Fresh off of “The Voice,” where she made it to week five, Melanie Martinez was ready to release an ambitious concept album. The result was 2015’s Cry Baby, a debut album that was over two years in the making. The album follows the story of what Martinez described as a “fairytale version of me,” Cry Baby, in her life events where she deals with problems that come with family, love, and accepting yourself. All tracks and the problems within them are directly related to childhood to, what I feel, develop social commentary and a very creepy-innocent atmosphere to the surround the lyrics. This is supported by the music, consisting of the carnival music heard in “Carousel,” the nursery rhyme-inspired opening line of “Milk and Cookies,” xylophones, and sounds of toys and dripping water.
Three singles were released for this album, “Pity Party,” “Soap,” and “Sippy Cup.” All three singles have music videos, and Martinez has said that she hopes to make a music video for every song on the album. Non-singles “Cry Baby,” “Dollhouse,” “Carousel,” “Alphabet Boy,” and “Training Wheels” also have music videos.
I have a love/hate relationship with Martinez’s creepy image and music. Sometimes, she hits the creepiness out of the park in the videos and songs of “Dollhouse” and “Carousel” (Carousel was played in a trailer for “American Horror Story,” that’s amazing). But in the videos of “Cry Baby” and “Pity Party” this image is so forced, especially when the songs themselves don’t carry this image. Martinez acts crazy in “Pity Party,” when it’s totally unnecessary and doesn’t fit the song or video. “Cry Baby” is just too much. Too much forced creepiness. Too much “look how bad Cry Baby’s mother is.” TOO MUCH. The production on this album sets a perfect atmosphere and is the backbone of the album.
The best example of this is “Carousel,” one of my favorite songs from the album. “Carousel” combines carnival music with erie production and vocal delivery, to make the gold standard of what this album is and wants to be. The music video for “Carousel” translates this perfectly. It looks effortless. The atmosphere really shines on the album’s lead single “Pity Party,” where producers Christopher Baran and Kara DioGuardi take the poppiest song on the album and manage to have the theme and sound of the album surround it so the song doesn’t feel out of place on the album. Besides “Soap” and “Pacify Her” don’t expect to hear a particularly strong vocal performance on this album. This isn’t “The Voice.” The great thing is, Martinez doesn’t need to give one. She has a naturally beautiful singing voice that compliments the outstanding music surrounding her.
The production and the editing of Martinez’s voice during the chorus makes “Mad Hatter” sound absolutely insane, just like the lyrics portray Cry Baby to be. To further highlight Martinez’s voice, the sound of her singing in terror on “Tag, You’re It” puts the listener in the scary situation of kidnap. The lyrics on this album were, for the most part, well written and got their meaning across. The best example is “Mrs. Potato Head” which has Martinez delivering excellent social commentary in a well-written way. The song talks about how terrible it is that young girls are getting plastic surgery because they think “no one will love you if you’re unattractive.” Not all the lyrics on Cry Baby are this good. I found the swearing in the choruses of “Cry Baby,” “Alphabet Boy,” and “Training Wheels” unnecessary and childish, and with “Alphabet Boy,” the lyrics seem to single-handedly lower the quality of the song. Martinez sings “I’m not a little kid now” in “Alphabet Boy” while the rest of the lyrics ironically depict her acting like a child.
I love this album’s production, atmosphere, sound, and how Melanie Martinez conveys her lyrics, good or bad, in a way that compliments the instrumentation around her. The only problems I found on this album were lacking and/or childish lyrics and some songs having a rather bland melody (“Sippy Cup”). The childhood concept running through the album could get tiring as well. I recommend this album to anyone looking for a greatly executed concept album and some creepy, atmospheric dark electropop. My favorite lyric from a song loaded with highlights is: “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.” from “Mrs. Potato Head.”
Cry Baby: 7.5/10
Sippy Cup: 5.5/10
Alphabet Boy: 6.5/10
Training Wheels: 8.5/10
Pity Party: 8/10
Tag, You’re It: 10/10
Milk and Cookies: 7.5/10
Pacify Her: 8/10
Mrs. Potato Head: 9/10
Mad Hatter: 9.5/10
Play Date: 8/10
Teddy Bear: 7.5/10
Dressing up like a pastel goth: 10/10