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Melanie Martinez’s ‘PORTALS’: The Death of Cry Baby?

Melanie Martinez’s PORTALS makes it clear that “death is life, is death, is life, is death, is life, is…”

To the left, Melanie Martinez as Cry Baby. To the right, Melanie Martinez as the pink fairy creature.
Credit: Tom Rose/Shutterstock/melanie martinez/YouTube

March 31st marked the release of Melanie Martinez’s third full-length album PORTALS. The album came out four years after her sophomore album K-12 and focuses on death and rebirth. The album separates itself from Cry Baby, the protagonist of Melanie Martinez’s previous albums, Cry Baby and K-12.

PORTALS is a literal rebirth and rebranding for Melanie Martinez. The artist archived old posts on their Instagram and TikTok in preparation for the release of the new album. They also replaced all of the thumbnails for their YouTube videos with an image that says “R.I.P. Cry Baby.” Soon, the artist would begin teasing PORTALS, their new public persona, and the next chapter in Cry Baby’s story.

A mushroom in a foggy forest with "RIP Cry Baby" carved into it. Credit: melanie martinez/YouTube
Credit: melanie martinez/YouTube

The Nucleus of Creation

On February 18th, Melanie Martinez posted to her social media of a mushroom in a foggy forest marked “R.I.P. Cry Baby,” announcing the death of her character Cry Baby. These posts were tagged with the location “PORTALS,” which fans speculated was the name of the artist’s upcoming album. Over the following days, Melanie Martinez would post a new video every day to tease the new album. 

@littlebodybigheart

“𝖕𝖔𝖗𝖙𝖆𝖑𝖘” 𝖙𝖍𝖊 𝖆𝖑𝖇𝖚𝖒 𝖈𝖔𝖒𝖊𝖘 𝖔𝖚𝖙 3/31 𓇗 𓆇 𝖕𝖗𝖊-𝖔𝖗𝖉𝖊𝖗 𝖓𝖔𝖜 𓍊𓆑 & 𝔟𝔢 𝔱𝔥𝔢 𝔣𝔦𝔯𝔰𝔱 𝔱𝔬 𝔰𝔢𝔢 𝔱𝔥𝔢 𝔞𝔩𝔟𝔲𝔪 𝔠𝔬𝔳𝔢𝔯… ♡ 𝕝𝕚𝕟𝕜 𝕚𝕟 𝕓𝕚𝕠 ♡

♬ original sound – Melanie Martinez

On February 19th, a video of a clump of cells was posted with a snippet of audio from the upcoming album and was captioned “the nucleus of creation.” On the 20th, a video of a strange, pink embryo was posted and captioned “developing.” It became apparent that Melanie Martinez was documenting the development of a creature that would be born. On the 21st, fans were given a video of the egg that the creature was developing inside of, and the video was captioned “incubating.” Finally, on the 22nd, the egg hatched, revealing Melanie Martinez dressed as a pink, fairy-like creature. This post was captioned “’portals’ the album comes out 3/31,” officially announcing the new album and the rebirth of Melanie Martinez’s public persona.

Egg Hatching

Beginning March 2nd, the owners of Melanie Martinez fan accounts received packages from Atlantic Records, the label that’s releasing PORTALS. In this package were an egg and a poem that told fans to crack open and eat the egg.

hatch me

a piece of the puzzle has been given to you

eat the shell, eat the goo

what’s inside is important, so please do share

I trust that you’ll handle this portal with care

Melanie Martinez/Atlantic Records

Inside the cracked egg was a USB stick with a file containing a snippet of a track from the upcoming album. 

The Release of the “DEATH” Music Video

The entirety of Melanie Martinez’s promotional strategy teased the death of Cry Baby and the start of a new era, but the artist confirmed this storyline through the music video for one of the album’s title tracks, “DEATH.” The music video begins with rabbit-humanoid creatures preparing a grave in front of a mushroom for Cry Baby. We then see Cry Baby, wounded and dying, and the new fairy-like creature that Melanie Martinez had introduced on their social media, rising from the wound in Cry Baby’s chest. The rabbit-humanoid creatures continue to bury Cry Baby, and the video ends with the new fairy-like creature completely severing itself from Cry Baby and leaving Cry Baby’s grave.

The “DEATH” music video, and the song itself, introduce the main theme of PORTALS: death and rebirth. As the artist states at the beginning of the song, “death is life, is death, is life, is death, is life…” The title track speaks to the inspiration behind the album which Melanie Martinez talked about on one of their Instagram stories following their trip to Hawaii.

In my little cave of creation, isolated for a month in Hawaii. Writing a film and album I feel destined to make. No human interaction, just killing dead parts of myself to make room for the new. When I create it is the only time the past, present and future all meet at once. Releasing past feelings from past moments and past lives, by keeping the channel open/antenna out in the present, to be able to co-create with the universe something that will be felt, seen, and heard in the future.

@littlebodybigheart/Instagram

PORTALS Review

Melanie Martinez's pink fairy creature standing over a dead Cry Baby. Credit: melanie martinez/YouTube
Credit: melanie martinez/YouTube

While it was sad to see Cry Baby go, I was very excited to hear the new album and to see what storyline Melanie Martinez would create with their new character and public persona. I wasn’t disappointed. While the album is very different sonically from their previous releases, I love this new project. For me, the album feels far more openly expressive and vocal than Cry Baby and K-12. We can hear Melanie Martinez’s emotions through their vocals and music which is part of the reason the album resonates so much with me as a listener.

The album gives voice to the metaphorical deaths and rebirths that so many listeners have experienced over the past years and is easy to relate to. Melanie Martinez reclaims her power and confidence through PORTALS, especially in tracks like “BATTLE OF THE LARYNX” where she sings “how stupid, selfish, baby / don’t you battle with my larynx tonight / I’ll wreck you if you chase me / but I’ll be silent ‘til you cross the line.” The album also focuses on her finding her voice again through her rebirth and speaking up for herself.

But your focus is empty, tunnel vision then dead me 

Honeysuckle and fresh meat, but

I’m more than that, more than that

Melanie Martinez/Atlantic Records

The album is an excellent meditation on death and rebirth, opening with “DEATH” and ending with “WOMB.” The cycle of life, death, and rebirth.

If you end you end up enjoying the album, there are a list of tour dates on Melanie Martinez’s website, another must-see in 2023.

Written By

Isó is a second-year student studying creative writing and screenwriting at The University of Iowa. They love dressing up to go nowhere, listening to ghost stories, and taking pictures of their cats.

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