ALBUM REVIEW: Melanie Martinez’s “K-12” (A MAG)

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k-12 album cover

Hanging alone in a dark hallway, my Melanie Martinez Crybaby necklace is now a memory of what once was. 

Cheap, copper Hot Topic jewelry: a symbol of when Melanie Martinez made good music. 

OK, OK, that’s a bit harsh… but also, not really. 

Melanie Martinez released her much anticipated (by me, at least) album, “K-12,” on Sept. 6. Her first record, “Crybaby,” was objectively fantastic. The album was written with wit and produced with cohesion. 

“Crybaby” combined Martinez’s little girl character with adult themes and cheeky, underhanded lyrics. This was the beauty of that legendary album, but something I couldn’t find on “K-12.” 

After listening to Melanie’s second album, I wondered if the record company is forcing her to continue this character against her will. ‘Are they holding her mother hostage?’ I thought. ‘Her puppy, maybe?’ 

I wanted to love this album, but after several listens, I can’t find Martinez’s heart in it. 

Numerous tracks hit simply as songs about things that happen at school. For example, “Nurse’s Office,” “Wheels on the Bus,” “Class Fight” and “Teacher’s Pet” sit on the surface as songs about kids behaving badly on a school bus, faking an illness to get out of class and (you guessed it) class fight over a boy and an inappropriate student-teacher relationship. 

Teacher’s pet, if I’m so special, why am I secret? (Why am I? Why am I?) Yeah, why the fuck is that?” she slowly sings in “Teacher’s Pet.” 

“Give me that pink slip of permission. This is old. I’m tired of wishing I was ditching,” she tells us in “Nurse’s Office.” 

I wanted more, Mel, I wanted more. 

A few songs retain a bit of what we love about Martinez. 

“Strawberry Shortcake” and “Recess” give a hint of her lovable juxtaposition she possessed so strongly in the past, singing of overly-sexualized strawberry shortcake and rape culture and her grandmother telling her “Don’t let them fuck you, honey.”

That is what the people wanted. 

In “Orange Juice,” Martinez takes a swing at a deeper issue: eating disorders and body image. However, it somehow feels forced and lazy lyrically. 

“You turn oranges to orange juice. Enter there, then spit it out of you.”

I’ll just leave that there.  

In 2017, in the middle of her four-year hiatus, Martinez was accused of rape by a fellow musician. Having been out of the music scene since 2015, it may be expected for Martinez to somehow incorporate this time in her life into her newest musical endeavor, but nothing on the album outwardly addresses this topic.

Musically, the album is mostly slow-paced, with ticking, tapping, random chalkboard noises and muffled voices that, frankly, made me uncomfortable. 

A full-length movie was also put out by Martinez in conjunction with the record. I am only part way through the over-hour-and-a-half film, but I hope it shines some light on the album and some of its possibly-hopefully-maybe-please hidden messages.

Overall, the silly but edgy charm of Melanie Martinez is hard to find on this album. I forgot what I was listening to and had to restart songs quite a few times. As a fan, I hope I’m just missing the deeply concealed artistic themes in many of these songs that I could not detect yet.

Together, let’s hope Crybaby kicks it up a notch in college (or her future career endeavors, you never know). 

Contact Jocylen at [email protected]