In an over-saturated entertainment world, it pays to have more than one talent so as to stand out. Melanie Martinez has talent in spades. And she most definitely stands out.
The 29-year-old singer / songwriter is also a newly minted movie director, having released her first film K-12 in conjunction with her new LP of the same name.
Mango Adonis delves into a brave new surreal world…
Melanie Martinez ought to have had her work cut out for her these past few months, busy producing not only a new album, but a full feature film.
K-12 refers to a “sleepaway school” where we witness the character of Cry Baby growing from kindergarten to 12th grader, alongside an animated group of friends and against a glorious pastel-hued palette.
Songs on the soundtrack all connote a high school vibe, from Recess to Teacher’s Pet, Drama Club to Show & Tell.
K-12, the film, is gorgeously built, beautifully shot, and very bold in its costuming – borrowing inspiration from rococo, surrealism, doll-like aesthetics, even a few horror undertones.
Both K-12 the album and movie tackle issues from marijuana use, police brutality, paedophilia, and transphobia, to coping with suppressive medications, menstruation, puberty, bullying, and other teenage dilemmas. Yep, there’s plenty in here for viewers to absorb.
I enjoyed her creativity and seeing Martinez grow as a visual artist – indeed, despite all the influences within, the artist possesses a unique style: she really is unlike any other.
For a first-time film director, Martinez has done well in achieving her vision in expressing growing pains in the brightest way possible. The characters are well-realised but with some of these, there is no clear indication of what their actual powers – or at least, methods of coping – are.
The problem of the film is that it is created to be a visual long-player first and therefore a fully cohesive story and proper character development are lost. I would have loved it if Martinez further developed the characters with a proper denouement that correlates to the central story.
The other problem is the music video content feels forced and doesn’t very transition well into the story, although the dance choreography is awe-inspiring.
K-12 – the album itself – features 13 tracks, each talking about different points and visualised in the movie.
Wheels On The Bus is a gleeful tune laced with lyrics about unruly students while the bus driver ignores away. The juxtaposition of the melody with such cheerful music and dark lyrics is one of the strengths Melanie possesses. The hateful, highly emotional Drama Club – with fast rhythms complimenting catchy lyrics – is also a highlight.
Themes only get deeper as the album progresses.
Orange Juice is a daring track that talks about bulimia and bullying; telling victims to hold on.
Fire Drill is not included in the official album but heard at the end credits of the movie, and is a song about the apocalypse at first glance, although fans might sense it is directed to one of Martinez’s former friends, Timothy Heller. A very ‘Taylor Swift’ move, if it is so.
It’s quite clear the songs here were written and recorded before the movie and feels at times that they were forced to seque in.
While not exactly the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour, in between the surreal and sometimes psychedelic settings, cool beats and pretty good acting, it’s still an enjoyable movie and record.
K-12 is out through Warner Music. View the music video for single Show & Tell, below.