Melanie Martinez enters a new era in ‘PORTALS’

The alt-pop singer unleashes artistry via lyrics and themes in her third studio album



The “PORTALS” album cover features Melanie Martinez portrayed as a pink character, the newest role she has taken on in Cry Baby’s evolution.

“Death is life is death is life is death is life is”

Alt-pop singer Melanie Martinez’s enchanted voice casts a musical spell as it echoes quietly, mixed with the sound effect of a light breeze. Then, amid mystical synths, a pulsating heart enters, letting its steady beats ripple across the soundtrack. The heartbeat starts to race, only to come to a sudden halt — a haunted revelation that death can come within seconds.

Departing from the schoolhouse present within “K-12,” Martinez is reborn in an alternate world four years later with her newest album, “PORTALS.” The album was released Friday, March 31, with a total of 13 tracks, and according to Martinez’s Instagram highlight, “PORTALS,” the album serves as the final installment of Crybaby’s evolution. 

After denoting the beginnings of a new era by removing most of her previous posts, Martinez dropped teasers on Instagram and TikTok leading up to “PORTALS,” such as an egg being fertilized, incubating and finally, hatching to reveal the forthcoming album. From the egg emerged a pink, four-eyed creature, Crybaby. This creature was a character created by Martinez and follows a storyline created with her previous albums. The singer’s debut album “Crybaby” showed the character’s early childhood, “K-12” was the character’s school-aged years, and now, “PORTALS” maps out the character’s death and the aftermath. Crybaby embodies the turn of this era Martinez has entered, writing on her Instagram story that “…we’re all just here to grow, create, feel, and have shared experiences with one another to help each-other evolve.”


@littlebodybigheartℑ…♬ original sound – Melanie Martinez

The album’s lead single and first track, “DEATH,” begins with the lyrics “Death is life is death is life is death is life is” and the album ends with the lyrics “Life is death is life is death is life, is —” in “WOMB,” emphasizing how “PORTALS” depicts the story of death and its relationship to life, from start to end. Furthermore, the concept of death is foreign to the rest of Martinez’s discography — both “Crybaby” and “K-12” signify childhood and early teenagehood with Martinez dressed as a baby and as a child respectively in the music videos — and Martinez chooses to tackle the concept in a way foreign to the depictions present in their previous work. 

Similar to Martinez’s other work, “PORTALS” uncovers issues with society, with “NYMPHOLOGY” delving into sexual objectification, “BATTLE OF THE LARYNX” exposing a toxic and abusive relationship and “SPIDER WEB” discussing social media addiction. On a more artistic side, “MOON CYCLE” offers a romanticized vision of menstrual blood, causing uncomfortability, as the track then forces listeners to challenge and dismantle the stigma surrounding menstruation. 

Though many of these themes have been shown in Martinez’s previously released music, the album views these topics through the lens of bitter experiences, rather than the lens of hopeful innocence — sex is depicted as draining rather than new, toxic relationships are critiqued instead of romanticized and the album overall serves as reminiscent of the past.  

Despite the innovative themes and powerful repetition in some songs allowing them to stand out, “DEATH” has repetition that makes it boring and downplays its message — the constant repetition of “back from the death” feels unnecessary as the track progresses. Furthermore, the various synths used throughout the album take away from each track’s individuality, melding them together into indistinguishability. Thus, though audiences will eventually find the album rewarding, “PORTALS” takes more than one listen to truly appreciate.

However, if listeners decide to give the album multiple listens, they will realize its artistry. Martinez has once again reinvented themself, proving their versatility and creativity as a musician. Now closing the door of the Crybaby trilogy, “PORTALS” proves worthy of the four-year wait and leaves listeners in hungry anticipation for what Martinez will create next.