indieberlin attended Melanie Martinez’s K12 show at Colombiahalle, along with the very lucky winners of our give away tickets, courtesy of the very generous employees at Konzertbüro Schoneberg. Read all about our experience of the show and how the renaissance of Melanie Martinez’s carrer permitted her to excel herself and her artistic identity.
Melanie Martinez became an alternative music icon in 2015 when she released her debut album, Cry Baby. After starring on The Voice America, Martinez came back stronger than ever with a very special sound, imagery and relationship to her audience. Her eerie voice and lyrics, paired with dreamy and childhood related visuals intrigued more than one.
After her four-year break from music, mainly motivated by a sexual assault accusation towards Martinez from one of her close friend, she comes back, rehabilitated and with a movie and album entirely directed and written by herself. K-12 was released on September 6th and Martinez’s audience couldn’t be more pleased by the work she, alongside her team, tirelessly provided for the two artworks. One proof of the dedication of her fanbase, the one hour and 32 minutes video that combines the K-12 tracks with stunning visuals and photography had already received over one million views in the first nine hours it went live, according to Rolling Stone magazine.
In her debut album Crybaby, we followed Crybaby’s story, a character entirely created and imagined by Melanie Martinez herself. The character goes trough many existential dilemmas in which Martinez’s fanbase found reliability and truth. In the song Pity Party she evokes the cruelty children can have towards difference and the loneliness of being an odd kid. In Tag, you’re it, Martinez tackles sexual assault and abuse of power, always with a very similar and recognizable visual identity that emphasize the lyrical quality of her songs. She also speaks of our society’s superficiality and the difficulty women have not to be defined by their looks in the song Mrs Potato Head. Crybaby is a extremely consistant and brilliant album. Sippy Cup, Soap, Carousel, Alphabet Boy, Mad Hatter or Dollhouse also are dreams to the ears and carry extremely unique vocals from Martinez as well as a production that very much, on a Lana Del Rey level, shaped pop music and paved the way for artists like Poppy, Doja Cat and Billie Eilish. Introducing whispering child like way to perform songs and the consistency of a twisted, bright colored and dark visual universe that carries her tracks.
Martinez definitely made us understand she was in the pop industry to win. And she won worldwide recognition from this album as well as a solid and loving fandom. At its release, Crybaby peaked at the first seat of the Billboard Top 100 and the sixth place of the Billboard charts.
It was hard to believe Martinez could top the success and creative genius of Crybaby, but she certainly did. Despite no singles being released from the album, K-12 debuted at number three on the US Billboard 200. It is Martinez’s second US top-10 album and her highest charting album to date. Additionally, it topped the alternative album chart becoming her second consecutive top charter. Elsewhere the album reached the top 10 of eight different countries including the UK, Australia and Canada.
And as if producing and writing an entire album wasn’t enough, Martinez also directed and wrote the K-12 movie, available on YouTube. The video now has not less than 42 million views and is a very cohesive body of work. Costumes and decors resemble a Wes Anderson production and are an ultimate proof of Martinez’s creativity and artistic versatility. Once again, a whole storyline is provided in order to accompany and give depth to the songs of the album. Every single track has a music video included in the movie and singled out in separate videos on Martinez’s channel. K-12, the movie, carries a true will from Martinez to reinvent herself while staying on her past album’s tracks and always bringing the best of her mind to her audience. The film is funny, engaged, empowering, a pleasure to the eyes and the soundtrack, Martinez’s album, is also a success.
If you wish to enjoy the K-12 experience at its fullest, it is preferable to watch the movie in its entirety and then listen to the album. It certainly bring context and depth to your visit into Martinez’s incredible world. That is the way Melanie intended this era to be lived.
At Colombiahalle, Melanie recreates the K-12 story through stage installments, costumes and a very coherent narrative. She starts off with Wheels on the Bus, an intriguing track mixing up the innocent melody of a children’s song and the inability of adults to react to teenage issues such as drug use, consumption of sexuality as well as bullying. On stage, Melanie and her team of diverse, gorgeous looking and talented dancers give life to the movie through a screen that visibly helps them recreate its atmospheres and most iconic scenes.
She goes on with the very enjoyable song Class Fight, the crowd chanting : « For the throat, for, for the throat / Daddy chimed in, Go for the throat ». The next song, The principal, is an oath of rebellion against white male dominance in our society and the inability of the American government to reflect its people. The principal is an allegory of all men in position of power, using their influence for their own well-being. Wearing a Marie-Antoinette like skirt in her pastel colors, she sings: « I’ve tried to make you listen / But you won’t, it’s your way, right? / Killing kids all day and night / Prescription pills and online fights / Shooting at the angels while / Claiming you’re the good guy / All you want is cash and hype ».
K-12 being a very precise and work-demanding visual universe, the crown impatiently had to wait 5 to 10 minutes in between each song for engineers to install the props fitting the song. It would have been a smoother show if Martinez and her team figured out a way to prepare the stage prior to the performances. Other than that, the time spent on the scenography and choreographies certainly deserves praise and attention.
Other striking moments of Martinez’s performance were the songs Show and Tell as well as Strawberry Shortcake. The two tracks were accompanied with incredible stage installations that highlighted Martinez’s lyrics and message. In Show and Tell, she appears in a heart shaped marionette setup to emphasis what the song is denouncing: the harsh life of a pop star that seems be at the service of the music industry and her public’s will. The lyrics are very clearly a protest against a controlling industry: “Show and tell (show and tell) / I’m on display for all you fuckers to see (fuckers to see) / Show and tell (show and tell) / Harsh words if you don’t get a pic with me / Buy and sell (buy and sell) Like I’m a product to society / Art don’t sell / Unless you fucked every authority”.
Strawberry Shortcake is another engaged song about our current society’s pressure on women’s bodies and the ability of men to display of them. Furthermore, Martinez evokes the guilt that is imposed on women when men over-sexualize them. Martinez uses a very interesting and creative metaphor, comparing women’s bodies to a Strawberry Shortcake men want a piece of: « It’s my fault, it’s my fault ’cause I put icing on top / Now, the boys want a taste of the strawberry shortcake / That’s my bad, that’s my bad, no one taught them not to grab /Now, the boys want a taste of the strawberry shortcake ». For this performance, Martinez appears elevated, wearing the bottom of a majestic and impressive dress shaped and decorated as a cake.
The K-12 theme which is very much related to youth, education and school, permits Martinez to create ongoing contrasts in her album and music videos. A contrast between juvenile-type song titles such as Orange Juice and the actual theme of the song with tackles eating disorders in a very bold and raw manner: « Oh, oh, stick it down your throat / I’m watching from the bathroom /Making sure I don’t choke, choke / From the words you spoke / When you’re screaming at the mirror ». These contrasting messages induce a certain amount of whiplash as listeners are thrust into important social and political conversations.
Our deep dive in Martinez’s universe definitely made a great impact on us. If we felt like outsiders considering most her fans were young teenagers aged 12 to 16 years old, her lyrics, presence and messages brought the crowd together as she conveyed respect, acceptance and freedom.
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