Art and story by: Scarlett Hatton
For years, many loyal fans have long-awaited Melanie Martinez’s return to the music industry. However, on Sept. 3, 2019, Martinez surprised her supporters with a 90-minute film that she directed and a studio album that she produced, ending their wait. K-12, the film, includes 13 of Martinez’s highly anticipated tracks from her newest album with dialogue in between. With aid from her unique style and artistic lyrics, the album landed number three on the U.S. Billboard 200, and the film has gained over 31 million views on YouTube. Despite this, her followers still wonder if K-12 was truly worth the wait.
The film takes a twisted take on a normal musical. It follows a headstrong, clever little girl named Crybaby [played by Martinez] and her supportive best friend, Angelita [played by Elita Harkov], as they are sent off to a foreboding sleepaway school with dictatorial leaders. The movie has an innocent, light aesthetic that adds to the creepy situation the characters are being put in. These contrasting manners of purity and brutality can be observed in many of Martinez’s older songs such as “Dollhouse.” The lyrics to this 2015 single include, “Throw on your dress and put on your doll faces. Everyone thinks that we’re perfect; please don’t let them look through the curtains.”
Years later, Martinez carries forward this message of hiding pain behind beauty and innocence. K-12 continues this tone throughout the entire film as Crybaby quite literally tears her evil principal apart while wearing her bright, pink dress. While this might be too dark for some viewers, others appreciate this artful approach to portray insanity and to illustrate the inhumanity of modern school systems.
Nearly every Melanie Martinez song confronts a problem in society. While her lyrics do an excellent job of portraying these issues, the film was so important to help tackle them head-on and show real-life examples that her audience can relate to. This album alone exhibits the effects of a negative body image, eating disorders, bullying, gender roles, fake friends, and many other serious topics. The song “Orange Juice” is about a girl with bulimia learning to accept herself. A lyric says, “Your body is imperfectly perfect. Everyone wants what the other one’s working.” This message is absolutely necessary for young people to hear given the growing mental health issues faced in society.
Martinez is also completely vulnerable in the song “Show and Tell.” While it is unclear if the song was written about her personal life, specifically, it can be assumed the message of the song is very close to her. The lyrics say, “Buy and sell, like I’m a product to society.” In the film, Crybaby was trapped inside of the school. She felt like she was being controlled by power-hungry villains. The principal made her feel worthless with his unjust rules and she would do whatever it took to get herself out. She said, “Pretending everything’s alright is detention.” Martinez made K-12 to share this message to her audience. Aside from the magic, singing, and dancing, the film was very realistic to modern society in some form or another. Martinez’s ability to connect with these real-life situations through art is definitely one of her biggest strengths.
After taking a three-year hiatus, high expectations were set for Martinez’s album. It is hard to deny the visual appeal of the film and the beautiful message that it portrayed. However, there were some problems with the film that needs to be addressed. There were so many different subplots that each felt incomplete and lacked a true value to the overall theme. This made the main plot harder to follow and understand. At times it seemed as if it has been just 13 music videos strung together without any order. Furthermore, the dialogue between songs felt weak and messy at times. Instead of connecting the songs together, the remarks just seemed to be there to fill up time. It is a shame that the plot could not live up to the beautiful costumes and amazing albums that Martinez is known for.
K-12 continues to expand Martinez’s audience and break music records. It is clear that so much well-spent time, money, and production went into making the film possible. Ultimately, Martinez made the film available on many different platforms for free which was such an admirable thing to do, especially if she was trying to spread awareness and positivity. As Crybaby said in the film, “Everyone is worthy of love.”
Wheels on the Bus
Show & Tell
High School Sweethearts
K-12 the film: https://youtu.be/2HtaIvb61Uk