Melanie Martinez seems to continually be creating or up to something. Just a couple of days ago, her second full-length album was nominated for “Best Soundtrack” in this year’s Billboard Music Awards.
Tonight, with little warning, Melanie dropped not only a new single with a music video, but her highly-anticipated After School EP. A true definition of short and sweet, the seven track album is only twenty-two minutes in length, but it is packed with some of her most raw and personal content yet.
After School, also listed as “disc two” of K-12 on streaming services, was written over the last three years, fitting just a few of the tracks that didn’t quite knit itself in her first two albums. Which, how could you blame her? Crybaby, Melanie’s debut, introduces us into the world of a childlike character facing all sorts of different adult traumas in her home life. Her second album, K-12 is not only a continuation of showing us the world of “Crybaby,” but shows us very real issues that happen in school life in the perspective of her character.
Melanie Martinez took the time to post just as the album dropped, breaking down the meaning of each song as it was written, so fans could digest it in her eyes, then slowly break it apart and make their own meanings and pick their favorites.
While the meanings are physically written out for us, I, too, have already taken the time to break down the songs, and have listed them out, as well. She also mentions that each song follows along the theme of the energies from seven tarot cards from various suits– (by track order) 1. Queen of Swords; 2. Strength; 3. Temperance; 4. Ten of Wands; 5. Devil/Lovers; 6. Empress; 7. Eight of Pentacles– and in being given this info, you can choose to delve even further into what each song means.
A simple drum and key beat, paired with sounds of pages flipping, scratching pen on paper, “The Notebook” showcases Melanie’s signature storytelling lyrics and crisp, impactful vocals. Breaking down an emotional breakup she faced in 2017, Melanie shows us the painful lesson she had to learn in setting boundaries, and not letting other people take advantage of her. The first verse of the track puts her voice on display with smooth, rolling vocals, while keeping things simple at the same time.
Pairing all the things listed above with perfectly timed pauses for effect, this song introduces us to the fully raw and personal experiences of Melanie, rather than keeping things distant with her character, “Crybaby,” in her previous albums.
Beginning with a unique beat of hollow, ceramic dishes being rolled and tapped, “Test Me” truly showcases her voice and unique pitch. The first lyrics of the track truly punch you in the gut with a harsh plosive, “Ha, ha!” as Melanie jeers at the expanse above her. “Hey God, I’ll be the jester,” she continues; and openly questions the universe around her as the world she knows throws challenge after challenge hurtling toward her. Then her vocals become particularly gripping as she continues, offering an alternative of hope as she preaches how each challenge gives us a lesson, builds character, and brings wisdom.
In message, there is a feeling of empowerment and strength, and her impactful lyrics inspire making an impact while your two feet stand on this earth.
By the end of the song, you hear the hollow glass used as a beat throughout the song shatter.
The next track, “Brain & Heart,” is vulnerable, shattered feelings; ripped open and broken and held out on a platter for all to do nothing but face their own deepest, hidden emotions and balance it with just a little practicality.
“Help me when I’m too detached and cold,” Melanie sings in the second verse. You can hear the desperation in it, and as the song progresses, the growth is tangible as you can hear the growth in finding inner balance between logic and emotion to avoid getting taken advantage of. “When did humans start to separate/Brain and heart as if they could stay alive alone/Flip it around the other way/If they were apart and you had no powers/Start on no day, the base, only a shell remains/What fun is it, to bein’ so calculated/Or be takin’ advantage of, ’cause your heart’s too trusting…” she sings in the chorus.
Underpaid and overworked, many can related to “Numbers,” where many employers take advantage of a system that allows them to treat employees less than human.
Artists or creatives, in particular, are looked down upon, because unfortunately, we live in a society where success is based more on the money you make rather than happiness or being true to who you are. Melanie pushes her message forward, calling out those who’ve underestimated her creativity, drive, and experimental ideas; which in the music industry, not only turns heads, but paved the way for others who are trapped in a box to break the boundaries and be unafraid to be themselves.
The track slows down at the climax before breaking down to the bridge, which feels like a totally different song, and becomes yet another showcase of her voice as she hits unique falsettos while being clean cut and you can feel the grit panging in your gut.
Beginning with sound effects of glue squeezing out sound effect to lure us into the theme of the song, “Glued” captures the fear of attaching or detaching as new love starts to become more substantial than surface-level. “Glued up, sometimes it’s too much/I’m f***ed up and clueless (Clueless)/Stuck in the vortex, stuck in the vortex/Clueless, life would be boring/Empty but no hurting (Hurting)/’Cause it’s necessary to touch when it’s scary.”
Keeping things simple, the drum beat breaks down to simple keys, bass, and slow sound effects embody the emotions of a high school slow dance. Melanie encourages fans to plunge into the scary depths of the unknown in a new relationship. Although when you’re completely attached, you have the potential to get hurt; but you’re able to feel the full and beautiful depths of real love. And when you’re detached, you may save yourself from potential hurt; however, you will never have the ability to feel what true love can be like.
What Melanie admits to being the more personal song on the album, “Field Trip” is the self-expression of her personality, where she delves into her roots, astrology, name origins; and how no matter what people try to do to box her in, she will always find a way to free herself from it, and blow people’s minds in the process. “I’m never going to be what you had envisioned,” she sings, then adds in every box she’s broken through so far.
The track also breaks the boundaries of her signature genre; seductive, confident, and breaking down into her own version of hip hop.
“The Bakery” concludes the EP, where Melanie Martinez dropped a pairing music video with absolutely haunting visuals and special effects. Cotton candy and pastel palette, Melanie falls into a batter, is baked into a cookie by rabbits, and served to a wrinkled up figure in a ballgown.
While singing about an experience of being fired from a bakery she worked at in high school, the final track of the After School EP reveals more about the hard work it takes to invest into the arts as a creative. To make it in the music industry in particular, not only do you need to have the content, but the means to produce it, let alone be noticed in the first place.
The track screams to become Melanie’s next big radio hit, with its heavy beat, simple lyrics, and absolutely grooving tune, all so contagious you can’t help but dance in your seat.
While paying homage to the girl playing originals on her guitar in her closet with gripping vocals, and at the same time, continuing to build on it and top her previous productions as “Crybaby,” Melanie Martinez has always created content worthy of awards and appreciation. She is a talented producer, songwriter, director, and dancer, breaking the boundaries of what it means to be an artist; and we look forward to seeing what she has to offer next.
Stream the After School EP on Spotify:
Read our article on “Fire Drill“