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Art pop star Melanie Martinez returns to high school for her second album, K-12 (pronounced K through twelve).
The release marks her first album in four years, and follows 2015’s US platinum status debut, Cry Baby.
The darkly comic pastel-pop tales from the classroom tackle everything from body image in Strawberry Shortcake, fake friendships in Lunchbox Friends to creepy, money seeking headteachers in The Principal and inappropriate relationships between teachers and students in Teachers Pet.
Show and Tell details Martinez’ struggles with being in the spotlight and ‘on show’, while Orange Juice addresses eating disorders.
Drama Club is the only track on the record which is not produced by Michael Keenan, bringing in Kinetics & One Love – who’ve also worked with artists Pitbull, Madison Beer and The Lonely Island.
Despite the record’s many dark topics, the vocals are angelic in their delivery with many tracks using sound effects to transport listeners back to the classroom.
Nurses Office features audio of sneezing and coughing, Show and Tell has child-like shrieks akin to that at a fairground or in the school yard, The Principal has phones ringing and a twinkling xylophone melody, which contrasts with stark, explicit lyrics.
K-12 opener Wheels on the Bus samples the classic children’s rhyme – its nostalgic jingle contrasts with modern pop influences and more cursing as she discusses the types of bad behaviour the students get up to.
While we might be lead to believe Recess would provide respite for high school drama, the closing track instead details vultures targeting her and using her for money.
Throughout September, Martinez released snippets and animated videos for every song on the record, and now the release is accompanied by a surreal 90-minute feature film of the same name, written and directed by the star, and for which the album soundtracks.
While many artists have tackled high school in songs past, there’s a relatable teen-drama meets real-life quality to this record, as Melanie Martinez deftly highlights the reality of emotional battles and accompanies it with dreamy, theatrical pop melodies.
Melanie Martinez will return to the UK this December for seven dates. [Find tickets]
Watch the film here:
1. Wheels on the Bus
2. Class Fight
3. The Principal
4. Show & Tell
5. Nurse’s Office
6. Drama Club
7. Strawberry Shortcake
8. Lunchbox Friends
9. Orange Juice
11. Teacher’s Pet
12. High School Sweethearts
Listen to K-12 on Spotify: