Melanie Martinez PORTALS album review – a psychedelic trip to a new dimension. 

13 mins read

On March 31st Melanie Martinez released her third studio album PORTALS. For the first time, we see Martinez credited as a music producer, making this her most self-involved album so far. 

The album is comprised of 13 songs and covers the topics of life, death, and everything in between. This album has stepped away from the metaphorical devices Melanie Martinez used in her previous albums, allowing us to explore a new part of the world created in previous albums.

The sound of the album is fresh. It explores different electronic beats and baselines, combining these with the classic Melanie Martinez sound – notes that jump in scale and nursery rhyme-sounding instrumentals, with staggered xylophone notes – often deepened with violin or harp strings. 

The theme of the album is the cycle of life and death, it is never-ending. This is explored through the storytelling of Crybaby’s rebirth. Starting with DEATH and ending with WOMB, covering other stages of life in between.

In DEATH, we hear Crybaby yearning for help, trying to enter the real world after facing death, making it through the barriers and into her new life. In WOMB she is being born into a new body and is worried about what she is yet to face. Its position at the end of the album, rather than the beginning signifies the theme of the never-ending cycle.

Although this album has stepped away from Martinez’s previous childlike storytelling, the sound of PORTALS is undeniably authentic. Each song holds a deeper meaning, as in her previous album. This time the track’s deeper meanings are told through an eccentric, fairy-like, psychedelic style of storytelling. Throwing you deep into another world.

The transitions between each track are seamless with each song ending with varying white noise which acts as interludes between tracks. This creates a smooth album which plays as a non-stop, never-ending loop. Once again, reflecting the theme of the album. 

Portals allowed Melanie Martinez to flaunt a skill she hasn’t previously revealed. Towards the end of NYMPHOLOGY, she essentially comes on the mic and drops bars, genuinely unexpected. It is amazing.

Overall, the album has an upbeat sound with a general feeling of positivity and by the end, the clarification of self-acceptance. We see a direct slam to her ex-partner Oliver Tree in the sassiest, most feminist way possible in the track MOON CYCLE. 

One of my favourite tracks on the album, is about the stereotypes of women during menstruation, implying it makes them weak – this is the approach Tree took with his lyrics I’m angry and bloody like a bitch on her period. Martinez discusses her strength found during menstruation – Matter of fact, right now I could build a pyramid – opposing the view society has on menstruation, using her ex as an example. 

PORTALS is a perfect balance of a fresh approach to the character of Crybaby with a new sound. Without losing the feeling of a natural development from previous albums – Crybaby and K-12. This really highlights the mastermind which is Melanie Martinez. It’s exciting to see her grow her skills into production, and receiving credit for her genius ideas.


PORTALS is the third stage of Crybaby’s life presented by Martinez. Although we see growth in the character, it’s not in the same way as done before. PORTALS has allowed Crybaby to delve into a new dimension of the same world and she is rocking a brand new alien face too. 

The album begins with her death, and from that her fight to make it into her new life. By the end of the first track DEATH, we hear heavy breathing and fast-paced footsteps. It’s then that we know. She’s back.

The storyline within the album continues to weave amongst themes that seem otherworldly and extraterrestrial. We watch her go from DEATH and into VOID, where at a surface level we hear the story of being in the void which is in between life and death. On a deeper level we learn of her insecurities and how she wishes she didn’t feel them. 

From this we watch Crybaby learn and fight against society’s view of women in TUNNEL VISION – Like themes we see in Strawberry Shortcake from the K-12 album. A strong character development is reflected in the meaning of the two songs though.

Strawberry Shortcake goes into surface-level depth, whereas TUNNEL VISION dives deeper into what it means to be over-sexualised by society. This time going further and expressing the want to be seen as an individual.

FAERIE SOIREE and LIGHT SHOWER tell the story of Crybaby being led into a toxic relationship. She falls in love and in turn her perspective on the world around her changes – all my anger, sadness, regret disappeared

This shows the growth she was yearning for in VOID, a positive outlook she wished she had. However, this quickly turns sour when Crybaby begins to see the negativity, controlling behaviour and lack of individualism this relationship brings her. 

