Media Review: K-12

Alice Reichfeld ‘21, Guest Columnist

Melanie Martinez released her new visual album, titled K-12, on Sept. 6 of this year, and was filmed in Budapest, Hungary. Composed of twelve songs connected with their choreographed dance routines, stunning pastel visuals and a driving plot line throughout, both the music and visual components of K-12 have reportedly been in the works since 2017 and were finally released for free on YouTube for the first three weeks. Individual audio versions of the songs from the album are currently available and individual music videos are in the process of being released – both on YouTube for free. The full visual album K-12 is available for purchase either through Apple Music or through a YouTube Premium subscription. 

K-12 is best described as more of a movie or a musical rather than simply a longer music video, because it follows ‘Crybaby’ and her group of friends – who is best characterized as Melanie Martinez’s alter-ego and who has been seen in previously released music videos as well as in her first album by the same name. While staying at a sleep-away institution, ‘Crybaby’ and other protagonist characters like ‘Angelita’ and ‘Celeste’ have special powers that they use to work together and break down social norms. During the section in the song “Drama Club”, for example, the girls rebel against being casted doing “domestic” chores that are traditionally understood to be “women’s work” like ironing and keeping house in the school play, stating that they would prefer to be directing the play, or president of the United States. This speaks directly to the growing conversations around feminism and the roles and expectations of women that is incredibly poignant in our current society. Her song “Strawberry Shortcake” also centers around women’s issues in that it is advocating for men to be held accountable for their actions, and for women to become more accepting and secure in their own bodies. She is also unafraid to address more uncomfortable topics such as eating disorders in her song “Orange Juice” in K-12, as well as the feeling of being picked apart as a direct result of being a public female figure as seen in “Show and Tell.” 

As an outspoken female artist, Melanie Martinez has always worked to incorporate essential and difficult contemporary social issues like this one all across her brand, from as early as her breakout EP single “Dollhouse” (released in 2014) in which she talks about her complicated family life. Her first album Crybaby was also heavily introspective, with songs like “Pity Party” and “Sippy Cup” directly referencing some of her childhood experiences, as well as being concerned with social issues like plastic surgery in her song “Mrs. Potato Head”. The pastel colors and twisted child-like imagery present in K-12 are consistent with her other works and are best described as being a modern take on pop surrealism and with her music style a mix of alternative pop with R&B influences. I highly recommend either watching or listening to K-12 if interested in artistic takes on crucial present-day issues, as I believe the album was incredibly successful in its efforts to open up a much-needed dialogue surrounding social concerns.