Melanie Martinez ‘Portals’ album analysis, review


Collegian | Charles Cohen

Bella Eckburg, Opinion Director

Melanie Martinez’s third album “Portals” dropped March 31 with 13 spooky, ethereal tracks along with three more added in the deluxe version on April 5. 

“Portals” completes the Crybaby Trilogy, which links all three of her concept albums through plot, characters and themes. Instead of writing music from her own perspective, Martinez pens lyrics through the lens of a character.


Her first album, “Crybaby,” allowed fans to get acquainted with the main character of the same name. The second album, “K-12,” and the accompanying film led fans through Crybaby’s adolescence growing up in an uncomfortable authoritarian environment that forced her into a box. It used school as a multifaceted metaphor for life and the expectations of the music industry for femme-presenting people. 

At the end of “K-12,” the school is uprooted and floats away in a bubble while students escape. Crybaby’s spirit guide, Lilith, appears and beckons the group into a portal. Crybaby hesitates to enter, not knowing what’s on the other side, and the film ends.

Now, it’s safe to assume we witnessed Crybaby’s death, as she must’ve entered the portal, and Martinez now leads listeners through an enchanting journey between death and life. Crybaby’s vessel has died, but her soul is moving through a liminal space prior to reinhabiting a body and beginning again. 

Martinez said via Instagram that a lot of the album was inspired by research she did into individuals under hypnosis and their description of an “in-between” place. This album attempts to put words to the feelings of soul separation as you evolve, take the lessons you’ve learned and inhabit a new body to be born again. 

Along with the new album, Martinez has completely removed her face from her work, opting for a pink alien nymph that could represent Crybaby’s soul’s true form — the one that exists in between. 

“Portals” naturally begins with “DEATH,” a song with jumping bass as Martinez immediately lets us know she’s back from the dead. The next song, “VOID,” fully produced by Martinez, represents the second stage where you’re left alone and judging yourself, fearing the next steps but knowing you have to take them. 

One of the unique things about Martinez’s lyricism is that everything has a double meaning, one that could be generally applied to life and one that fits the character’s storyline. The third song, “TUNNEL VISION,” doubles as a metaphor for Crybaby’s soul moving through a tunnel into the next phase but also literally refers to a person having tunnel vision focused on Martinez’s body. 

“FAERIE SOIRÉE” brings us a new sound for Martinez. Connecting her spirit to faeries guides ideas of gender fluidity, saying in a past life she’s been “the boys and the girls/And everyone in between.” 

Track 5, “LIGHT SHOWER,” provides a rare love song in Martinez’s discography about a partner showering her with rays of light while doubling as a thematic representation of Crybaby’s soul cleansing. 


Of course, a Martinez love song would not be right without incorporating her traditionally gruesome imagery with the lyrics, “I’m not used to all this water love, it’s true/But you make me want to plan out my last days on earth eating you.”

Tracks 6-8 represent more earthly struggles, with “SPIDER WEB” showcasing social media through spider imagery — being caught in the web — “LEECHES” talking about living in Los Angeles and “BATTLE OF THE LARYNX” talking about arguing with someone who just yells instead of actually debating.

“THE CONTORTIONIST,” track 9, shows us how Martinez has had to bend over backward and contort herself to fit into a box, but there’s no reason to do it anymore. 

“This album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard charts, which is incredible considering it’s a concept album. It certainly deserves that spot. It’s possible a ‘Portals’ film is in our future, so be on the lookout.”

“MOON CYCLE” is the taboo track of the album in which Martinez sings about a man who loves period sex and how a womb shedding makes room for blessings. The lyrics, which could be intentionally uncomfortable for some, are paired with sweet production and the sounds of wolves howling at the moon in the mix. 

“NYMPHOLOGY” discusses the boxes that men, social media and the music industry put femme-presenting people into, calling them “manic pixie dream girls” and using them for their own pleasure or gain and discarding them, like nymphs in Greek mythology.

“EVIL” represents the final turning point for Crybaby’s soul, releasing the anger and accepting that she might be called evil for deciding to walk away from a situation that does not serve her. The lyrics “If you bite my hand again/I will never feed you, you can call me evil” show that Crybaby’s soul can let go and be reborn. 

“WOMB” finishes the album as Crybaby’s soul prepares to be born. This song has to be one of my favorites for many reasons — it loops directly back into “DEATH” if you play the album on repeat, includes an infectious chorus and really shows Martinez’s overall growth through her sound. 

This album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard charts, which is incredible considering it’s a concept album. It certainly deserves that spot. It’s possible a “Portals” film is in our future, so be on the lookout.

Reach Bella Eckburg at or on Twitter at @yaycolor.