Proving that the delicate execution of a concept album isn’t dead, Melanie Martinez has returned with a blockbuster of an album. I mean, literally, a blockbuster. The accompanying feature length film to ‘K-12’ premiered in cinemas worldwide the night before the album’s release and is now available to stream on YouTube. Bringing her dark and twisted vision to life, this movie and album bravely takes a unique dark twist on schools and turns some of your favourite playground songs into mature and sinister tracks with big social and political commentary.
In a similar delivery to her reinvention of nursery rhymes in her critically acclaimed debut album ‘Cry Baby’, Martinez executes this in an original, beautiful and impressive way. Opening ‘Wheels On The Bus’ is a vivid track full of imagery that depicts the lead character on the bus to the sleep away school for the first time where she witnesses kids doing bad things like sexual acts, smoking and causing disruptions while the bus driver pretends he doesn’t see it happening. “And I’m trying not to look across the aisle cause Maya’s letting Dan put his hand up her skirt and she’s got her hand down his pants”.
The alternative pop production is very similar to the material she introduced on her debut and it continually sits in that dreamy and cinematic realm. ‘Class Fight’, ‘Show & Tell’, ‘Detention’, ‘High School Sweethearts’ and ‘Recess’ follow that sonical trend and help aide the storyline to stay on track and in theme. ’Lunchbox Friends’ is one of the themed songs that immediately stands out with it’s catchy hook, while ‘Teachers Pet’ reflects on a student having an affair with a teacher in a very seductive and interesting way.
Introducing the antagonists of the storyline ‘The Principal’ and ‘Nurse’s Office’ get darker with their production and harrowing sound effects to make sure listeners know the purpose of these characters. While these songs are catchy and enjoyable, their purpose is to keep a storyline flowing and for the theme of the concept to strongly stand out.
The other songs have a different agenda. Their choruses are strong, their structures are well articulated and their melodies are catchy, but their underlying messages are even more important. ‘Drama Club’ is this bold pop moments that hears her addressing the manipulation of society with how we are all expected to live a particular way. “I don’t wanna be an actress, living by a script. Who cares about practicing? I don’t give a shit”, she proudly sings. She then questions on ‘Strawberry Shortcake’ why we always blame females for sexual assault as say they were asking for it and protect the men. “It’s my fault, it’s my fault cause I put icing on top. Now, the boys want a taste of the strawberry shortcake. That’s my bad, that’s my bad, no one taught them not to grab”. This is a very bold and important statement to make on an album like this and it’s applauded. She then steps it up a notch and explores bulimia on ‘Orange Juice’ and how this is a valid issue young people regularly go through because of the expectations we put on them. “You turn oranges to orange juice. Enter there, then spit it out of you. Your body is imperfectly perfect. Everyone wants what the other one’s working”.
There are a lot of important social and political statements made throughout the album which shows just how thought out and well executed this record was. It’s been four years since she released her debut album but once you hear ‘K-12’ in it’s entirety and watch the film you will understand why the gap was necessary.
There is a lot of articulation involved and with so much layering involved, you will be in awe of the art piece that Martinez has created, because that is what it is. It’s a cinematic art piece envisioned by a brilliant accompanying concept album.
You can purchase a physical copy of Melanie Martinez’s new album from Sanity HERE; https://www.sanity.com.au/products/2431052/K-12