Melanie Martinez Concludes Crybaby Trilogy in PORTALS
Melanie Martinez has unveiled her eagerly-awaited third studio album, PORTALS, available today via Atlantic Records.
PORTALS includes the official first single “VOID,” written and produced by Martinez, as well as the album’s opening track, “DEATH,” the latter of which recently made history as Martinez’s first-ever original song to debut on Billboard’s “Hot 100” and her biggest first week streams to date. The multi-Platinum, 12 billion-streaming artist also made her live debut as the new creature over a series of extraordinary festival performances heralding PORTALS this month including Lollapalooza Argentina, Lollapalooza Chile, Bogota, Columbia’s Estéreo Picnic, and Lollapalooza Brazil. Following the announcement of the album, Melanie was quick to announce the upcoming tour, as well, to continue through the summer.
See our announcement for the tour below:
PORTALS marks Melanie Martinez’s first full-length release in nearly four years following her 2 billion-streaming, RIAA Gold-certified second album, K-12, which proved a sensation upon its September 2019 release. K-12 also serves as a soundtrack companion to an eerily enchanting musical film, written, directed, and starring Martinez, now with over 106M views to date via YouTube alone HERE and was the 6th highest grossing film in the US upon release, with one-night-only screenings in over 425 cinemas in 32 countries. Martinez truly set forth on what has proven a remarkable creative journey with her 2015 debut album, CRY BABY. An unforgettable collection of provocative alt-pop framed as a modern fairy tale, complete with storybook illustrations and a dramatic structure that takes listeners through the life of its title character, the album instantly affirmed the multi-talented Martinez as an irrefutable artistic icon, thanks in part to a phenomenally popular series of hit singles and imaginative self-directed visuals that have amassed over 6 billion total streams and 1.5 billion video views. CRY BABY made its Billboard 200 debut at #6 upon its initial release while also entering the “Top Alternative Albums” chart at #1. In addition to its own 2x RIAA Platinum certification, all of the album’s 13 original tracks – as well as three further songs featured on the CRY BABY (DELUXE EDITION) – have now been certified Gold or Platinum by the RIAA.
Melanie Martinez took to social media to openly share her process in writing, recording, and creating visuals for the album. Much of the visuals we have yet to see, but admit the excitement to witness the artistry has only grown since the release of PORTALS. Read more below to see the concept of the album as a whole, and how it came to be, as stated in an interview:
After diving into various past life regression hypnotherapy books over the course of a few years, I was inspired to create a concept album revolving around one of the most taboo subjects known to man. DEATH. The mission of this record is to offer a perspective of true togetherness and immortality. The album starts at death and ends at womb but loops into itself meant to be played as a forever loop. The same way that our lives are on loop. Dying as an old person to be born all over again anew. Encountering the same familiar faces and patterns for our highest growth. Crybaby as you know it may have died, but she’s evolved into her newest form.
My last home I lived in for six years had a room I called the “portal” room. There was a lot of activity in that room from the other side. It felt like an entry point or a landing pad for benevolent spirits to come in and rest on their journey. I wrote six of the thirteen songs that made the album in that room, but of course wrote many more that did not make the record, as well. I’d go in every day and place offerings to my ancestors on my altar, meditate, then start writing music once I felt my antenna was open to receiving.
This album is the last part of Crybaby’s trilogy. I’d like to think all three of my albums each stand on their own, but I did plan for them to connect, showing Crybaby’s evolution. I wanted to introduce the character, move through the growing pains of childhood with them, then use school as an analogy for life and the systems of power here on earth our society continues to live under. Then, with PORTALS, I wanted to challenge my listeners’ perspectives by essentially saying: just like us, after Crybaby’s vessel on earth has died, she lives on as a spirit in the cosmos. It was important for me to show the immortality of being a human with this record. To give people hope that there’s life after death.
~ Melanie Martinez
Here is our first impression of the new album, in bits in pieces, as we continue to digest each track and their meanings, and with a quote from Melanie herself about how she processed through each track.
I usually have titles picked out early on in the conceptual phase of an album before writing anything. This one was a must, and I just wasn’t getting it right anytime I tried writing it with other people. One day, I sat in the portal writing room alone and started singing melodies.
I heard a spirit with a completely different tone than mine repeat a melody I had sung out loud in the silence, and it sent a chill down my body. I was really scared at first, then continued on, using that moment as confirmation from the other side. I laid down the chords after hours of searching through Omnisphere for an instrument that would reverberate through my soul.
