Not Quite Baby Formula: Melanie Martinez shares songs from her debut album to a sold out crowd of fans at the Highline Ballroom.
From the moment she entered the stage to the moment she exited the room, one thing was clear about Melanie Martinez: This 20 year old is bigger the the sold out Highline Ballroom.
With music videos that have millions of views on YouTube and a song featured in a trailer for American Horror Story: Freak Show, Melanie has garnered quite the following. And many members of that following came on Friday, September 11 to the Highline Ballroom, which could hardly contain the many fans, and their yells, for Melanie.
That young crowd, sporting handmade t-shirts and tear drops made with make-up, has identified and internalized Martinez’s not-so-subtle social commentaries assembled through child’s play on her debut album Cry Baby. Her themes of “perfect” families, social norms, mental health, and abuse: it’s all there through playful rhymes and the twists and turns of childhood play. “Mr. Potato Head” is a saga on plastic surgery and beauty; “Tag You’re Hit” is a tale about sexual assault. Martinez’s lyrics pull from “Ashes to Ashes” and “It’s My Party” and draw metaphors from cake, sports, and games. One after another, almost to the point of ad nauseam, the songs cross-reference each other and create a full story-filled world. They are familiar structures turned on their (potato) head.
Even though the dark matter pop is catchy, any older adult, say 10 years older than the singer-songwriter, may roll their eyes at this expected and unwelcome conceit. But to her similarly aged fans, it’s gold. It’s a structure, and a formula that resonates with Melanie’s followers. And YouTube provides the evidence: One of the most liked comments on the music video for Dollhouse is ”When you realize that this basically explains your life.”
The album feels like a far cry (pun intended) from her audition on The Voice in 2012 with “Toxic.” Accompanied by her acoustic guitar and a tambourine, she infused a creative breathy voice through her own unique spin on the Britney classic. In contrast, at the Highline Ballroom, she’s instrument-less and accompanied by two band mates, both sporting sequined teddy bear ears. Melanie, in a dress made of strips of red fabric and her hair in similar “ear” buns to match, is all music. She pauses only for water (giving us one of her only lines of the night “Sorry y’all I’m just gonna drink some water. I love water so much.”) and for things thrown onstage. Tonight’s items included a cell phone (“Well, Brian can get it later. It’s covered in milk right now.”) and a cookie to go with the milk (“Oh my god, is that an Oreo?”).
At the end of her Highline Ballroom show, despite the crowd’s energetic cheers of “Mel-an-ie,” “Mel-an-ie,” she was held to one encore song. In order to select it, Melanie called on one lucky fan to share a tune and that was the song they played. We’re pretty sure that had she not been held to one song, she and her fans would have stayed all night.
Or at least until their bedtime.
Photo Credit: Catie Laffoon
Read our exclusive interview with Melanie here: