Melanie Martinez is back from the dead with ‘Portals’, a gorgeously twisted body of work. Natasha Turnbull reports…
I’ve always felt as though 27-year-old singer/songwriter Melanie Martinez pushed musical boundaries with her first two albums ‘Crybaby’ and ‘K-12’. Now, she’s back, and more twisted than ever before. From the release of her first album, she created a universe surrounded by the character ‘Crybaby’. However, the sinister character many grew to idolise is now dead, taking on a new form in ‘Portals’ as Melanie moves her music in a different direction.
The album appears to capture the experience of life to death, with ‘DEATH’ being the opening track. Slow verses on the guitar describe her rebirth as the new persona, these beautifully chilling verses draw you in until a heavy rock chorus hits. While this track is still quintessentially Melanie Martinez, the rock aspect caught me off guard. It’s clear she’s evolving as an artist yet still can connect her work to her prior albums.
Next is ‘VOID’, Martinez shares her struggle with anxiety, overthinking and self-hatred, feelings so strong that they have created a void in her mind that she must escape. The pop-rock song speaks to me as these pessimistic emotions are ones I know all too well, the “void” feeling can become mentally exhausting yet too difficult to remove yourself from.
Martinez strays away from rock to explore dreamlike pop sounds on tracks ‘TUNNEL VISION’ and ‘FAERIE SOIRÉE’. ‘TUNNEL VISION’ appears to be an exploration of solely being used for your body, as though this is somebody’s ‘tunnel vision’ for surrounding themself around you. Sadly, this is an experience most females can relate to, myself included. ‘FAERIE SOIRÉE’ describes the hallucinations of a drug trip, the high tempo and hypnotic vocals mirror almost a dizzy feeling.
‘LIGHT SHOWER’ is next, a personal favourite of mine. She describes the refreshing feeling of experiencing a healthy relationship for the first time, Martinez feels ‘cleansed’ of all her past negative experiences she was forever used to. The slow tempo track is truly beautiful and speaks to me greatly, I’m currently feeling healthy love for the first time and this track perfectly captures what that’s like.
We are taken onto the topic of social media addiction as ‘SPIDER WEB’ uses the metaphor of how human beings are glued to social media like how insects glue to spider webs, the upbeat tempo almost mimics that feeling of addiction. Martinez’s use of metaphors and symbolism throughout the album is applaudable and an ability which she clearly hasn’t lost, something which is shown in ‘LEECHES’. The blood sucking insects are compared to the negative people in Martinez’s life who drain her energy until she has no control over her own being. I once again find myself connecting to her gruesome yet compelling lyrics during this slow and sombre track.
She once again touches upon how controlling and manipulative some can be in ‘BATTLE OF THE LARYNX’. The larynx is commonly known as your ‘voice box’, therefore alluding that the ability to speak up has taken away from her by a romantic partner. Rock elements have returned in this track, which paired with the lyrics, bring out an anger in me as I know the drowning feeling of being silenced in such a way. ‘THE CONTORTIONIST’ yet again explains the lengths some go to in order to please their partner. Martinez describes ‘twisting all her limbs’ as she goes to extreme lengths to keep her relationship alive. The track is paired with sound effects of bending and snapping alongside uncomfortable laughter which make us imagine the discomfort and pain as she pushes herself to her limit, making this track the albums most eerie. ‘MOON CYCLE’ tackles the stereotypes woman face during their period, it’s also speculated to be mocking her ex-boyfriend Oliver Tree’s song ‘Revival’ in which he feeds into these stereotypes. I can’t help but love this comeback from her.
‘NYMPHOLOGY’ refers to nymphs, a feminine spirit of nature. In this track she pushes back from objectification as she’s done throughout the album. The song’s ending completely caught me off guard as she breaks out into a high tempo rap, utterly unexpected yet addictively good. It’s applaudable to see her mature as an artist, it’s in these adventurous moments that create my favourite parts of the album.
The catchiest track on the album is ‘EVIL’, the pop rock track reflects on a past toxic relationship which Martinez is proud to have moved past. She sings, ‘loving you was lethal, guess that makes me evil’ as she once again shares how a toxic partner can gaslight you into feeling as though you’re the problem. Finally, ‘WOMB’ is track with soft guitar verses and a pop chorus which explore the perspective of being born, creating a full circle to the first track ‘DEATH’. The track fades out with a transition that links to the first track, highlighting the theme of life to death.
Overall, ‘Portals’ by Melanie Martinez is a beautifully expressive body of work which showcases a growth in maturity from the artist as she tackles topics which speak to a large audience of people. This album felt deeply personal to me. I haven’t connected to music like I have with this album in a very long time.