I added a simple drum loop in the chorus (that was later replaced by production from my favorite collaborator, CJ Baran, as well as live drums from Ilan Rubin of Nine Inch Nails – who also put drums down for a couple of other songs.) When I was done writing the song , that same day I played it for my best friend of 22 years, who is like my sister. She had just experienced multiple losses in her family. While she was listening on headphones, tears rolled from her eyes. The song ended, she looked at me, and said “that’s the one.”
~ Melanie Martinez
Launched as the first single and teaser for the new era to begin, this first chapter served multiple purposes for those who have been waiting for Melanie Martinez’s next move. A hiatus from the public eye caused a stir of anticipations, then seemingly suddenly, she is “back from the dead,” as stated in this track’s chorus.
Showcasing a fresh sound, this single is nothing short of miraculous with it’s layers of loops and catchy melodies that signify the first stage in life; birth, or “re-birth” in the cycle that repeats, life after life after life. And the song title, “DEATH,” further adds to that meaning, that in death there is a loop, and a repeat. A resurrection.
“DEATH” is joined by a cinematic companion video – directed, conceived, and costume designed by Martinez herself – which trended #1 on YouTube’s Trending “Top Music Videos” chart with over 8.1 million views in just one week following its official premiere viewed by a live audience exceeding 80K. In the video, we see the Crybaby as we knew her before be buried, but instead of remaining in the ground, she emerges anew.
This is the first song I fully produced on my own, also in the portal room. The first thing I put down was that bass guitar top line. It was an exact melody from a voice memo I had recorded a few days prior. The chorus melody and lyric came all at once from looping the bass line. I put down a simple programmed drum loop that was later replaced/mixed in with live drums by Rhys Hastings.
I remember screaming that chorus while crying, it felt like a weight I needed to get off of me. The weight of my anxiety, the weight of my brain, and it perfectly fit the second stage. A void. A dark place where you are left alone with your own thoughts for introspection, in order to find the light within yourself.
~ Melanie Martinez
Beginning with an array of strings, the song builds with a loop of Melanie’s voice, saying “in the void” until the beat drops, and the song shifts into an entirely different turn. A bass loop is unveiled as her voice contrasts with a honeyed melody in the first verse. And we are lurched into the place of isolated introspection and a place of self-hatred that many people in this generation can relate to. In the disgust of our former selves before we were in a place of growth and shift and change, but we are stuck looping on the same thoughts, the same memories, and the same rot that seems to only fester even more when we are alone with our thoughts.
“Someone tell me if this is hell,” Melanie nearly screams in the chorus. And in that moment we feel that ache and that longing and the anxiety at its fullest. We are tangled with her until she sings “gotta escape the void.” Only then do we sigh and take our first deep breath since the song’s beginning. The second verse breathes along with us, but the noise in our head builds again as the chorus builds. “Look at the mess I’ve done, there is nowhere to run…”
Melanie then makes an analogy of praying to a priest as she judges herself within the walls, kneeling on a metal grater. We suck in our breath between our teeth as if we feel that pain ourselves, trapped and judging ourselves, as well. The looping bass continues its steady rhythm, building the anxiety and the pressure until the song fades out of existence.
Wrote this song while in Hawaii in February 2021 with Kinetics & One Love. We were surrounded by coqui frogs singing to us, the sound of the rain hitting the roof, and pure connection. I wanted to make a song to describe the stage of moving through a tunnel of familiar hymns and imagery to ease the transition to the other side, while also writing something with multiple meanings that people can relate to in a more earthly way.
The song was leaked through a Dropbox hack the same year, and it took everything within me to not trash it. I couldn’t write a better tunnel song, so it stayed.
~ Melanie Martinez
The introduction of the track reverbs through the body in its sound. The inspiration from the world she was in at the time of writing the song is most evident here, as the swell of her voice feels much like a late summer night outside, bathing in the stars, hearing the frogs chirp their own harmonies and still sound like one connected being.
The song transitions to a heavier beat and plucking of strings. The instrumentals hum back to a simile of the scene Melanie paints in writing the song with a whirring complimentary beat. In the lyrics, there does appear to be several meanings. Upon first glance, it appears to showcase a story unraveling a person claiming their body as their own after the traumas its faced. It then points the finger at the accuser, who’s not looking at that person for anything more than something to claim as their own. “You can look, but don’t touch,” Melanie sings.
Another meaning uses much more subtle references, soft hums in the song’s melody, and the implication that this stage in the afterlife cannot be rushed through, even though chaos reigns and tries to still the soul in place. This track then transitions with a beat drop, and a pause. Melanie holds our hands and guides us through a connected space of familiar hums, and we are led to the next stage with more ease than before.
