Cry Baby by Melanie Martinez

1 January 2020

Melanie Martinez, new niche interest darling, has made quite the name for herself in recent months following the release of her debut album, Cry Baby. A previous member of team Adam on season 3 of vocal talent show The Voice, Martinez shot her way into the Internets heart after her single “Carousel” was featured in a promotional TV spot for American Horror Story: Freak Show. Soon after, fans-to-be became abuzz over this fresh, innovative, and creative young artist.

Skip ahead 11 months to August 14th, 2015, and Martinez’s first full studio album Cry Baby is released. While certainly quite the creative endeavor, with sounds and themes I had yet to encounter before in my career, Cry Baby falls just short of the lyrical genius its fans would like you to think it possesses.

Cry Baby by Melanie Martinez Essay Example

The record begins with none other than its title track, “Cry Baby.” Starting with the sound of an infant hiccup-crying, we are thrust into the world of Melanie Martinez and her Cry Baby persona as mischievous strings pluck away. Listening to the lyrics, you can’t help but feel as if this is the anthem for every self-described sensitive introvert who others “just don’t understand.” In it, she laments that “you’re all on your own and you lost all your friends / you tell yourself that it’s not you it’s them,” which might seem like fairly constructive criticism to those with a nasty case of perpetual self-victimizing, but to everyone else, this thinking just proves exactly why the narrator has lost all her friends.

The following track, “Dollhouse,” upon inspection, seems to be Martinez’s take on the classic suburban dream, the nasty, crawling secrets lying just beneath the surface of the perfectly waxed wood floors of the prototypical nuclear family’s home. With such lyrics as “Mom, please wake up / Dad’s with a slut / And your son is smoking cannabis” and “When you turn your back / She pulls out a flask / Forgets his infidelity,” you find yourself wondering what exactly Martinez has seen of the ideal setting gone wrong, but that inquisitiveness fades as you trudge through the rest of the album, revealing Martinez’s penchant for exaggeration.

Continuing in the same vein is “Sippy Cup,” an odd sounding pseudo-hip-hop song with hints of a strange, dreamy atmosphere blended throughout the song, featuring the sound effect of some liquid pouring into a cup after the opening verse which only succeeded in making me need to use the restroom. The tone of the song stays the same throughout, with lyrics perhaps attempting to criticize a lack of parental forethought in a crumbling household.

Up next on this twisted collection of nursery rhymes is “Carousel,” the track that is arguably most responsible for the majority of her social media recognition. Chronicling a roundabout (pun intended), one track relationship, Martinez makes interesting use of classic Carnival sounds, such as an ever-present clown horn. Martinez reaches for a creative use of childhood trademarks in this song, but ultimately, she is just too short for this ride.

Afterward is “Alphabet Boy,” a stick-it-to-you, claiming-my-independence-from-your-misogyny-and-belittlement song, including such lyrics as “I’m not a little kid now / watch me get big now / spell my name on the fridge now / with all your alphabet toys.” Martinez’s fascination with the childhood aesthetic tainted by real, emotional, adult matters becomes ever more evident as the album continues its course, showcasing her fascination with polluted innocence.

The best examples of this may be the tracks “Training Wheels,” “Play Date,” and “Teddy Bear.” Skipping over such tracks as “Tag, You’re It,” which tells the story of hapless Cry Baby being kidnapped (and possibly raped) by perhaps the same individual that has already caused so much strife as seen in the tracks before it, and “Milk and Cookies,” which reveals Cry Baby killing her kidnapper with poisoned milk and cookies, we arrive at the emotional heart of the album.

“Training Wheels,” like the tracks leading up to it, reveal the same fixation on childlike mentalities in high-stakes emotional situations, but with perhaps a touch more adult flare to it. We hear the story of an emotionally abusive relationship through Cry Baby’s eyes, as she promises her lover that she “loves everything you do / when you call me f***ing dumb for the stupid s*** I do.” What is perhaps most tragic about the idea of this track is Cry Baby’s evident refusal to come to terms with the reality of this emotionally damaging relationship. In this case, Martinez’s obsession serves her well, in that you can’t help but feel sorrow on behalf of Cry Baby and her dangling innocence and hope in love.

The third-to-last track “Play Date” makes use of much of the same mentality, as Cry Baby reacts petulantly, childishly, to her lovers flippancy and disinterest in making things any deeper than a simple call for company on a lonely night. The artist’s use of this attitude only makes the point of the song hit harder, as we listen to Cry Baby go from spitefully declaring “I don’t give a f*** about you anyway / whoever said I gave a s*** about you” to showing reluctant vulnerability, confessing that “you know I give a f*** about you every day / I guess it’s time that I tell you the truth / if I share my toys will you let me stay? / Don’t wanna leave this play date with you.”

At the end of the day, this record is solid, especially for a debut. But where it falls short for me is its repetitive use of childhood-gone-wrong, loving someone while having the mentality of a 9-year-old who can’t get the ice cream cone she wanted, and in cases for the tracks “Tag, You’re It,” “Milk and Cookies,” and “Mad Hatter,” themes and stories that the average person ultimately can’t emotionally connect to. While I’m aware emotional connectivity isn’t always the point of a track, and with Martinez proving that she is in fact capable of making the listener feel for the character she’s created, the storybook-from-Hell feel only falls flat for me in the end.

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