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The Complex Story of Melanie Martinez’ Cry Baby; A Review of Melanie Martinez’ ‘Cry Baby’

Innovative concept or juvenile story?

STOCKTON – On August 14, 2015, the alternative-pop artist, Melanie Martinez released her debut studio album title, Cry Baby, a 13-track alt-pop album infused with childlike instrumentation such as the repeated use of xylophones.  Cry Baby is Martinez’ major label debut, following her time on The Voice with her only releasing a four-song EP, titled Dollhouse in May of the same year, two of the songs being released with the album.


Cry Baby is a concept album that Martinez wrote from the perspective of her character of the same name.  It follows Cry Baby through her very bleak and sometimes despondent life.  In some songs on the album, Martinez writes fully from the perspective of her character (i.e. Dollhouse, Tag You’re It, etc.) and on others she writes from the joint perspective of her and the Cry Baby character (i.e. Cry Baby, Alphabet Boy, Training Wheels, etc.).  Martinez has described Cry Baby as an “child who has experienced adult things.”


In the opening track of the album, the title track, Cry Baby, Melanie sings with a whispery voice over a haunting minimalistic beat with orchestral elements.  This song introduces the listener to Martinez’ character, Cry Baby.  The song takes inspiration from Melanie’s childhood where she was viciously bullied for being too sensitive, being dubbed a “cry baby”.  In the music video for the song, Cry Baby is shown crying so much that she begins to drown in her own tears.  When asked about the song Martinez had this to say, Cry Baby is the first track.  I wanted to introduce people to the character.  So the song is about who she is, and how she feels.”


Track two on the album, Dollhouse is catchy and heavily electronic, with the ticking of a clock setting the melody of the verse and low distorted bass setting the counter melody.  The song’s lyrics depict Cry Baby’s dysfunctional family and their many problems, mainly the father’s infidelity and the mother’s alcoholism.  The chorus perfectly encapsulates the meaning of the song, “Picture, picture, smile for the picture/“Pose with your brother, won’t you be a good sister?”/Everyone thinks that we’re perfect/Please don’t let them look through the curtains (Martinez, Dollhouse)” In the song’s music video we see the family’s dysfunction first hand with the mother constantly being under the influence of alcohol and her father hardly being there.  When asked about the song, Martinez told Noisey, “‘Dollhouse’ was the first thing that started everything really. It was the first toy sound inspired song.”


Sippy Cup, Cry Baby’s third track, is minimalistic mostly composed of percussion instruments that loop for a majority of the song and electronic echoes, with Martinez’ vocals in the song being dissonant and almost robotic.  The song is an overall critique on how parents tend to neglect their children in unintentional ways, with Martinez bringing up things like alcoholism and the desire to be the picture perfect family being some of the big issues, Kids are still depressed when you dress them up/And syrup is still syrup in a sippy cup (Martinez, Sippy Cup)” The song’s music video expands on Cry Baby’s family, with her mother eventually drinking so much that she loses all sense of right and wrong, taking the lives of both her husband and his mistress.  When asked about the song, Martinez told Fuse, “‘Dollhouse’ is [Cry Baby’s] family life.  Just, you know, how she grew up.  And ‘Sippy Cup’ is a deeper look into her family life and how they deal with things.”


The fourth track, Carousel, takes inspiration from circus music with creepy fair horns being in the foreground for a majority of the song.  The song has a repetitive nature with the instrumental looping after every chorus, only breaking away for the bridge, but this fits perfectly with the meaning of the song.  The song is about Cry Baby’s first love and her desperately trying to get his attention but after she feels she is close, she is still so far away from him, doom to go around and around like a carousel, ‘Round and ’round like a horse on a carousel we go/Will I catch up to love? I can never tell/I know chasin’ after you is like a fairy tale/But I feel like I’m glued on tight to this carousel (Martinez, Carousel)” The music video depicts Cry Baby at an abandoned amusement park where she desperately chases her lover in order to gain his attention.  When asked about the song, Martinez told Genius, ‘Carousel’ is about my feeling in love with someone and being stuck on the same ride and trying to grab them but I never reach them.”


Cry Baby’s fifth track, Alphabet Boy, fits in perfectly with the childlike theme of the album so far with its instrumental being made up of a xylophone melody with a minimalistic percussion underneath.  The song strays away from the concept and focused more on a person experience Martinez had, the song is about being with someone who thinks that they are smarter than you and demeans everything you do,I know my ABC’s, yet you keep teaching me/I say –- your degree, alphabet boy (Martinez, Alphabet Boy)” The songs music video shows Cry Baby speaking directly to the camera as she rants about the relationship between her and the guy who demeans everything she does.  When questioned about the song, Martinez told Noisey, [This boy] was in college for music and used to try and ‘teach’ me how to write songs as if there was a formula or I wasn’t writing songs correctly.”