There were many days I sat in the portal room wanting to create outside of my own perspective. I asked Jeff Levin (my A&R) to send me as many folders as possible of instrumental tracks created by different producers. After searching through the folders for awhile, there was one track labeled “Respect Vol 1” by this producer named Hoskins that struck me. It was an infectious drum groove over a guitar top line. I wrote the song very quickly. I kept dancing to it, being overtaken by fairy energy. It felt like the stage of homecoming. Connecting with my soul family. A spirited soiree between me and my fae guides.
~ Melanie Martinez
A clapping beat dances as a contrasting harmony of Melanie’s vocals warms the cool tones of the drums. The energy of the fae feels thick, indeed, when listening to this song. A cascade of sounds bathe the ears as we feel even closer to the stars than ever before. And halfway through the song, the beat takes a soft pause. Distorted vocals wash and take each listener in, to bathe in the energy and connect together as one.
There was an immediate visceral reaction I had to this track. Upon listening to the first notes for the first time, everything in my core shook as I was gripped by the song’s melody and the sudden shift it took halfway through. The pacing of the song as a whole felt natural, but not of this earth at the same time, and I was mesmerized from the first listen on…
There’s this place in the afterlife people under hypnosis describe as a soul-cleansing or a shower of light. A place where gem-colored rays of light shine through every inch of your soul, cleansing your spirit of the trauma it had experienced during your last lifetime. Restoring you to your original vibration. I remember reading about this, sitting on the roof of my garage, imagining what it would feel like while the warmth of the sun was hitting me. A few weeks later, I sat in my bathtub with my guitar and stayed up all night writing a love song about this light, in order to create a layered meaning. This was also the first song I ever wrote for this album.
~ Melanie Martinez
This song transitions smoothly from the last, pulling the song’s conclusion as a sample of water rushing from a faucet fades in, louder than before. Guitar weaves through a tune of its own creation. Melanie then sings what appears at first to be a love song, but something about it feels far deeper, transcending meaning fully, and embracing the ambiguity of it. Instead, it leaves the feeling of a fresh rain, particularly after a drought, and the earth smells fresh and ripe for growth and life.
In particular, this song echoes a lot of Melanie’s earlier sounds as she performed acoustic covers on YouTube before her break into the industry. Her voice is displayed center stage as it’s own unique instrument; but refreshed, grown, and anew. Far more practiced and sure of its own sound.
If I were to ever launch a conceptual/thematic songwriting class, this song would be a great reference point. The interconnectedness of us all that everyone under hypnosis feels, including myself when I was under, is what I wanted to write about. I wanted to spice it up a bit, so I found an opportunity to add double meaning for earthly resonance. So, “SPIDER WEB” is also written about social media’s chokehold on society.
“Feeding off our highs and lows and curious to see us struggle, no one can leave once they merge.” I wrote this one on my guitar in the portal room, recorded a voice memo of it and sent it to C.J. He created an incredible instrumental track for it that same day and even created the perfect drop using his own mouth sounds that gave it that extra spidery feel.
~ Melanie Martinez
Beginning with the pluck of stringed instruments, the layered meanings of this track feel as if more than two pulled together by strands in a web. While using lyrical imagery of spiders, bugs, and butterflies swirling as one and growing more connected through the entrapment of the web, Melanie hints at social media being the culprit for the entrancement, the spider as the predator feeding off every feeling, good and bad. And yet that hypnotic beat pulls the audience into another meaning, simply existing and different beings connecting as one.
A change in the wind and build instrumentally leads to a unique beat drop that echoes something you’d hear in an animation or a film. Its alternative tones repeat in an electrifying drum pattern as Melanie’s vocals lilt effortlessly through the rhythm. Classical strings make a reappearance before the next drop in the second chorus, transitioning the rhythm to give pause and highlight the lyrics: “Better off dead than stuck in a maze. The center may seem like a gift; once you arrive, it’ll strip you of your life and you’ll wish that you never did…” The second chorus drops as the beat cascades through the soundscape until Melanie takes another pause near the end of the track. “Big bite, they liquify the insides first then wrap them tight, securing their spot in the spider web. Up all night, bound to their addiction to it; lifeless eyes, they die in the pit of the spider web.”
People describe a lot of the after-life to be like a school of sorts, projecting into past lifetimes with people they keep incarnating with, to put themselves in each other’s shoes. Showing how they could have best dealt with conflict on earth for the next time. These next few songs are about conflict on earth. I’d like to think that we all plan these moments together prior to coming here, triggering each other to evolve. Living in the most vapid and isolating city of Los Angeles, I decided to write “LEECHES” about people who live here for the wrong reasons, and how they act around people in the spotlight. I wrote this over a track from that large folder originally, added some extra production stuff, then brought it to C.J. who then brought in live string instrumentation for it to tug on the emotional heart strings.
