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Home > Portals by Melanie Martinez (2023): A Review

Portals by Melanie Martinez (2023): A Review


An End To An Interesting Beginning

Singer, songwriter, and filmmaker Melanie Martinez shines through in one of her boldest works with Portals. Dealing with the concept of a life cycle, Melanie Martinez creates a sincere representation of life and death and what comes in between. Most of what comes in between are relationships and their importance, whether good or bad. It feels like a therapy session that has been in the works for a long time. 

A grand part of the album is the visual counterpart of the feature film of the same name as the album. This isn’t the first time Melanie does this, as she did the same with her previous album, K-12, where she mainly talked about problems with the school system. This work created her sort of cult following that was introduced to her 2015 debut album by the name of Cry Baby, a character whose lifespan ends now with Portals.

A Cohesive Theme With Different Soundscapes

With Portals, Melanie sinks into the deep ends of the dark pop genre to create some interesting new sounds while still making it accessible enough to the mainstream. She blends those usual pop instruments with trap drums and rap elements. She also explores synths a lot in this album and different vocal inflections. Speaking of these vocal inflections, much of it shows a childish nature within a mature body. 

Themes include comfort with one’s body and the relationships others can have with one’s own body. This is something that sort of feels previously explored by other artists, but at the same time, not in the same way as Melanie does it. Her style is very unique and ear-catching, especially with this album. This is even when she is often compared with other artists, specifically Bjork. Even with this comparison, it sets her apart from everyone else in her music sphere in the way she explores ambitious concepts in her albums. 

Another part of what she explores in this album is therapy. She says the album is “based on past-life-regression therapy books she’s been reading for a few years now,”. One of the sub-concepts of the main concept is feeling earthly and maintaining meaning while still being alive or dead on Earth. Most of the music was able to come through with bringing into reality this brainchild of Melanie, although there were some mishaps.


Familiar Yet Mesmerizing 

In terms of the soundscapes within the songs, a few of the songs reminded fans of her Cry Baby album as well as her K-12 album. This was not in a bad way, as she still maintained a great understanding of what it is to take from her past to create something new. Songs like “Void” create a dark and gritty atmosphere that mirrors the approach to low self-esteem. Many of the songs are dark and gritty in their themes, no matter how energetic they sound instrumentally.  

Songs like “The Contortionist” create a brutal image that still pertains to the album’s themes. She likes mixing dramatic and simpler instruments, like the xylophone in the “Spider Web” song. The musical progression was mostly cohesive, with some songs feeling like they could be re-ordered or put in another place in the album. All in all, Melanie shows a great understanding of what makes her such a musical giant in her genre and puts on a show for many old and new fans to enjoy. 

A Somber Goodbye  

Portals served to be an album that exceeded some of the proportions Melanie set out for herself, and while it disappointed some fans, it also introduced first-time listeners to her music. Part of what makes her so unique is the divisive nature of her music, which is always an interesting conversation to behold as a listener, or in the case of her two feature films, a viewer. Her character, “Cry Baby,” comes to a somber end that fits with the soundscapes of the rest of the album, specifically with the song “Womb.” 

Portals is mesmerizing and a breath of fresh air for the artist. It feels like one of those albums that will be appreciated more as time passes. Portals is now streaming on all major music streaming platforms.


Melanie Martinez – Void (2023). Official Video

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Andres E. Gonzalez-Ortiz

Hi! I am a Dramatic Writing and Performing Arts major at SCAD from Puerto Rico. I have an intense passion for all things film, tv, and music. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and putting it out there is the most important.