Track six, Soap, is for the most part made up of atmospheric and light synths with the sound of a tape recorder rewinding in the background, but in the post chorus the song breaks down into a melodic sound of dripping complimenting the name of the song.  The song is about being in love with someone but once you finally admit those feeling to the person you feel like you need to take it back to save yourself the embarrassment, “Think I got myself in trouble/So I’ll fill the bath with bubbles/Then I’ll put the towels all away/Should’ve never said the word “love”/Threw a toaster in the bathtub/I’m sick of all the games I have to play (Martinez, Soap)” In the song’s music video, Cry Baby’s new lover, Johnny, roams through an empty house before stumbling upon a bathtub, he enters it and watches as the TV across from him plays a video of Cry Baby confessing her love to him.  When asked about the song, Martinez told Fuse, “In my life, this is when I started talking to a new boy.  It was really hard for me to explain or tell him how I felt, because I was scared of how he would react, so I just felt like I needed to wash out my mouth with soap, and constantly hide how I felt.”


Training Wheels, the seven track on Cry Baby, see’s Martinez utilizing harmonies and blending in with the returning xylophone melody and atmospheric synths.  The song is about Cry Baby feeling so in love with her lover, Johnny that she’d be willing to do anything for him, no matter what,I love everything you do/When you call me — dumb for the stupid — I do/I wanna ride my bike with you/Fully undr—ed, no trainin’ wheels left for you/I’ll pull ’em off for you (Martinez, Training Wheels)” This music video simply shows Cry Baby and Johnny riding around a park on their bikes fully enamored with each other.  When asked about the song, Melanie told Noisey, I wrote this song in, like, 20 minutes.  It was always a difficult experience writing to happy major chords.  But somehow because of how happy and in love I really was, it came super quick.”


Cry Baby’s eight track, Pity Party, interpolates the hit song, It’s My Party by Lesley Gore, mixing it in with Melanie’s signature, almost hip-hop, drum beats with sharp synths over top.  The song is about Cry Baby inviting her “friends” over for her birthday and none of them showing up, as the song goes on it shows her slow descent into madness and she feels no one cares about her, which fits in with the scream Martinez delivers near the end of the song,Maybe if I knew all of them well/I wouldn’t have been trapped inside this hell that holds me/Maybe if I casted out a spell/Or told them decorations were in pastel ribbons (Melanie Martinez, Pity Party)” The music video shows Cry Baby at her house waiting for her guests to come to her party, when she learns no one is going to show up she slowly begins to go crazy, in the end burning her house down.  When asked about this song in a Fuse interview, Martinez had this to say,[Cry Baby] invites [her crush] to her birthday party, her ‘pity party,’ and he doesn’t show up, and neither do any of her friends.  So she just goes crazy and completely just destroys her party.”


Track nine, Tag, You’re It, is possibly the darkest song on the album both lyrically and sonically, with the instrumental being filled to the brim with harsh drums and haunting organ and piano melodies.  This song is about Cry Baby being chased and abducted by someone, with Martinez using the metaphor of playing tag, equating the act to playing a game of tag, Running through the parking lot/He chased me and he wouldn’t stop/Tag, you’re it, tag, tag, you’re it (Martinez, Tag, You’re It)” The music video takes place directly after the events of Pity Party with Cry Baby in her most vulnerable state, we see her attacker, a person in a wolf mask, follow her around before finally getting her attention.  He gives her an ice cream cone that knocks her out and while knocked out, he takes her and drives off.  When asked about the song in a Fuse interview, Martinez had this to say, “That kind of is, like, a turning point in the story for her, and that’s where she becomes a little bit more… insane, obviously, from all the experiences that she’s had.


Milk and Cookies, the tenth track on the album, interpolates the children’s rhyme, One Two Buckle My Shoe, and march-like instrumental with a heavy use of tom drums.  The song is about Cry Baby wanting revenge on someone who has wronged her, finding that she will only find peace with them no longer living, Ashes, ashes, time to go down/Ooh, honey do you want me now?/Can’t take it anymore, need to put you to bed/Sing you a lullaby where you die at the end (Martinez, Milk and Cookies)” This music video is a part of an extension of the Pity Party and Tag You’re It music videos, with the video starting off with Cry Baby in a foreign place, presumably taken their by her captor, in the end Cry Baby ends up feeding the captor poisoned cookies before escaping.  When questioned about the song, Martinez told Fuse,[Cry Baby] becomes a little more comfortable with who she is, and how crazy and emotional she is, and the experiences that made her who she is.”


