After four long years, The Cry Baby trilogy comes to a bittersweet end! Melanie Martinez released her third studio album, PORTALS on March 31, 2023! I along with many were blown away by the immersive experience this new album provided. As a longtime fan, I can certainly say that she put her heart and soul into each track. Each song holds their own poetic meaning that listeners can connect to in some way. Let’s see what to expect from ‘PORTALS’!
“DEATH” released two weeks before the full album, followed by the music video one week later. This song provides a strong start to ‘PORTALS’. It opens with a soft and somber tone as the music video shows Martinez’s persona, Cry Baby, being buried. The listeners are able to take a moment to mourn this death before the music intensifies with heavy bass and beats. The song lets us know that there is life after DEATH, and we see that firsthand throughout this album. Overall, the song is a great comeback for Martinez and got me excited for what else ‘PORTALS’ had to offer.
The message of “VOID” discusses dealing with one’s deeper insecurities. According to Martinez, this track was inspired by her experience with hypnotherapy. This song immediately struck a cord with listeners through its lyrics. Martinez has a few tracks from past albums with a similar message, namely Mrs. Potato Head and Orange Juice. But “VOID” takes it a step further and reminds the listeners that their insecurities are only temporary. The song’s punk-rock style fuses perfectly with Martinez’s unique vocals. This along with its message makes this one of many tracks that stands out.
3. “Tunnel Vision”
Continuing the theme of insecurities, “TUNNEL VISION” has a message about focusing on physical beauty rather than spiritual truth. The song opens with Martinez’s harmonized vocals, followed by the beat and other instrumentals. The overall tone is mellow and mysterious and ends with an almost haunting note. “TUNNEL VISION” isn’t in my personal top five. But it holds true to its deeper meaning and many fans consider it as one of their top favorites.
4. “Faerie SOIRÉE”
“FAERIE SOIRÉE” took a few tries before it grew on me. The message of the song was confusing, as it seemed like so many nonsensical things were happening. But it turns out that the lyrics are about hallucinating on mushrooms. The majority of the song is fast paced as the listeners take this experience with Martinez. Toward the end, the instrumentals abruptly stop and the outro only consists of Martinez’s harmonized vocals. This song is another favorite among the fanbase. After a few listens, this is one I will be coming back to more often.
5. “Light SHOWER”
“LIGHT SHOWER” is simply about what it feels like to fall in love. The lyrics describe how finding the perfect person can make you feel high and forget about everything bad in the world. The lyrics open with “You are the light I’ve been searching for forever”, which anyone who has fallen in love can relate to. This is also the calmest song of the album, primarily consisting of Martinez’s enchanting vocals and a light strumming of electric guitar. “LIGHT SHOWER” took the number 2 spot of my top 5 songs and I highly recommend giving it a listen.
6. “SPIDER WEB”
“SPIDER WEB” has a unique techno sound to it that’s almost creepy and sinister. The message is about addiction to the internet. Being a generation that grew up with the internet, I think it’s safe to say that all of us can relate to this song and its lyrics. It describes how the internet can shift our emotions and our opinions to the point where it’s overwhelming and we’re too scared to do just about anything. But we find ourselves coming back to it and starting the cycle all over again. Even though the song isn’t in my top five, its message is impactful and eye opening.
Continuing the theme of bugs, “LEECHES” is about being surrounded by toxic people that suck the life out of someone. This song is similar to Martinez’s single, Piggyback, which was released after battling serious allegations of sexual assault. Though she has not spoken about it in length, Martinez has dealt with many challenges and many toxic people and “LEECHES” is her way of expressing her grief. Through this song, she can reach others who have dealt with similar situations, which is why it holds the number 3 spot in my top 5.
8. BATTLE OF THE LARYNX
“BATTLE OF THE LARYNX” is a message about engaging in pointless arguments. In today’s age, we have more freedom to express our opinions. But these expressions often lead to heated arguments that result in nothing, especially on online platforms. The lyrics portray an argument from two perspectives: the side that tries to yell loud enough to win the argument and the side that is calm and collected. The lyrics are from the perspective of the calm and collected side. The instrumentals of the song are reminiscent of punk rock. While it’s not my favorite song, I can appreciate its message because I’ve seen many situations like the song describes.
9. THE CONTORTIONIST
At the number 1 spot of my top 5 songs is “THE CONTORTIONIST”. The message of the song takes a literal approach of bending over backwards for someone who doesn’t accept or appreciate you. The song is similar to Martinez’s Show and Tell, which discusses putting on a show for a judgmental audience. Not only do the lyrics strike a chord with its listeners, but Martinez adds additional moaning that signifies putting on a smile while being forced to hurt herself. The instrumentals are accompanied by occasional sounds of bones snapping, which makes the song more attention grabbing. Whether in a romantic sense or in any other type of relationship, many of us have had to force ourselves into uncomfortable positions to please someone else. If you are sensitive to the sound of breaking bones, I suggest you skip this song. Otherwise, this is well worth the listen.
10. MOON CYCLE
The message of “MOON CYCLE” is straight forward: it’s about menstrual cycles. In response to society’s intimidation about periods, Martinez responded by singing about it. This song is empowering and tears down stereotypes about people with uteruses being weak or emotional. It’s theorized that the song is in response to her ex-boyfriend Oliver Tree’s track, Revival, that contains misogynistic and stereotypical lyrics about an angry girl on her period. This track is the only one that made me want to dance along to it. It served as a reminder to be proud of the body I have and that I’m capable of doing anything, even on my period. “MOON CYCLE” takes the number 4 spot of my top 5 PORTALS tracks.
The album continues the theme of femininity with “NYMPHOLOGY.” The message of this track is about what society views as stereotypically feminine. Often times, people try to make the topic of women a political matter as we try to change the way we view the concept of femininity. In the lyrics, Martinez responds to those who have wronged her with the same disrespectful energy, implying that they can’t even spell “NYMPHOLOGY” and can’t tell the difference between it and psychology. This is yet another empowering track for women and feminine-presenting people that is worth listening to.
Martinez gives us another punk-rock song with “EVIL.” The message of this song is about standing up for oneself in a toxic relationship. Fans theorize that the song is also about her breakup with Oliver Tree, even though we don’t know the real details of why they broke up. It’s an empowering song that encourage those in toxic relationships to find the means and the courage to leave and never look back. The lyrics express that the toxic person may retaliate and point the finger at the person trying to leave. But Martinez responds with, “Loving you was lethal, guess that makes me evil.” This track takes the number 5 spot of my top 5 songs.
“WOMB” is the final track of PORTALS and ties the whole album together in an loop. The lyrics are from the perspective of a fetus forming in its mother’s womb. The fetus is scared about the prospect of life and tries to fight back as its mother goes through labor. But it’s brought into the world to endure the cycle of life and its eventual death. The track ends as DEATH began with the line, ‘Death is life is death is life”. With that, the listener is urged to start the journey over from the beginning.
PORTALS was a rollercoaster of thoughts and emotions and did not disappoint in the slightest. This album was well worth the four-year wait. Now that the Cry Baby trilogy has come to a close, it’s hard to guess what else Melanie Martinez may have in store for future projects. But I and her dedicated fans look forward to even more of her amazing music down the road.
I hope you enjoyed this review of PORTALS and let us know at Mic Drop Music what your thoughts are in the comments!
My Top 5 ‘PORTALS’ Tracks
- THE CONTORTIONIST
- LIGHT SHOWER
- MOON CYCLE