Melanie Martinez released “PORTALS” on Friday. The album is magical, mystical, and mythical, all at once. Its pop-sound is warped with a production that takes catchy beats and morphs them into something far more peculiar. It’s a fairytale walk through an enchanted forest with nymphs, and monsters, and other mythical creatures — both the scary and the sweet.
“PORTALS” has been described by Melanie as a trilogy to her prior two albums, a closure to her “Crybaby” era. Her first album, “Cry Baby,” gave birth to a character who Melanie would portray herself as for the coming of her career. This album covered themes of infant years and childhood wounds that are carried into adulthood. Her second album, “K-12,” took Crybaby’s character and brought her forward into her school years, from kindergarten to senior year of high school. This was followed by “After School,” which was only an EP and not a full album, with remaining songs for “K-12.”
No one knew what the fate of Crybaby would be. No one knew if Melanie Martinez would stick with Crybaby’s storyline, or let go of her either to be herself or make up a new alter ego. We didn’t know if the next album with be a continuation of Crybaby into her adult years, or perhaps back in time again, or eternally young.
What we get in “PORTALS” is the death of Crybaby. But this is not necessarily the end. In PORTALS, we travel with Crybaby into the afterlife as she is morphed into a mythical-looking creature. On the other side, she reflects on the wisdom that she’s gained during her life. And at the same time, there is still deep connection to nature and Earth, to the body that she has left behind.
“Death… is life… is death… is life… is,” the record begins, with the first track, “DEATH.” The message of this song is that death is not the end; it is the transformation. Those who leave us behind are still with us, trying to reach out to us.
“FAERIE SOIRÉE” is a beautiful song in which you can imagine faeries dancing around in the forest and drinking tea. In “LEECHES,” I really feel like I can feel a whirl of leeches sucking out my blood, which sounds awful, yet somehow the song is just lovely. “BATTLE OF THE LARYNX” is about using your voice to stand up for yourself when it’s necessary. “MOON CYCLE” is about a woman’s period. “NYMPHOLOGY” is possibly my favorite song! And “EVIL” absolutely cuts through my heart and hits me hard.
There are some other track titles, but those are the ones that stand out to me. The album wraps with “WOMB” in which the soul is being reborn again, a fetus preparing to leave their mother’s body and enter the world. The closing line ends with “death… is life… is death… is life… is,” which brings us full-circle into reincarnation.
The theme of this album is examination of the spiritual world through the connection of nature. It is both cosmic and earthy. It uses mythology and fairytales to capture the universal experience of being human. It can help you grieve through the death of your loved ones; it can help you cope with your own, inevitable fate; it can bring further understanding that life is a serious of death and rebirths.