When I saw music enthusiasts obsessing over this young woman with multi-colored hair and an inclination toward a pastel aesthetic, I didn’t want to join the wave. Melanie Martinez is a The Voice alum and revealed her debut album Cry Baby back in August to favorable reviews and an assortment of trendy teens, enamored by her fantasy filled narrative of a young girl named Cry Baby, learning to cope in a cruel world. Cry Baby is a concept album with each track tackling classic childhood themes while adding a dark, mature twist to reflect the dramatic nature of the character. It wasn’t until checking out Martinez’s second single from Cry Baby called “Soap” and reading an interview she did with Noisey that I was willing to open up the storybook and let the bubbly alt-pop take me on a journey.
We start things off with the album titled track introducing listeners to Cry Baby. A misunderstood character with too many emotions for anyone to handle. The eerie haunted house sounding track is perfect to set the scene for this moody track as Martinez sings over a hip hop leaning baseline. The feel of Melanie Martinez sound is different. It’s not typical pop or so different that it would alienate someone who picked up the album with little to no idea about the concept.
“Dollhouse” is next and reminds me of a mix between Lana Del Rey and Marina and the Diamonds. Martinez has a cool way of painting a picture as she plays off the amazing production from Kinetics & One Love and the storybook theme of the songs. As clocks tick and pipes bang around in the beat, the hip hop undertones in the production continues to be unexpected but very welcome. On the hook Martinez repeats, “Everyone thinks that we’re perfect / Please don’t let them look through the curtains,” showing Cry Baby isn’t the picture-perfect girl that you might assume her to be.
I don’t get how some of the lines Melanie Martinez uses to veil Cry Baby’s issues go completely over my head. Like in “Sippy Cup” when she sings, “Syrup is still syrup in a sippy cup.” You can mask your problems (or hide your liquor) but they’ll still be there waiting to be resolved. The production for “Sippy Cup” is very lush sounding and I like that I can literally hear syrup bring poured into a cup, nice touch. Cry Baby has a lot more attitude than anticipated and I’m here for it.
Next up is “Carousel”, a track that reminds me of Gwen Stefani’s Love.Angel.Music.Baby turned up a couple notches. The horn driven beat has a nice knock and when the best drops, I’m obsessed. Cry Baby is on this never ending cycle of chasing love and she can’t get off the ride. When she starts asking why her cotton candy got stolen on the bridge, I’m kind of thinking alright Melanie let’s wrap this up, but you gotta stick to the theme. I get it. On the next track “Alphabet Boy” we meet Cry Baby’s love interest. In her Noisey interview, Martinez mentions another clever song writing tactic where she’s going through the alphabet throughout the song. I love that Melanie knows how to tow the line so her songs follow the childhood theme without sounding childish. Hearing Martinez tell her Alphabet Boy off is so entertaining and is definitely worth some more spins when the album is over.
“Think I just remembered something / I think I left the faucet running / Now my words are filling up the tub, ” Melanie reveals in the opening of “Soap” the first song I liked on the album. Cry Baby doesn’t want to be coy about her feelings but to prevent herself from speaking her truth she washes her mouth out with soap. The production makes me think I’m hearing the sound underwater and helps with the idea of the song. It’s easy to cast this album out as another pop record but it’s much deeper than that if you let yourself sank into Cry Baby’s world. I’m halfway into the album when “Trading Wheels” starts and Melanie is still holding my interest. The quick number features some dreamy production to match Martinez’s silky vocals as she let’s Alphabet Boy know that’s she ready to get a little more intimate. There’s no soap in site for Cry Baby and she’s letting all of her feelings out in as many metaphors as possible.
Note to self: never stand Cry Baby up… On the next track “Pity Party” no one shows up to her party and as the classic old song goes, “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.” Cry Baby goes from sad to insane pretty quickly as she announces, “I’ll cry until my pity party is in flames.” I really like the idea of this song but it’s definitely not my favorite on the album.
Remember those fun games of tag when you were a kid? Well Melanie turns that game into sex on “Tag, You’re It”. Through distorted vocals, Cry Baby is tipsy off a little bit of poison and about to get caught up in a parking lot. This songs touches on sexual assault, looking deeper into it and makes the nursery rhyme lyrics almost haunting. I wasn’t feeling the previous two songs and the next one doesn’t win me over. “Milk and Cookies” has so many childhood references but it misses the wit that’s in most of the record. Things pick back up with “Pacify Her”. Cry Baby isn’t the same innocent girl we’re introduced to in the beginning of the album. After going through some traumatic events, Cry Baby is contemplating commiting adultery with Alphabet Boy to be his escape. The concept of “Pacify Her” is so interesting and once again the production gets a win in my book.
Melanie Martinez continues to touch on serious topics with Mrs. Potato Head letting girls know it’s okay to embrace their natural beauty. From subtle bombs dropped throughout the song like, “It’s such a waste / When little girls grow into their mother’s face / But little girls are learning how to cut and paste / And pucker up their lips until they suffocate, ” the lyrics make “Mrs. Potato Head” one of the strongest cuts from the album. The next track “Mad Hatter” was definitely inspired by Alice In Wonderland as Martinez lets us know that all the best people are crazy. The production sounds frantic yet extremely mellow due to Melanie’s calming voice. “Mad Hatter” wraps up the standard edition of Cry Baby but there are three more songs to get into if you can’t get enough of Cry Baby’s wild ride.
“Play Date” is about that moment when you don’t feel good about playing games and being a one night stand. I’m sure a lot of listeners can relate to the many problems of Cry Baby and I like that Melanie Martinez touched on so many problems young adults face as they grow up. The last two tracks “Teddy Bear” and Cake have solid production (Seriously became a big fan of Kinetics & One Love because of this album) but I’m not a huge fan of the songs. I think the bonus tracks are for the die hards so if you liked what you heard in the 13 tracks, you should definitely give the last three a shot.
Sometimes it takes me a little time to listen to the critically acclaimed artists and give into the hype but I’m glad that I gave Melanie Martinez a chance. I love the way she can tell a story through her lyrics and emotional vocals. Since Cry Baby is a concept album it’ll be exciting to hear what Martinez creates next and I’m hopping she continues to work with Kinetics & One Love because they made some great music together with this album. So if you feel like reverting back to a mature version of your childhood, give Cry Baby a spin.
What do you think of Melanie Martinez’s debut album Cry Baby? Let me know in the comments!