Cryaby begins to wake up to the cycle of the toxic relationship, mirroring the cycle of life and death. LEECHES, BATTLE OF THE LARYNX and THE CORTOTIONIST express this. She wakes up to the negativity and in response decides not to rise to it. 

This grows and develops further in NYMPHOLOGY, EVIL, and WOMB where Crybaby builds the strength to stand up for herself in her negative situations and toxic relationships. We watch her self-worth and independence grow.

Crybaby’s tale (so far) ends here, In WOMB, a direct reference to a scene in K-12 “start in the womb end in the tomb” summing up the character development of Crybaby as now she is ending in the womb. 

Metaphors and meanings 

Melanie Martinez is well known for her artistic imagery and smart metaphors buried within her music. Her songs are upbeat, catchy and fun, but when observed at a deeper level, Martinez produces music which is relevant and emotionally hard-hitting. PORTALS is no exception. 

There is strong imagery surrounding a psychedelic landscape and atmosphere with an emphasis on nature, insects and mythical creatures. Giving the theme of the never-ending cycle of life feel exciting and ethereal.

VOID is one of the tracks on the album that accurately represents how Martinez likes to present the meaning of her songs. An upbeat sounding track that covers themes that contradict the sound of the track. Intrusive thoughts, anxiety and self-deprecating negativity. ‘The void’ refers to the feeling of being stuck in the void of your own thoughts, being consumed by them.

FAERIE SOIRÉE is one of my favourites on the album simply because of its intricate metaphors and hard-to-deceiver meanings – reminding me of the Crybaby album era. We hear the story of falling into a toxic relationship, being led astray by something that seems good on the surface – led me astray to the fairie soiree alone, alone. Now I wanna ride with magic. As a whole, the track represents what it’s like to be gaslit. 

The tracks on the album can have multiple meanings, which is one of the best things about Martinez’s music. Just like towards the end of FAERIE SOIRÉE Martinez sings ‘gather me, all of we, everyone I’ve been the boys and the girls and everyone in between’ although this relates directly to the theme of the never-ending cycle of life. It could also be a reference to toxic relationships affecting everyone, and she is telling their story too in telling her own. 

A new theme is explored by Martinez in SPIDERWEB, covering the topic of society’s addiction to technology alongside her rise to fame in such a world. We hear her wish she wasn’t in the limelight because of it, and we hear her pity those who are- securing their spot on the spider web. 

The strongest imagery is seen in BATTLE OF THE LARYNX holding a metaphor for verbal arguments, referring to them as a battle. Using this metaphor to delve into her exploring the strength she holds in her voice, and the damage she can do with her words. It’s about sticking to your own feelings and standards and using your voice to do so. 

NYMPHOLOGY and EVIL both carry similar metaphors revealing self-worth and fighting for it, hidden by different imagery. The first uses folklore imagery of a nymph, a metaphor for the expectations men have of women – nymphs representing femininity and fertility.  In response, Martinez preaches not to read into sociality-based expectations – be the manic pixie dream girl that you ought to be.

Taking a different approach to a similar theme, EVIL presents the realisation of being in a toxic relationship, self-growth and being happy to have come to this realisation. It carries themes of empowerment – bite my hand again, I will never feed you

Tracks EVIL and WOMB tie up the album, a full circle being made. Throughout the album, there have been themes of insecurities based on others’ thoughts and opinions, whereas now we see an exception in that her worth is more than how she is perceived by other people.

Martinez finishes the album with a direct reference to Soap, a track from her first album Crybaby. EVIL feels like the wiser older sister to Soap. She has gone from wishing she hadn’t said anything in her toxic relationship in soap – now I gotta wash my mouth out with soap – to using her words, having confidence and a lack of fear in what she’s saying – hope you slip on soap. A beautiful way to emphasise her growth, while giving a gentle nod to the fans who have been there from day one. 

Featured Image Credit: @Littlebodybigheart / Instagram

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English and Journalism Student. I like to write about funky music and the fact I have no hair.

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