~ Melanie Martinez.
Electric guitar compliments the vocal melody as Melanie calls to the song’s title in the very first word. The meaning of the song is evident from the beginning, due to that; artificial people clinging to anyone with a spotlight to try to take it for themselves. And they sweet-talk and lure their connections into making them think they’re friends. Those who actually wanted a connection are sucked dry and left hollow.
BATTLE OF THE LARYNX
This was the last song that was written and added to the album. May of last year I went back to Hawaii to the same house I wrote “TUNNEL VISION” in. C.J. came through for the last hurrah of writing sessions before we declared the album finished. I pulled out my guitar and wrote the song very quickly outside. Then C.J. added layers of magic to the production, as he always does. Rhys recorded live drums for this song later on. He added the urgency and momentum to this song that the subject matter was really needing. I wrote this one to be about two different conflict styles- one person who yells a bunch of nothing really loudly to try and intimidate and the other who can calmly and concisely use their words and wit to prove their point.
~ Melanie Martinez
The larynx is what’s known as your ‘voice box’, therefore the song is alluding that the person(possible romantic partner), is taking away her ability to speak or speak up. As a guitar plays string of chords, she sings about two different conflict styles, one who argues by yelling and screaming, trying to intimidate the other and the other calmly and concisely debates their side and isn’t phased by them. Leading into the chorus, rock elements are introduced again as she layers her voice tracks, harmonizing with herself. In an almost exhausted tone she sings, “Don’t you battle with my larynx tonight”, stating the importance of protecting your voice and not letting other silence you.
“And they talk without thinking
They bark while they’re shaking
With teeth that are round and dull
And they yell while they’re chasing…”
This song is not just a jab at her partner but is a call out to all humans who are hatful and ignorant and use their power to abuse and silence others. The song then fades out with a harp, then to footsteps walking into what sounds like a dinner party, with glasses and silverware clinking and people talking.
I will never forget the feeling, and the intense smiles that me and C.J. shared while writing this song. A true collaborative moment where we both felt the ping of our little antennas, like a loud phone call firing off. A lot of our process involved making tracks, then picking our favorites, then going into the booth and free styling melodies, piecing together the best moments and then I would pace around the pool writing lyrics to fit the cadenced of the free-styled melodies. The unhinged laughs in the chorus are the exact takes from my freestyle. This conflict song is about bending over backwards for someone who doesn’t accept you as you are.
~ Melanie Martinez
Bringing back the harp, the sounds of crunching bones play as she describes “twisting all her limbs” for her partner, going to extreme lengths for them and to not only keep them satisfied but to also keep their relationship alive and well. Throughout the entire track the sounds of bones bending and snapping are paired with her uncomfortable laughter making the listeners imagine the pain and discomfort she is in as she pushes her limit, making this track one of the eeriest.
I wrote this song in the portal room alone over one of the instrumental tracks in the folder that was sent to me. It was a guitar loop by Pearl Lion. On my albums I like to include at least one “taboo” song about something that many people deal with but no one talks about in music. I wanted to write a fun, lighthearted song about being a person who experiences menstruation. How blood represents vitality and life. I wanted the chorus to be pretty and use analogies for bleeding that were sweet.
“Juice melting like raspberry, pomegranate it’s so scary, how my aura got him howling at my moon cycle baby.” The rumbling sounds that lead into the song are my actual cramps recorded from my phone. With the conflict of patriarchal society brainwashing straight cis men to believe that they should have any say over other people’s bodies, and also the general kind of ick they get from the discussion of menstruation, I wanted to make the song extra uncomfy for them by going on about a man who lives for peri*d s*x.”
~ Melanie Martinez
Many artists leave messaging behind their tracks that can be left up to the viewers interpretation, leading to a personal connection for each listener to connect unique melodies over a cataclysmic or monumental moment that provides cathartic release. Despite the subject behind this track may be considered “taboo” to societal standards, with light and airy instrumentals and dream-state vocals, Martinez confidently leaves no room for “Moon Cycle” to be interpreted differently, pushing back with poetic grace on the stigma behind mensuration.
Through the light hearted melodies and delicate vigor, she speaks to all things period with beauty, respect, and poise; the organic tones of “Moon Cycle” nods to the rest of the album with similar auditory themes, but with a sprinkle of contemporary sonic melodies for a captivating and irresistible track that leaves listeners not just humming along, but crooning;
“Skin ready for my heavy daily crème,
I keep it handy
Womb shedding any lessons,
making room for blessings. . .”
