting to change and transform. In the song, she refers to the god of the Underworld in Roman mythology, “Pluto,” who represents a more positive version of the ruler of the afterlife. Martinez also uses the astrological symbolism of the planet Pluto to express the theme of rebirth and reconstruction, when she says, “I’ll bathe in my ashes, rise like a phoenix, show me who I am becoming.”

Martinez explores the concept of death and reincarnation in this song, asking him to help her see her demons, destroy her and then transform her into something purer.

Lauren Wong | The Poly Post

Martinez uses a lot of transitions between songs, but my favorite is when she uses the interlude “Amulet” to transition between “Nymphology” to “Evil” because of how smoothly the drum solo at the end blends into the guitar strum at the start of the next song.

‘EVIL’ “Evil” is the perfect conflict song about her past relationship. In an Instagram post, Martinez expressed the song is about dealing with a narcissist who ironically calls you evil because you see through them. She also expressed that much of the inspiration for this album stems from her reading past life regression therapy books.

In another Instagram post, she said she hopes this album will help relieve some of the weight mortality has placed on people so grief becomes easier for people and they can live life knowing we are here to grow, create, feel and help each other evolve.

This is the last part of the “Crybaby” trilogy. Since Martinez accompanied “K-12” with a movie, she has expressed plans to do the same for this album, so keep an eye out for “Portals” at a movie theatre near you.

Feature image courtesy of Lauren Wong

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