On August 14th, 2015, singer-songwriter, director, producer, and actress Melanie Martinez released her debut project Cry Baby. The thirteen track album, which included hits such as “Dollhouse”, “Pity Party”, and “Play Date”, (which appears on the deluxe version). Cry Baby is a concept album told in the form of a fairy-tale gone wrong, that stars the main character, Cry Baby. Based off of Martinez’s experiences with bullying and dysfunctional relationships as a kid, the album illustrates adult situations through the lens of the childish and naive Cry Baby.
Making her debut on The Voice back in 2012, Melanie Martinez made her mark on the world through her style and confidence as an independent artist. After participating in Adam Levine’s team and finishing in 6th place, Martinez went on to use her newfound fame from being on the show to pursue a career in the music industry. She would go on to perform acoustic covers in small clubs and venues around the country, whilst promoting her newest music. In 2014, she released a four-track EP titled Dollhouse EP that included the aforementioned track “Dollhouse” and the track “Carousel” which was used to premiere the fourth season of American Horror Story.
Then in 2015, Melanie would go to release a string of teasers for her anticipated debut album Cry Baby, through Instagram and Tumblr. Finally, on August 14th, both the album and character were born. Cry Baby performed very well on the Billboard charts, peaking at #6. Her writing style and childlike aesthetic attracted many young fans, mostly female. She steadily developed a cult following on social media, under the alias “crybabies”. The Cry Baby era consisted of Martinez touring all over the world whilst pushing out multiple music videos that were directed, written, and designed by Melanie herself. Since the production value of her videos grew over time, she started to gain millions of views overnight for each release. Martinez began straying from being “a little secret” to being compared to other pop/alternative artists such as Billie Eilish, Lana Del Ray, and That Poppy around 2016-2017.
Talks of when she would release the next album were starting to surface around that time as well. As her audience started to grow, she eventually made her debut back on TV during 2016-2017 with performances on Jimmy Kimmel, Conan, and being interviewed on multiple daytime talk shows. Martinez began hinting at working on the second album with different Instagram posts containing lyrics and imagery alluding to her new project K-12. Then in December of 2017, she would encounter her first major scandal that would spark the hashtag #melaniemartinezisoverparty on both Twitter and Tumblr. Ex friend of Martinez, Timothy Heller, posted a tweet stating that Martinez had sexually assaulted her in the past, even accusing her of rape. Due to the severity of the tweet many fans sided with Heller’s words and would go to post videos of themselves burning CDs and merchandise from the singer.
In response to the outrage and confusion, Martinez posted a tweet of her own explaining her side of the situation, which contained a vague and off-putting statement about her and Heller’s relationship and how “she never said no to anything they did together”. Her words did not satisfy and convince enough people and thus caused Martinez to stay off the internet to focus on herself and new music, later in the month she would go to upload a single on SoundCloud called “Piggyback” which was a clear commentary on the situation and how it was affecting her mental health. After releasing the single, she went back into hiding and did not return to the internet until around spring of 2018.Martinez spent the year working on the production of the film, posting occasionally on Instagram where she would show snippets of her daily life and any updates regarding the new album. Filming for the movie started around October and would go to last until December.
Around May of 2019, she released the teaser trailer for her film K-12 that would feature music from the album of the same name and even showing the album cover. With enough hype and buzz of the new project, she would spend the rest of the summer to release more teaser clips of the movie on social media and promoting each track on the album. Then on Sept. 6th, K-12 was released to the public. Accompanying the album came the live premiere of the film which was shown live on YouTube and in select theatres around the country.
Both the album and film centered around the character Cry Baby and her experience going through the school system. Martinez’s intention was to “focus less on Cry Baby’s personal experiences and more on the world around her and other people in her world”. Since Martinez is known expressing duality through her art, K-12 was no exception. Discussing issues going on in society, politics, and even pop culture through the lens of a school was the central theme of the album. In the film, Cry Baby and her best friend Angelita enter school for the first time. As they both go through typical things that most teenagers/adolescents could empathize with (mean girls, bullying, sexism, racism, predatory teachers, food fights, dances, etc.).
K-12 generated a new wave of fans, both veteran and newbies. 2019 became a successful year for Martinez with the numbers that the movie brought in, causing Martinez to leave it up on YouTube for free viewing. Once tour time came around, Melanie went on another world tour that lasted up until the end of the year and through the beginning 2020. Once quarantine hit and outside events began shutting down, Martinez ended her tour prematurely and took to focusing on working on new music. Throughout the year, she would post updates on social media about her life and the new project she had in the works. Around late April, an older song of Martinez’s, “Play Date”, blew up on TikTok with people slowing down and remixing a small portion of the track to use in edits. Due to this, both “Play Date” and the rest of Cry Baby reached new heights. Martinez used the newfound attention to promote her song on social media and even creating a lyric video for the bonus track.
Other musical excursions for the artist would occur involving a collaboration with rapper Tierra Whack, the release of her song “Fire Drill” that was featured during the end credits K-12, and the release of her seven track EP, entitled After School. After School was a break from the typical aesthetic and sound that fans were used to. Focusing purely on Martinez’s personal life and the lessons that she learned growing up both in childhood and being in the music industry. Prior to the release of the EP, she would go to promote her song “The Bakery” on Tik Tok which spawned a new challenge that became popularized by her fans. Once the project was released, she also put out the music video for the aforementioned track.
Towards the end of 2020, Martinez announced on Instagram that she would be hosting a live concert that included multiple sets, costume changes, and background dancers from her tour. Marking it as the end of the Cry Baby era, Martinez made a long-detailed post explaining how much Cry Baby changed her life and how happy she was to see so many different people connect with her and the character. The Cry Baby era had finally come to an end.
The Cry Baby era lasted for six years. From 2015-2020, Melanie Martinez had curated and cultivated a culture of accepting and reinventing the idea of what made us weak. Her vision helped pioneer a new way of looking at sensitivity and empathy. Being a proclaimed empath herself, she chose to turn her insecurity into a superpower. Cry Baby has made a lasting impact on a generation of artists and fans alike. For an album that came out almost six years ago, it still holds up to this day.