The Voice alum Melanie Martinez released her debut LP “Cry Baby” this month. The album seems an attempt at twisted fairytales, but this funhouse wasn’t always so fun.
1. Cry Baby – explicit – 8/10
This is a fantastic opener – a cool minimalist electronic jam. Its witty lyrics create a spooky tone with Martinez’s whispery vocals. The bridge uses a nice percussive motif to mimic the tears of “cry baby.”
2. Dollhouse – 9/10
“Dollhouse” is catchy, heavily electronic, with a creepy vibe, and you get a touch of Lana Del Rey coming through. Reminiscent of P!nk’s “Family Portrait,” the singer points out the hidden family flaws, but this song is flawless.
3. Sippy Cup – explicit – 5/10
The frequent use of deep electronic echoes, sound effects, and percussion here creates a dark tone, matching the absurd lyrics. I applaud her brilliant alliteration, but found the lyrics disturbing.
4. Carousel – 6/10
Here, the narrator compares her attempts to woo a man with trying to chase someone on a carousel. The creepy fair horns in the background mimick a carousel perfectly, but, also like a carousel, this song goes around and around without getting anywhere.
5. Alphabet Boy – explicit – 5/10
This song featured some great alliteration. The four lines of each verse use alliteration to emphasize the ABCD configuration. However, the subtle songwriting didn’t compensate for the music, which wasn’t up to scratch. Though the lyrics were lovely, the music was too dissonant, reminding me of a broken music box.
6. Soap – 7/10
While listening to the intro of this song, I looked around, convinced that an alarm was going off. Yet again, the lyrics reign king, but the melodies have been tame thus far, leaving me hoping for more interesting tunes, fewer sound effects, and more substantive music.
7. Training Wheels – explicit – 8/10
This song is great — catchy, with a quiet background, and it delivered the gorgeous harmonies and musical intrigue I’d been waiting for. The song describes an unreciprocated relationship, juxtaposing the calm song with explicit lyrics and a deep distorted voice.
8. Pity Party – 7/10
Sampling Lesley Gore’s 1965 hit “It’s My Party,” Martinez delivers an up-tempo jam with really cool horns and a nice bass line. The scream at 2:36 is one of the best effects on the album and suits the song perfectly. This is one of my favorites — the melody is so fantastic, and the video is pretty awesome, too.
9. Tag, You’re It – 1/10
Suddenly we move from dark fairytales to the Brother’s Grimm. Describing a predatory man stalking and burying the narrator, this song is disturbing. This is too extreme for me – the shock value is gone, leaving me genuinely unsettled. Underneath the lyrics, the music is repetitive.
10. Milk & Cookies – explicit — 4/10
This song is a twisted children’s rhyme. The narrator bakes poisonous cookies, appearing to be a vindictive girlfriend. This song is catchier than “Tag, You’re It,” but the creepy quotient is still very high.
11. Pacify Her – explicit – 7/10
“Pacify Her” features more aggressive lyrics, describing the narrator’s attempts to steal another woman’s man. This song definitely goes for an “all’s fair in love and war approach,” but don’t let that deter you – this jam is super catchy and a fun listen.
12. Mrs. Potato Head – 10/10
These lyrics are gold. Very sharp and witty, this song calls out plastic surgery, quick-fix solutions, and our beauty-obsessed mentalities: “It’s only some plastic / No one will love you if you’re unattractive.” The music is great, too, creating the best track of the album.
13. Mad Hatter – 8/10
Of course there’s an Alice in Wonderland-themed song! This song has a solid beat, a nice melody, great sound effects, and clever lyrics. Nicely done.
14. Play Date – explicit – 7/10
The melody is catchy, but the lyrics are harsh, as the narrator questions whether her romantic interest views her as a long-term commitment. The song uses sound effects liberally, but they fail to liven up the track.
15. Teddy Bear – explicit – 6/10
“Teddy Bear” returns us to the macabre, with what seems like a tale of an abusive relationship. The song itself is smooth and enjoyable, but could have been almost a minute shorter without losing substance.
16. Cake – 6/10
Similar to Play Date, this song questions the terms of a relationship – is it serious, or just a loveless fling? With the redundant subject matter, a messy disjointed chorus, and yet another “sweet turned sour” metaphor. This song lacks originality and closes the album on a tired note.
There are some truly fantastic tracks on this album, but certain numbers just didn’t deliver and hindered the overall impact of the album. I appreciate the style Martinez is going for, but when it got too dark, it didn’t work for me. You can find a storybook online here written by Martinez explaining the story tale of the LP, but the arc didn’t help me understand or enjoy the album more as a whole. I will continue to listen to my favorites, but giving the darker tracks a miss.