As one of the most audibly catchy, upbeat, and calming tracks within “PORTALS”, we can only hope to hear this track performed live with a chorus of audiences unashamed to belt the lyrics of a societally claimed unspoken secret.
Wrote this song with C.J. and Nick Long. It was a really fun session. We made a bunch of different vibes and this one stuck out to us the most. I wanted it to be bratty and a commentary piece on the box a lot of men put femme representing people in when they call us names like “manic pixie dream girl.” Being forced to play the role of mom and healer, while they gaslight you and call you crazy the minute you communicate how you feel.
And the ending interlude of this song is actually called “Amulet.” My partner Verde was cleaning out his computer and an instrumental randomly started playing and my ears perked up. It was a track he had produced years ago that was just sitting there collecting digital dust. I immediately wrote over it, but writing a full song for it was difficult. I loved it so much and had no idea what to do with it. One day in the studio I randomly was like ‘hmm, maybe “Amulet” can be an interlude after a song,’ and as fate had it the very last note of “NYMPHOLOGY” is the very first note of “Amulet.” A perfect puzzle piece.
~ Melanie Martinez
This song quickly inspired a movement with its anthemic lyrics and empowering message to embrace oneself. With the world around us finding ways to put us in a box, there’s not much better than a track that contracts against the norm and isn’t afraid to make those who disagree bristle a little bit when they hear the lyrics. Melanie Martinez has never been afraid of contradicting or breaking free from the box that society has consistently tried to put her in; and this song creates a gap for those who are struggling to do the same to be able to feel like they, too, can follow in her footsteps.
My favorite of the conflict songs! C.J laid down guitar and looped it, I paced around the pool and wrote the lyric and melody in around thirty minutes. Flowed really easily and effortlessly. I think it’s because I just had a mental turning point where I was finally able to articulate perfectly what I had dealt with in my last relationship. I wanted the lyrics to be the most savage and the most c*nty. Every time I wrote something I was like ‘no, it’s not mean enough.’ It’s about dealing with a narcissist who ironically calls you evil just because you’re able to see through their bullsh*t. I spent the entire day blowing out my vocals recording it. It was definitely the most challenging song to sing.
~ Melanie Martinez
For long time fans of Martinez’ craft, “EVIL” takes a pivotal shift similar to that of “NYMPHOLOGY”; an evolution of Crybaby from soft dark bubblegum pop with a dash of grit to a full force of nature. Although the track even hints toward the sonic and child-like instrumentals–the xylophone, sound effects of an egg cracking–the savagery of embracing the voice and power behind someone free to articulate and release their emotions into a beautiful sonically matured masterpiece, despite the “c*nty” lyric choice.
Through the track itself seems to be one you need to blast on your commutes, it also highlights her softer vocals, with the message behind the chorus clearly audible and not up for misinterpretation. As this track was written at a pivotal “light-bulb moment” of how to describe what she went through in being with a narcissist, the haunting melody in the softer second chorus sets the tone behind the message;
“If you bite my hand again
I will never feed you
You can call me evil
Take it to the grave if you want to play pretend
I won’t be mistreated
Took me way too long to put this to bed
Lovin’ you was lethal
Guess that makes me evil, evil.”
We can picture Melanie “hop, skip, and jumping” around her pool as the melody found her, can’t you?
I knew I wanted the album to end on the title “WOMB.” This was one of the earliest songs written in 2020. Had a session one day with Omer Fedi as a part of a week of sessions I had with different people. Omer started playing these guitar chords that were so beautiful, I asked him to play it on loop while I stared at the corner of the room quickly writing lyrics. C.J and I had Rhys come in and record live drums around two years later to complete it. This song was written from the perspective of entering a new lifetime. The feeling of nerves and excitement that arise when you’re about to forget everything you know about your true self as a soul in order to let your human experience on earth move your progression forward.
~ Melanie Martinez
Like “DEATH,” the song title itself creates its own loop. “WOMB” may be the last song on the album, but created to loop, this song may as well be the first. The beginning. The new beginning.
In conclusion PORTALS seemingly transcends genre as it fades from one uniquely produced sound to the next. Some songs merely grasp at a concept of genre, but it’s far past blooming into another sound of its own. And that, primarily, adds to an otherworldly nature this album contains. As the album itself blazes past meanings of past genres, it will surely set the tone as an influence for albums and artists yet to come. And though this may yet to be the last we see of Crybaby’s story, she’s far past us now, but among us, in the cosmos rather than gazing upon them longingly. She’s where she belongs; a part of us now more than ever.
Stream PORTALS, now including the deluxe edition, available on all listening platforms now:
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