Melanie Martinez’s Comeback with K-12 Album & Film


Melanie Martinez has returned four years after her Crybaby debut album with her newest collection, K-12, which all appear in her self-directed film, acting as a collection of music videos in the form of the movie, debuted on September 5th. With thirteen songs incorporating elementary and high school experiences, this 24-year-old artist poetically and directly discusses relevant issues in her lyrics. Moreover, Melanie’s album goes even further in the video aspect. While most artists select a few popular songs to put into motion, Melanie produced a one hour and thirty minute movie with dialogue, characters, and scenes, and intertwined each song within it. Melanie Martinez’s journey to stardom was difficult and controversial, along with her creation of the K-12 film, but the messages of her album are popular and clearly relevant to young generations.

Melanie Martinez began like most young artists on the internet by uploading cover songs. She was introduced to the stage in 2012 on The Voice’s third season. She opened with the Britney Spears hit “Toxic,” choosing Adam Levine as her mentor and gaining a prominent fan base. After leaving the show as one of the top six finalists, the singer’s Crybaby album was released in August 2015 and remained on the Billboard 200 Chart for 104 weeks straight. Two of these hit songs were “Soap” and “Dollhouse.” Following the debut album, she released individual music videos with a similar aesthetic: pop surrealism. Melanie Martinez’s controversy starts with her imagery. Typically, Melanie uses childhood associated items, like doll houses, birthday parties, carousels, or teddy bears as a representation for darker and more daunting themes. Many critics viewed her themes as romanizing children, but Mealnie explained that the album Crybaby symbolized a character she created through music. This character explores these topics as a child, making it genuine and real to the album. However, Melanie’s controversy didn’t stop there. In early December of 2017, Timothy Heller, a former female friend of Melanie, accused Melanie Martinez of sexual assault. After the accusations spread on Twitter, dedicated Melanie Martinz fans immediately defended Melanie, saying the date of the alleged assault didn’t make sense due to a concert Melanie had in a different state that night. Timothy Heller supporters flooded Melanie with hateful messages, until Melanie shut down any form of contact via social media. Melanie claims whatever transpired was consensual and Timothy hasn’t made a comment since then. Melanie had remained relatively quiet until recently, when she began to promote her K-12 album and film.

Melanie’s first few posts regarding the release of her newest music began in mid-February when she stated, “The album has been done for like 2 years now. I’ve just been waiting to finish up the movie.” Melanie Martinez began writing the script in 2017, and there seems to be no difference in Melanie’s opinions and style. She follows through with her childhood themes, but branches into new and more developed topics. Starting from “Wheels on the Bus” to other songs like “Detention” or “Drama Club”, there is an authentic sense of a coming of age story. Her inspiration may come from Tim Burton movies, as she told People TV, but the movie is her own craft. The K-12 plot follows Melanie and her school friend attacking the oppressive school system with dark magic involved in an elaborate and beautiful private school area. The school set is actually a Hungarian palace known as the Eszterháza. After one month of pre-production events, Melanie completed the film, and editing began in early June 2019. The movie can currently be found in select theaters, but Melanie uploaded the ad-free film to Youtube for international fans who may not have access. Within one week, Melanie has already racked 24 million views and 175,000 comments thanking her for the worldwide availability of the film and her authenticity.

As an LGBTQ artist and passionate creator, Melanie Martinez uses every song and video of hers to explore a difficult topic. Her work explores difficult but common topics among teenagers, including transphobia in the video for “The Principal,” along with her song “Orange Juice” that addresses eating disorders and “Show & Tell,” which comments on the pressure of being in the public eye. Her music videos portray this using dance as well.

Beyond the musical messages, her stylistic mix of Alice in Wonderland and American Horror Story never seems to falter as Melanie wears youthful and pink school girl dresses with bows while her movie features whimsical yet dark magical elements. While these aspects of the album and film may seem uncommon and bizzare, her fans’ dedication and Melanie’s legacy lives on with critics and fans praising her music, directing and writing skills for the K-12 film and her other works.

Melanie Martinez’s difficulty with fame is clear, but that has not prevented her from continuing to make music. Her first performance since the album’s release was on Jimmy Kimmel Live, working with fantastic back-up dancers and elaborate sets. Additionally, she has made appearances on The Wrap and People TV, sharing only some information about her work. Her movie’s end was left open, leaving many fans to speculate about two more potential films in the making. Melanie confirmed this by calling the K-12 album her sophomore album. Melanie described her first movie making process as stressful and as a way to figure out the obstacles of writing, directing, casting, but is hopeful for any future productions she will take charge of.