ALBUM REVIEW: Melanie Martinez – ‘Portals’
Melanie Martinez their new album released! The album cycle started off with the amazing first track of the album Death. The last single, Void, only released two days prior of the albums release. The album represents the end of the Cry Baby trilogy and it has a lot of links to life after death. You can not only hear this in the lyrics but the sound of the album is also more ethereal.
Melanie herself said that she has been working on this album for four years in a video that was played at the radioshow Alt Ctrl on Apple Music. They then continued to explain that the album is based on her love for past life regression hypnotherapy books, but more specific the in between phase of life and death. I remember saying that the Fall Out Boy album had a lot of layers. That was before I was starting on this album. There are so many things about this album that I most likely won’t be able to cover everything. I’d highly recommend taking a deep dive into all the lore of this album because there is so much to unpack.
I already got a sneak peek of the album a week ago at the Portals listening party but I couldn’t listen to it calmly since I only had 1 listen in a massive room where people were constantly talking. Now that I’ve actually listen to the album, I can confidently say that the album is one of the most well constructed, layered and lore filled albums that I’ve heard in the past few years.
The album continues from their previous album and movie K-12. Where they in the end(spoiler alert) die. Or well, her character Cry Baby dies. As I mentioned before this album talks a lot about the stages in the afterlife and past life regression. In one of the first teasers of the album that she dropped, you can see them coming out of an egg. This is probably a play on ‘the egg theory’ where it is believed that after you die, you reincarnate as someone else and that you basically live as every person to ever exist once. That theory also plays into the past life regression part. Believing that you can regress into past lives that you have lived, which will be a lot if the egg theory is true.
Let’s get into the tracks for now since there is also so much to unpack in every song. From Melanie their personal growth to amazing people who helped her work on the album. All 13 songs have something unique and amazing to discover.
Death: Oh boi there we go. Already a big thing dropped in the spoken word intro. “Life is death is life is death” already starting the afterlife-esque theme of the album. Melanie herself explains that she was in her ‘portal room'(aka her studio) just singing melodies when she heard a different voice sing one of the melodies back to her. They were really scared at fist but then started working on the song. First adding a simple drum beat which was later replaced by drums of her favorite collaborator CJ Baran. Ilan Rubin from Nine Inch Nails also worked on the drums.
Void: Void is the first song Melanie ever produced on their own. And I must say, she made a great song on her own. The song talks a lot about her anxiety and finding yourself in a void. No god and no other person to judge you except for yourself. Often you are the person who pushes you down the most, constantly being your own worst critic. The song talks a lot about wanting to escape but not being able to escape because it’s a massive void.
Tunnel Vision: One of the songs that show how long the album has been in the making. This song was written all the way back in February 2021 when Melanie was in Hawaii. They wrote this song with the hip-hop duo Kinetics & One Love while being surrounded by coqui frogs who sang to them. The song is also one of the few songs that has a more sexual aspect to it. It talks about someone who is only aiming to get someone their pants. Except the person from whose point of view this song has been sung from has noticed that since “you’re no good at acting”.
Faerie Soirée: One of the shortest songs of the album with only 2:43. Melanie talks about a mushroom trip in this song where they try to stay away from her hallucinations. They asked their A&R for as many folders of instrumental tracks created by different producers. Ultimately this was the song that caught her interest and she couldn’t stop dancing the song was written very fast after that.
Light Shower: One of of the most beautiful songs on the album. I don’t think I can choose a number 1 song on this album but this song is the perfect 3am stargazing song. It’s so calm and comforting in some weird way. It’s also the first song that was written for this album. This song is also about a phase in the afterlife people under hypnosis describe as a soul cleansing or shower of light. Quoting Melanie:
“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 layered meaning.”
Spider Web: My love for this song is intense. The build up of the pre-chorus, the catchiness of the chorus and the sound of the post-chorus. I love this song so much. This song also has multiple layers(surprise) but in a way that there are two intended meanings of the song at the same time. Kind of a Schrödinger’s song. The first way to interpret it is that the song talks about the interconnectedness that everyone has who goes into a past life regression hypnosis session. The second meaning is the addictiveness of social media nowadays. Social media dictates everyone their lives nowadays. This meaning is really visible in the lines: “Feeding off our highs and lows and curious to see us struggle, no one can leave once they merge”
Leeches: A song about Los Angeles, either the best or worst city. Depends who you ask. The song talks about people who live in that city for the wrong reasons. And how those people act around superstars. It’s one of the more menacing songs on the album so definitely the song you go to if you need a more creepy vibe.
Battle Of The Larynx: Is a really beautiful metaphor for a fight. A larynx is a part of your throat that contains your vocal chords. It’s also used for breathing swallowing and talking. It’s about 2 people. 1 who yells a bunch of nothing, mostly trying to intimidate the other person. The other person is really calm and they can explain their point really clearly. This was the last song that was written on the album. In the same house as Tunnel Vision in Hawaii.
The Contortionist: A lot of this song was freestyled and then pieced together later. A part of this song is exactly from those freestyle moments: the unhinged laughs throughout the songs. Melanie would often pace around the pool writing lyrics to the melodies that they had made during the process of writing this song. I love the amount of creepy and weird sounds this song has. It gives it a lot of personality.
Moon Cycle: Another song based on a file somewhere in all the folders that Melanie her A&R sent them. They like to have one song every album that talks about a ‘taboo’ that a lot of people deal with but no one talks about in music. This album it’s periods. A lot of people deal with this and you barely hear anyone talking about it, it’s quite rarely talked about and a lot of people are badly educated on the subject. Melanie recorded their own period on her phone. She then put it in this song and you can hear it at certain parts of the song. She also wanted to give cis men who get the ick from discussion of menstruation an uncomfortable feeling by describing a man who loves period sex.
Nymphology: This song is a more bratty sounding song directed towards a lot of men who put a box around people who present in a femme way when they call them ‘manic pixie dream girl’. Those people often have to take the mother and ‘healer’ role, while being gaslighted after which they get called crazy when they communicate how they feel. The outro/interlude at the end of the song is called Amulet. It was a sound she randomly heard when their partner was cleaning up their laptop. Melanie managed to write some lyrics on it after a while, it then got the name Amulet and an interlude for at the end of Nymphology. The last note of Nymphology is also the first note of Amulet.
Evil: Melanie their favorite of the conflict songs. She paced around the pool and wrote the lyrics and melody in 30 minutes. This flowed so easily because they were finally able to properly articulate what they went through in her past relationship. Every time Melanie had a line they would be like: “No it’s not mean enough” and she would write something worse. They spent the entire day blowing their vocals out while recording it, it was also the most difficult song to record for them.
Womb: This was one of the first songs that was written. It was around 2020. Melanie already knew that she wanted the last song of the album to be called Womb. The song was finished 2 years later. This song also continues on the theme of reincarnation as someone else. The song is mostly written from the perspective from entering a new life. The nerves and excitement you feel as you’re about to forget all the things of your past lives. The end of this song also almost perfectly loops back towards the first song of the album Death. Once again portraying the same theme of a loop and reincarnation.
What a great album in general. There were so many layers to this album that were sometimes really obvious and sometimes it took me half an hour to understand what was meant or how the song worked exactly. I’m really sure I missed a bunch of things but I hope I was able to show the quality of this album. If you haven’t listened to the album yet, please do so as soon as possible. It’s a great experience and you get taken on a big journey through all the songs. Check out the album below and let us know what you think of the album!