Goth meets whimsical in new Melanie Martinez album ‘Portals’

Written By Ana Bellamy, Staff Writer

Melanie Martinez, who uses she/they pronouns, released their newest album “Portals” on March 31st. This is Martinez’s third album that features her pinnacle empathic character Crybaby from her previous two albums. Her first album focused on Crybaby’s early years. Her 2nd album focused on Crybaby’s experiences through kindergarten, elementary, and high school. 

“Portals” is set after Crybaby’s untimely death and her spiritual journey in her version of the afterlife.  Martinez had hinted at Crybaby’s death in this album’s teaser trailer for the musical released earlier this year. Melanie Martinez trades in pastels and the Lolita-like aesthetics for an ethereal, post-death world set in a magical nature-filled utopia.

The album cover for “Portals” shows off Crybaby’s reincarnated look, a pink alien creature with long greenish yellow hair, two sets of eyes, and a nose and a mouth that is a mixture of a fish and a cat. She is covered with mushrooms and surrounded by forest moss and wildflowers. This tranquil album cover perfectly foreshadows the alluring but sometimes uncomfortable vibes that can be heard in the album.

“Portals” is enchanting. The album goes through Crybaby’s experiences that occur in the limbo between death, reincarnation, and rebirth. Vivid descriptions of death and rebirth are given at various times throughout the album. The imagery is surrounded by celestial ambiance and earthy sounds, which work to deafen the uncomfortable interpretations. 

 In-depth descriptions of Crybaby’s experiences with mythological creatures, and as the creature she created, are shared in “FAERIE SOIRÉE” and “NYMPHOLOGY.” The comforting sounds of birds, rainwater, insects, and the flowing water of a creek, can be heard throughout the album. In “FAERIE SOIRÉE,” gentle tapping on the snare drum emulates the fluttering of faerie and butterfly wings. These taps are combined with clapping sounds and a simple melody played on an acoustic guitar, as Martinez whispers to create the peaceful, loving hallucinations that her muse is experiencing in the song. 

A few of the songs were written about societal issues. The songs contain metaphors for real life, so listeners can easily relate to the singer’s lyrics if they can catch the true meanings of each song. The song “SPIDERWEBS” contains a harpis a metaphor for society’s addiction to social media and how easy it is to get caught up and trapped, and how hard it is to leave. The song  and xylophone to imitate a spider creating a web, as well as the fluttering from “FAERIE SOIRÉE” to indicate the insects that get caught in the web. The song “LEACHES” is about people who live in Los Angeles. It even features the muffled sounds of a man screaming and pounding on a door at the end of the song, which clashes against the sounds of the birds and the sound of rushing water in a creek. 

The song “EVIL” is a song about a toxic relationship and the song “MOON CYCLE” is a song about menstruation, which is a song that someone who is not used to Melanie Martinez’s lyrics should listen to. Even though the song is campy, it was written to break the stigma surrounding periods and how periods should make people who menstruate feel powerful and attractive, not ashamed.

This album displays her and her team’s amazing songwriting skills. Each song transitions into the next. She uses sensory words in her lyrics to convey the exact meaning of the part of the song to the listeners. Adding these specific words and sounds automatically triggers something in the listener, whether it is calmness, happiness, nostalgia, disgust, or feminine angst. “Portals” is bold, clever, and artistic, just like Melanie Martinez herself.