Alternative pop singer Melanie Martinez is famous for her ingenuitive lyrics and unique songs, and her most recent album, “K-12,” does not disappoint.
Her debut album in 2015 featured the title character Crybaby, who is the vehicle Martinez uses to sing about heavy subjects like tumultuous homes, mental disorders and societal expectations for women. She continues the story of Crybaby and aptly details her school years in the 13 songs of “K-12,” which deal with similarly taboo subjects such as incapable authority, the societal expectations of influencers, bullying and eating disorders.
The first song in “K-12” is a piece titled “Wheels on the Bus” that samples actual bus sounds and offers a refreshing beat to boost the mood of the track. It starts us off with Crybaby commenting on the incapable bus driver who is noticing all the immoral deeds going on in the back, but “he says nothing.”
In “Class Fight,” Crybaby deals with a rival who comes against her in the playground simply because they like the same boy. “The Principal” shows the aftermath of it all and we can perceive Crybaby’s frustration growing while the authority who is supposed to take care of her and protect her is only there to exploit the system.
The next three songs, “Show & Tell,” the popular “Nurse’s Office” and “Drama Club,” illustrate the late grade school and early middle school version of Crybaby getting out her frustrations with her classmates and those students’ passivity or willingness to harm one another through harsh bullying. Martinez explained in a Los Angeles TV interview after the release of the album that she feels safe talking about these personal experiences through the vulnerable medium of music, because, “I have a really close connection with, you know, the people who listen to my stuff, the people who resonate with my music.”
Track No. 7 marks a tonal shift, as “Strawberry Shortcake” introduces us to the teenage anxiety that comes in the form of self-esteem issues and how society perpetuates the idea that men get to direct what women should look like. This theme is continued in “Lunchbox Friends” and “Orange Juice,” the latter of which details Crybaby watching a friend struggle with bulimia.
Again, there is a topical change as Crybaby escapes junior high and makes it to high school with the raunchy songs “Detention” (which deals with the unfairness of schools) and “Teacher’s Pet” (about irresponsible authority). She ends her high school years with the song “High School Sweethearts,” effectively laying out her expectations of a relationship.
She ends the album with a calming song titled “Recess,” which serves a dual purpose as the recess between Crybaby and her future, and Martinez and her next album.
Overall, “K-12” addresses some dark themes not so overtly, but still manages to lay them out in a way that everyone can relate to and understand. Every track feels new, with a different sound to each song and leaving the listener wanting more at the end.
“K-12” is a good listen for people who are interested in trying things outside their comfort zone and wanting to enjoy something they might not have ever considered otherwise.