When Melanie Martinez made her debut on the third season of The Voice in 2012, it was immediately evident how talented the 17-year-old from Queens was. However, even her most ardent supporters couldn’t have imagined how far the fledgling singer-songwriter would come in the following 12 years. While her trio of critically acclaimed and commercially successful electropop concept albums – Cry Baby (2015), K-12 (2019), and Portals (2023) – was undoubtedly remarkable, it’s Martinez’s proficiency beyond the realm of music that has catalysed such fierce adoration.
Melanie Martinez performed onstage during iHeartRadio Z100’s Jingle Ball 2023 in New York City last December.
Martinez’s creativity spans a surprising array of mediums, from the surreal saga of her alter ego Crybaby, which has evolved into a nymph-like creature with bright pink skin and two sets of eyes, to her couture pastel goth style, her line of perfumes, and directing her own music videos and feature films. Before the Singapore leg of her Portals Tour at the Singapore Expo on January 25, we engaged in a conversation with the virtuoso pop star about her multidisciplinary ambitions and how maturity has shaped her artistry.
It’s been 10 years since your first EP Dollhouse was released in 2014. Looking back on it a decade later, could you talk about your memories of crafting it?
“It’s hard to remember the exact state of mind I was in then because I have grown so much in every way imaginable. But I think, at that time, I was just expressing myself and creating what I felt was right for the moment, and that is still what I do today.”
When it comes to your latest music video for Tunnel Vision, it’s both fantastical and layered with visual metaphor. Could you share the inspirations and intentions driving its production?
“I wanted to delve into the concept of stan culture, where fans feel entitled to dissect every detail about an artist just because they appreciate their music. Regardless of fame or people listening to the music artists create, every artist is fundamentally the same – a human being with emotions and feelings. They didn’t seek a platform to be scrutinised but to share an artistic form of expression that could resonate with others, making both the artist and the listener feel less alone.”
Were you always inclined to be a multidisciplinary artist, or did it develop over the years as your need for creative expression expanded beyond music?
“I believe it developed over the years from the need to dip my toe into different creative waters to stay sane. If you only do one thing for too long as a person, it can make it feel mundane and like work rather than a passion. That’s why I’m always seeking to learn new mediums to express myself through.”
While your musical influences are well-documented, it seems that film also plays a significant role in your artistry. Who are some of the auteurs that have shaped you?
“I never really focused on filmmakers, particularly, and I do not possess a wide range of influences in my head, nor do I study film. However, I’m inspired by many aspects of visual arts and film. I love a lot of the colour and composition choices by Wes Anderson, adore the Dr. Seuss movies, and appreciate Jan Svankmajer’s stop-motion films. There are so many films that inspire me, and it’s impossible to list them all. To me, it is the only medium that encompasses every art form in one: music, art, acting, dancing, photography, colour, costume design, videography – visual arts of all kinds. It’s a beautiful medium to express myself with!”
After the success of your 2019 musical fantasy horror film K-12, do you have aspirations to create another film?
“I wrote a script for (my 2022 album) PORTALS and would have loved to release it as a film, but it costs too much money to make. I decided to focus on music videos instead and try to complete a video for each song on this album to match what I’ve done in the past. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to release the PORTALS film, but I will try to find a way eventually to adapt the story into something.”
Melanie Martinez (third from the left) with the cast of the K-12 film during its premiere in Los Angeles in 2019.
The Crybaby character has been a constant throughout your career. How has the character evolved from its inception to its rebirth?
“As I have changed and grown, so has Crybaby. When we were younger, we were more naive and sensitive, but over the years, we’ve developed tougher skin through life’s challenges, gaining perseverance and strength.”
Your latest album, PORTALS, marks a significant shift in sound and lyrical themes. How did this existentially darker album come about?
“As I age, my music naturally changes and matures, reflecting where I am in life. Music serves as a timestamp of an artist’s journey.”
Can you tell us a bit about the recent launch of Portals Parfums? From packaging to the four fragrances – what went into its creation?
“Years of work went into drawing and creating the concept for this fragrance. I designed the initial fragrance packaging look, and then we collaborated with an amazing 3D artist to bring it to life. I spent a long time going back and forth with edit notes on these fragrances to get them to smell perfectly delicious. The four fragrances are based on the four elements. My favourite scent of the four changes every day. First, it was Fiery Passion, then Earthy Abundance, and now it’s Air of Clarity. Water of Intuition is the one I wear almost every day.”
Melanie Martinez’s image may have evolved from the start of her career (pictured), where she was known for her off-kilter brand of anime-tinged style, to her current otherworldly nymph-core aesthetic, but it’s always about embracing individuality.
Your upcoming fifth international tour, titled the Trilogy Tour, which will kick off in May this year, will be your first-ever arena tour. What can fans expect?
“A surreal and magical experience! I am working to create the best show to honour the 10 years of hard work and dedication I’ve put into crafting these three concept albums.”
Finally, is there something about Melanie Martinez that even your most devoted fans might not know?
“It’s intriguing how people crave so much information about artists, even though we already share so much of ourselves. If we give everything away, we’re left with nothing for ourselves. Sharing every detail about personal interests, likes, beliefs, favourite colours, and foods isn’t necessary because these things constantly change. If shared, people might hold onto whatever was last disclosed and criticise any growth or change. Despite sharing a lot with my audience, they will never truly know me; they will only know the projection they create. I take that with a grain of salt and continue in my beautifully dense, complex, and fulfilling personal life that remains sacred and entirely mine.”
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