the “llorona” who transforms the bullying of her school years into a powerful alter ego that makes her climb to the top of pop

Melanie Martinez, very much in the Björk style and the new creature she brought to life for Portals, her new album and her new universe

Melanie Martinez, very much in the Björk style and the new creature she brought to life for Portals, her new album and her new universe

Since I was a child, melanie martinez He was characterized for being an extremely sensitive person and for giving a special place to the expression of his emotions. But the first years of school and bullying made him believe that “feeling too much” was a negative symbol of vulnerability and they gave him a nickname: “Cry Baby” (Llorona). Over the years she discovered that instead of a stigma, that was a strength and she decided to transform that humiliation into a flag to show off proudly. Cry Baby would become a character that would define her artistic path and the alter ego that would lead her to be an alternative pop star.

The preamble for all this to happen was a fairly self-taught start in music, singing in the basement of his house, writing poetry and recording his own songs on home videos that he later uploaded to YouTube. Among other of the many hobbies of this young New Yorker was always photography and the fascination for telling stories., which together with the musical, would result in a key creative combo in the formation of his artistic vision. Her first kick to fame was in 2012, when she was selected to participate in the North American edition of the reality show The Voice as part of singer Adam Levine’s team. Although she was not the winner, she captivated everyone and was one of the “jewels” that left a mark on the television contest.

However, Melanie was clear that she wanted to be recognized as an artist and not as a former contestant on a talent show. Fortunately, she got it. She built her artistic identity and over time both her music and her aesthetic concept led her to stand out in a unique and singular proposal. She got a contract with Atlantic Records and in 2015 he launched crybabytheir debut album, framed as a fantasy tale and based on the traumas and insecurities of a character with the same name as the album. Pop in style with alternative overtones, she drew inspiration from childhood toy sounds and images and composed songs about adult real-life dramas from a childhood perspective. With the intention of telling a story through conceptual and cohesive work, each song was accompanied by a video clip that she herself devised, directed and starred in. For each one of them she created a universe of dualities, tinged with pastel colors, stuffed animals and dolls with somber, dark and disturbing touches, in a style aligned with Tim Burton.

K-12 it became her second studio album and was accompanied by a film written and directed by herself. In terms of a musical, the film remained faithful to the aesthetic cute creepy (with some reminiscences of The Grand Budapest Hotel, by Wes Anderson) and was the continuation of the story of Cry Baby, this time in his passage through school and his adolescent years. Although framed within a fantasy universe, the songs and scenes were composed to portray issues such as eating disorders, changes in the body, bullying and first love, as well as a criticism of the educational system and the media.

After a break for a while without new music, in February of this year the singer published a video on her social networks in which a mushroom can be seen that has “RIP Cry Baby” engraved (Cry Baby rests in peace). And it is that Melanie decided to bury those stages that made her grow to start that of portalshis new albumwhich although it brings with it a different visual identity from the previous ones, continues to have the same protagonist, beyond the earthly plane.

Melanie Martinez, as she looks in this new stage and as she went on stage at Lollapalooza Argentina 2023

Melanie Martinez, as she looks in this new stage and as she went on stage at Lollapalooza Argentina 2023

“Portals exclaims that death is life, it is death and it is life, it is death and it is life. A continuous loop. A circle”. This is how she presents her current era, with some videos that have gone viral on Tik Tok and Instagram, and in which you can see the gestation of a creature that could be a mix between an alien and a mythological being, very much like Björk. . In a time when singles reign, he continues to bet on conceptual work, in which over thirteen songs he builds a journey that begins with death (the first song is “Death”) and ends with the birth of the life (the last track is “Womb”, which translates as uterus). Although he remains faithful to creating surreal and imaginary universes, a maturity can be recognized in his lyrics, as well as a sound experimentation with new genres, mainly through the marked presence of beats and guitars.

During her return to Lollapalooza Argentina, on March 18 (her first visit was in the 2017 edition), the artist presented some of her new songs live for the first time and spoke with LA NACION about her current recording project.

-What happened to Cry Baby?

-If you watch the end of K-12, there is a moment in which she is thinking about whether to follow the light and go to the other side of the gate that opens before her. I think you may have noticed by now that she decides to go through it and finally go the other way.

-What was the inspiration for this new album and this new stage in your career?

For several years I dedicated myself to studying what is known as “Past Life Regression” and I read many books by different authors. It’s a therapy that uses hypnosis to take you to a past life or state where you were basically dead, and what happened in that state of death. I was researching on the subject for a long time, trying to put together and connect a story from beginning to end, from death to reincarnation. The whole album is from death to birth and is based on these books and this whole concept that we are still alive as souls even after we have already died, that our time on earth is temporary and to achieve our highest personal growth. . We overcome obstacles in order to have those opportunities for growth and evolve as spirits. I wanted to show that Cry Baby is a soul and not just a human being. There is more to her as a person. This is her in that state between death and life, and her journey through the cosmos.

-That also explains a bit the name you chose for the album…

-Exact. portals (Portals) seemed like a good representation of what it means to move through different dimensions. It means to open a door and refers to the ability to move from a past era to a totally new one. I felt that this name conveyed very well the idea that I had been working on.

-Is that coming back from death that you talk about in your songs also a message for your fans?

-Yeah! If you pay attention to the lyrics of “Death”, most of it is written from back and forth with my fans. The opening lines are: “They’re carving my name on the grave again / The flowers are fresh and their faces are tearful / My body is dead but I’m still alive / Look over your shoulder, I’m back from the dead.” That’s me speaking to my fans. Then there’s a part that says, “When you’re not around, I sink to the ground / I try to pretend I’m closer to you.” That is from their perspective, especially in that time when I was not very active in networks. I know it was very hard for many because they feel that connection to me, to my music, and to the interaction I’ve had with them over the years, but it’s a reminder that we all change, grow, evolve, and that I no longer have 19, if not almost 28. My goal is to continue to evolve and become a better person and artist. I love that my fans have grown with me over the years. It’s really beautiful to be able to experience that with people.

-Will this album have any visual narrative like the previous ones?

-Yes, I have a movie in mind for this album, I wrote the script two years ago. I’m hoping to raise all the necessary funds because that’s the way things work, but in the meantime I’m working on some video clips so I can create a visual identity to go along with the music. If I get the funding soon, maybe we can start shooting it this year and then release it sometime next year, but obviously I can’t promise dates because that’s always out of my control. I always try to get as much material as possible, because I enjoy it and it’s fun for me, but making a movie is not easy, I’m waiting for that opportunity to create it and show it to the world.

-Which of all the creative processes you carry out do you enjoy the most?

-They are all very different. Making music takes me much longer than making a video clip, for example. I can come up with the concept of the video in a day, but making music takes a lot of patience and makes me frustrated with myself. It’s harder to create an entire album that connects from start to finish, has a whole storyline, and is part of a trilogy like crybaby, K-12 and portals. There are many thoughts and ideas, and then you have to put all the pieces together. It’s like I have two little antennas on my head and when they connect I can deliver a message. Creating music is an out-of-body experience and that’s why it takes more time and patience, you can’t force it, you have to let it flow.

-How do you feel that your music has evolved from your beginnings until now?

-When I started making music with crybaby I was very focused on trying to create a story about someone else, like it wasn’t really about me or what I was going through. Over the years everything became more personal because I felt a desire and a need to express myself from a more personal point of view, according to what I feel. Many times I put up barriers that prevented me from being myself, but now I try to think first about how what I’m doing is related to me and how I can express it from my vision, instead of telling any story. Today I feel that everything I do is much more personal.

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