After a four-year wait for a new album, Melanie Martinez is back with her signature “baby” aesthetic, pastel tones and doll get-up.
Her new album, K-12, revolves around a common theme of grade school experiences and features a total of thirteen tracks that include titles named after aspects of school.
Accompanying Martinez’s album is the K-12 film, which is basically a sloppy and fast-paced compilation of thirteen music videos interspersed with short dialogue. Aside from a non-existent plot, the visuals in the film are equally breathtaking and terrifying.
I’ve never been a fan of Martinez’s childlike aesthetic, but I think it worked well in her 2015 album Cry Baby. But in K-12, her signature motif feels off and out of place. Her album cover art lacks creativity and instead resembles a washed-out movie poster for Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, and her film showcases the same look.
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While listening to K-12, I couldn’t help but notice how similar many of the tracks sounded to one another. It became tiresome — Martinez sticks with one common tune throughout the tracks and adds only slight adjustments with different lyrics.
The album’s first track, “Wheels on the Bus,” covers a subtle ruckus taking place inside the school bus as Martinez sings about school fights and a voyeuristic bus driver.
The lyrics show Martinez is a silent observer amid all of this mess: “Counting cars as they pass me by/ And I’m not trying to look a row behind me/ ‘cause Jason’s got his ass on the glass.”
The track also features a modified version of the “Wheels on the Bus” melody we all know from pre-K, which adds a hint of innocence to the song despite the scandalous lyrics.
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“Show & Tell,” another popular track on the album, feels more personal to the singer because it explores her role as a celebrity and her somewhat infamous image in society. In the chorus, Martinez sings “Show and tell/ I’m on display for all you fuckers to see” and “Buy and sell/ like I’m a product to society/ Art don’t sell/ unless you fucked every authority.”
Perhaps Martinez is referring to the dark side of stardom and alluding to the fact that fame is not always glamorous. Being an artist or a celebrity comes with tremendous amounts of pain, both physically and mentally. The “Show & Tell” visual in the K-12 film captured this theme perfectly.
The video shows Martinez as a puppet being controlled by her teacher, as her fellow classmates maniacally laugh, clap and cheer for her to continue performing.
Martinez chose to be bold with her new album and went above and beyond with the accompanying film, which is conveniently available on YouTube with no advertisement interruptions. But I wasn’t fully satisfied with the album because of its lacking authenticity and variation in her music and visuals.