Don’t be fooled by the childish song titles; Melanie Martinez’s “Cry Baby” is anything but innocent. “The Voice” veteran’s debut disguises mature and dark lyrics behind candy-coated titles like “Sippy Cup” and “Teddy Bear.” “Cry Baby” explores a new territory of storytelling, and the result is astounding.
The most intriguing part of the album is that it’s also a storybook. The opening track, “Cry Baby,” introduces the listener to the delightfully deranged world of Cry Baby, a character based partially on her childhood. The rest of the album chronicles the real-world struggles of Cry Baby, ranging from alcoholism to kidnapping, all while staying true to its preschool-esque theme.
Martinez’s violent nursery rhymes blur the line between cute and creepy, with clever metaphors and lyrics. Only she could turn milk and cookies into something sinister. Martinez shines on tracks like “Mrs. Potato Head,” where she addresses the unrealistic beauty standards of society: “Oh, Mrs. Potato Head tell me, is it true that pain is beauty? Does a new face come with a warranty? Will a pretty face make it better?” The powerful lyricism brings to light serious issues and contrasts with the innocence of childhood.
“Cry Baby” also boasts infectious, creatively relevant melodies. Between the eerie circus music accompanying “Carousel,” the bubbly beat-drop in “Soap,” and the kindergarten-style xylophone in “Alphabet Boy,” the instruments fit seamlessly into the chapters of Cry Baby’s story. Martinez’s atmospheric vocals only elevate these already fantastic jams.
Although “Cry Baby” has its weak moments, like “Training Wheels” and “Pacify Her,” two tracks that fall short of the excellent craft Martinez displays on the rest of the album, it ultimately comes through with angsty anthems like “Dollhouse” and “Pity Party.” “Cry Baby” is a promising debut, and while it may not be for toddlers, it’s the perfect bedtime lullaby for anyone willing to enter Martinez’s beautifully broken world.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.