A little more than a month after its release, “K-12” by Melanie Martinez is still one of the most creative albums to debut this year. Martinez released her sophomore album almost five years after her beginner album, “Crybaby.” Her new album is full of songs that discuss topics such as bullying, societal expectations for women, oversexualization of women, and bulimia, which most artists won’t come close to touching. Interestingly, Martinez continued the theme of children growing up and living out these expectations and issues we face as a society from her first album. Not only was the album stellar, but Martinez added an incredible movie along with “K-12” to illustrate these problems.
Martinez nailed this project artistically. She was able to embody so many themes into one cohesive album, making her one of the few artists to create a body of work as opposed to a collection of singles. At 24, Martinez is relatively young to be considered one of the best artists out right now, but there’s not much competition considering most of the music being released is complete nonsense and garbage.
The first two songs on the album, “Wheels On the Bus” and “Class Fight,” deal with bullying. “Wheels On the Bus” is a fantastic opener for the album. The song’s happy and melodic beat contradicts its serious message while still showing Martinez’s fun side. In the song, Martinez sings, “No one is watching us / Don’t give a f***” to illustrate that she’s not viewed as someone important. The chorus tells us listeners that, like the wheels on a bus, she just keeps going.
In “Class Fight,” Martinez has to deal with her nemesis, Kelly, because she’s getting the man that Martinez so desperately wants. She sings, “The teacher gave me notes to go out and give Kelly / She was kissin’ Brandon, I got jelly / I wanted to be in her shoes for one day / I just waited ‘til recess to make her pay.” Martinez, especially in the visuals, illustrates how life sucks because the people you’re in love with don’t love you back – something I think we’ve all related to once or twice in our lives.
The next song, “The Principal,” deals with the immorality of those in authority positions – hence, the title. Martinez makes her point abundantly clear with these lyrics: “I tried to make you listen, but you won’t it’s your way, right? / Killing kids all day and night, prescription pills and online fights / Shooting at the angles while claiming you’re the good guy / All you want is cash and hype, f*** our dreams and that’s not right.” She describes how people in authority hardly listen to their subjects, especially within the school system. Martinez explains that teachers and principals aren’t truly listening to the problems kids are having. This seems to be a major concern that everyone notices yet no one has addressed – until now.
Up next on the tracklist is “Show & Tell,” a bit of a standout song. Martinez sings about how the big companies and record labels put all of their artists on display like property yet neglect to notice how hard they’re working. She sings, “Show and tell / I’m on display for all you f*****s to see / Show, you tell / Harsh words if you don’t get a pic with me / Buy and sell / Like I’m a product to society / Art don’t sell / Unless you’ve f****d every authority.” Could Martinez be talking about her own record company? If so, then why is no one acknowledging that artists are being ignored because they won’t sell themselves to the authorities?
“Nurses Office” also touches base with bullying, with Martinez singing, “Teacher / Can I sit right there? / This b****h behind me is cutting my hair / No, just sit your ass down at the chalkboard and stare / I faked up a seizure and left out of there.” Just like “Wheels On the Bus,” Martinez used a funky beat to incorporate deep thoughts in order to grab the listener’s attention.
The next few songs are “Drama Club,” “Strawberry Shortcake” and “Lunchbox Friends,” titles that seem to be associated more with high school. In “Drama Club,” Martinez sings about how women are told to be a stereotype and not to aim high because it’s ridiculous. In “Strawberry Shortcake,” she discusses how men are “blameless” for lusting after women when they start to come into their bodies. She sings, “It’s my fault, it’s my fault / ‘Cause I put icing on top / Now, the boys want a taste of this strawberry shortcake.” For “Lunchbox Friends,” Martinez sings about the friends that you only talk with at school, however, she wants a real beneficial friendship.
Next is one of the deeper cuts of the album, “Orange Juice.” Melanie wants to bring attention to bulimia and the epidemic of people turning to eating disorders because of how they view themselves. She sings, “You turn oranges into orange juice / Enter there, then spit it out of you / Your body is imperfectly perfect / Everyone wants what the other one’s working / No orange juice.” This is why she’s one of the best out right now. No other artist is willing to touch on these types of subjects, but Martinez is one of the few artists who’s able to convey deep, powerful messages in unique contexts.
Next comes “Detention” and “Teacher’s Pet.” “Detention” discusses young adults and the issues that they go through; sometimes we don’t feel like being happy or smiling back. Martinez emphasizes this by promoting a song that states it’s okay to not be happy sometimes. “Teacher’s Pet” touches base on predators, especially within the school system. This is another heavy subject that only Martinez could write about.
Next is the love ballad, “High School Sweethearts.” Martinez sings about how she wants someone to love her unconditionally. She wants someone to be her one and only and to love her even in the bad times. After this song comes “Recess,” where she explains that sometimes it’s okay to take a break from life and enjoy the little things.
Martinez has delivered a stunningly beautiful coming-of-age visual album that will surely be revered as one of the best albums to be released this year.