The eleventh track on Cry Baby, Pacify Her, is probably the most radio friendly song on the album with the instrumental seeing the introduction of a mobile sounding melody fused with trap elements.  The song is about Cry Baby’s desire to love someone even when the person is already in love with someone else, Cry Baby villainized the woman so she feels less guilty about being the reason her boyfriend is cheating on her,Pacify her/She’s getting on my nerves/You don’t love her/Stop lying with those words (Martinez, Pacify Her)” In the music video, Cry Baby has found a new lover, but he has a girlfriend, so Cry Baby tries desperately to show the boy that she loves her and not his girlfriend.  When asked about the song in a Noisey interview, Martinez had this to say, “[This song] is basically her being a home wrecker.  She’s so numb to love and doesn’t think that it exists.  She just stops caring at this point.”


Track twelve, Mrs. Potato Head, is probably the most sonically minimalistic song on the album, muffled drums and organ sounds make up a bulk of the instrumental.  The song is about Cry Baby’s insecurities within herself and the insecurities of many women which lead them to get cosmetic surgery, Oh, Mrs. Potato Head, tell me/Is it true that pain is beauty?/Does a new face come with a warranty?/Will a pretty face make it better? (Martinez, Mrs. Potato Head)” In the music video our main character, Cry Baby, is substituted for a woman who desperately wants to cling on to her husband no matter how extreme the measures she must take are, even get surgery she doesn’t want.  When asked about the song, Martinez told Fuse, ‘Mrs. Potato Head’ was the hardest song to write on the album.  I had the idea for it for a while, just the title and the comparison to how you can, you know, change the pieces of Mrs.  Potato Head’s face, and how that can double as a meaning for changing how you look.”


The album’s closer, Mad Hatter, has the most off the walls production on the album, with hard hitting drums and dissonant piano melodies.  In the final song on the album, Cry Baby has finally accepted the fact that she may be a little crazy, with all of the things sure endured during the album she finally allows herself to be truly authentic, I’m nuts, baby, I’m mad/The craziest friend that you’ve ever had/You think I’m psycho, you think I’m gone/Tell the psychiatrist something is wrong/Over the bend, entirely bonkers/You like me best when I’m off my rocker/Tell you a secret, I’m not alarmed/So what if I’m crazy? The best people are (Martinez, Mad Hatter)” In the music video, Cry Baby dreams of being transported to a land where she can be her true, crazy, and authentic self before waking up and deciding she can be her authentic self anywhere.  When asked about the song, Martinez told Fuse, “‘Mad Hatter’ is [Cry Baby] completely becoming comfortable with who she is, and what she’s about, and her just being a crazy person.  And basically accepting the fact that all the best people are crazy.  It was very inspired by Alice in Wonderland.”


Overall, this album is an amazing debut album for the alternative singer, Melanie Martinez.  This album shows off her amazing writing and storytelling skills in an interesting and new way.  The concept was amazingly tackled and the story of Cry Baby was very interesting and had many fans excited to see what is to come next in her story.


Favorite Song(s) – Cry Baby, Dollhouse, Sippy Cup, Alphabet Boy, Soap, Training Wheels, Pity Party, Tag, You’re It, Pacify Her, Mad Hatter


Least Favorite Song(s) – Milk & Cookies, Mrs. Potato Head


Album Rating – 9/10

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About the Contributor
Dennis Hopkins
Dennis Hopkins, Staff Writer
Dennis Hopkins is a senior at Lincoln High School and this is his second semester in the Journalism class. In his free time he enjoys creative/narrative writing and listening to music. He writes often about music and voices his opinions on the album.

Comments (4)

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  • Z

    ZiarreMay 18, 2024 at 11:52 PM

    Me personaly slayyyyyyyyy

  • K

    kayMay 6, 2024 at 12:26 PM


  • AnonymousApr 28, 2024 at 12:36 PM

    Love her story telling. Love all the videos K-12. Can’t wait to see her maybe produce a movie. I think her fans may enjoy watching.

  • I

    IsabellaMar 29, 2024 at 10:59 PM

    Personally i rlly love LOVE her (I relate to them and I didn’t even read the article)