October 25, 2021

The cry baby effect: Melanie Martinez concert review

To be completely honest, I hadn’t heard a Melanie Martinez song until four days before this show.

I knew about her aesthetic (child-like and sweet) and I had heard about her being accused of rape a few years ago, but aside from very general knowledge, I didn’t know much. 

When I asked a friend what kind of music she made, I was told it was “like bedroom pop, but scary.”

So in the days before the show Saturday, Oct. 26 at Express LIVE , I looked up a few music videos and listened to the new album, K-12, on Spotify to prepare for what I was going to see that weekend, and quite frankly, I don’t know that anything really could have prepared me for that. 

Martinez is known for her sweet-girl-meets-eerie image with girly details that contrast from creepy undertones. All photo credits to Sydney Deibert.

Martinez is currently touring in support of K-12, her second studio album. K-12 is also the name of a music-based film that Martinez wrote and directed that pairs with the album.

Upon my arrival, I did a walk around the inside of the venue, gauging what I was in for, and saw exactly what I was expecting: women dressed in child-like or schoolgirl clothing with pigtails, moms and young daughters in matching bows, and so many teenage girls. 

I settled on a spot in the back, since that’s all I could find, and a few minutes later the lights went dark and the show started. 

On the screen was a video of a teacher with completely black eyes, introducing the show in a robotic voice. As the show continued, the teacher kept coming back between songs to introduce new themes.

However, since I was so far from the front, it was hard for me to gauge what was going on up there once the show had already started. 

Martinez’s shows have many props and intricate details, creating a theatrical show alongside the music.

I could tell that there was an entire dance team with her, and as the show progressed I could see hints of theatrics, but for the most part, my view for the first ten songs consisted of the top of the screen and little to no actual performers, aside from during the song “Strawberry Shortcake” when Martinez was elevated to look like she was wearing a giant cake skirt.

What I did get, though, was that the show was a story. Martinez performed the entire K-12 album front-to back in its entirety, and through a lot of props and theatrics, she made it into a cohesive story that I imagine goes hand-in-hand with the film.

Following the show, I went online and watched some of her music videos, and I realized that each performance was based on the music video. The song “High School Sweethearts,” for example, is centered around a bed, and “Show and Tell” features a puppet-like Martinez in a heart-shaped frame. 

It was a weird experience for me, overall. 

I listen to mostly indie and alternative music, which means that most of the concerts I attend and photograph are nothing like what I saw this time. I’m not accustomed to professional theatrics, props, dance teams, and animated scenes on a backdrop, so I was a little bit out of my comfort zone. 

In a lot of ways, it was intimidating. 

After watching the first ten songs from the crowd, it was time to go to the photo pit, and that’s when it hit me how great of a performer Martinez is.

Being up close and actually being able to see her made me love her as a performer. She was calm, cool, and collected, and knew how to work the crowd. Everything that she did was calculated and executed perfectly, making it mesmerizing to watch.

Martinez plays her role on stage perfectly.

Martinez had personality and energy and portrayed the character of the “cry baby” seemingly effortlessly, and she sounded beautiful in person, even though every song sounded similar to the rest. 

My biggest complaint for the show was the amount of time spent between songs, which largely seemed to be due to the fact that props had to be switched out and the stage needed to be reset. 

Between the constant return of the creepy teacher and the various musical interludes, I found that the pace was a bit slow and I would have liked something quicker to hold my attention.

Overall, though the show was incredibly strange, it was something I’m glad I had the opportunity to attend. I had a good time watching what I could see of the show and I have a newfound appreciation for Martinez and her music, regardless of the “baby” aesthetics and strange vibes. 

  • Sydney was the managing editor at the Chimes for her junior and senior years after working as a staff reporter during her first year at Capital in 2017. Sydney graduated in 2020 with a degree in professional writing and journalism. Some of her favorite things are cold brew, books about dragons, horror films, and her cat, Sterling.

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