A Review of PORTALS, a Mystical and Mysterious Album by Melanie Martinez

Every song in this eerie album has its own significance, and Kashvi Rai ’28 has an opinion and rating of each.


Image from Melanie-Martinez fandom.com

On March 31, Melanie Martinez, an alternative pop artist, finally released her third studio album, PORTALS. After a series of cryptic hints and clues, such as a series of videos showing the development of a strange pink creature inside an egg and snippets of her singing the new songs, PORTALS seems to be going in a totally different direction than her last two albums, Crybaby and K-12, which follow the story of a character called Crybaby. As someone who enjoys expanding my music playlist, I was eager to take a deep dive into the album and tell you my impressions. The album has thirteen songs in total, starting with one titled “DEATH,” to the last, titled “WOMB.”

“DEATH” opens with mysterious, half-whispered vocals, which was intriguing, but I found the rest of the song a bit underwhelming. It has an incredibly repetitive chorus that repeats the phrase ”back from the dead” enough times to burst your eardrums. However, I found the lyrics of the songs to be rather poetic. My favorite verse from this song was “Death has come to me, kissed me on my cheek, giving me closure,” because of how it personifies death as a gentle figure, instead of something menacing. In all, I’d rate this song four and a half out of ten.

The song “VOID” followed next. On the surface, “VOID” feels somewhat serene and peaceful, but if you listen a little closer to the beginning, something seems a little…off. The beginning of the song starts with the same annoying repetition as the track before it, this time repeating the phrase “in the void.” I don’t think it fits with the tone of the song at all, however, VOID definitely has an interesting premise. I haven’t seen many songs talking about how one can feel surrounded by their own mistakes and fallacies like this song does. One of the more intriguing lines to me was “I hate who I was before.” It seems to be relatively cliché, but I feel it encapsulates how we as humans seem to regret our past choices made by our younger, more immature selves. You can feel the desperation in the vocals, which adds to the experience of listening to the song. I would rate this song a solid eight out of ten, since it was more intriguing than “DEATH.”

Image from @littlebodybigheart as a teaser put out by Melanie Martinez to promote the album.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I loved the next song, “TUNNEL VISION.” With its alluring lyrics, catchy repetition that doesn’t undermine the song, and an off-beat, anxious quality, it completely threw my mediocre expectations for the album out the window. It reminded me of the song “Eat Your Young” by Hozier, since both of the songs have poetic lyrics hidden under an interesting tune, something I liked from both Hozier and Martinez. In case you haven’t guessed yet, this song gets a ten out of ten.

The next song, “FAERIE SOIRÉE,” is a lot softer and fast-paced than the other songs on the album. The song seems to be accelerating towards something grand, but comes to a sudden halt at the lyric “they said,” slowing to what I can only describe as a melancholy lullaby. The song reminded me of guilt and past mistakes. I got the impression that the song was telling the story of someone who’s been convinced to lose themself in revelry to hide from regret. It has some parallels with folk stories like Rip van Winkle, where someone runs into otherworldly creatures or fairies that lead them astray. I especially love the bittersweet lyric “Led me astray to the Faerie Soirée.” All in all, this song gets an eight out of ten.

The next song, “LIGHT SHOWER,” is also more mellow and peaceful, describing the narrator’s healing from past relationships and love for their partner. However, it lacks the urgency of FAERIE SOIRÉE, so it ends up feeling a little flat. I did, however, like the lyric “My past grew mold around my heart.” It perfectly summarizes how past heartbreak can hurt you deeply. All things considered, I think this song has potential but isn’t something I’d listen to again. It gets a generous three out of ten from me, since I felt like the album didn’t really need another somber, peaceful song.

“SPIDER WEB” follows the developing pattern in PORTALS, of catchy music with somewhat terrifying lyrics. It sounds like a terror-carnival disco to me, with odd lyrics such as “No one can leave once they merge.” It also gives off the impression that Martinez is being hunted for her popularity, as the song says, “[She] wishes not to be perceived. I didn’t ask for this dangerous visibility.” I’ll give it a six out of ten for the funky music and lyrics.

Though the next song, “LEECHES,” has no literal leeches in it (thank goodness), it seems to be talking about friends who take advantage of you, and how that can ruin your perception of yourself. Some of the lyrics are pretty catchy, such as ”They don’t think too hard about your fragile heart.” “LEECHES” gets a good 7.8 out of ten because of its heartbreaking premise. A lot of people struggle with toxic friends, and this song can be a way to relate to that.

“BATTLE OF THE LARYNX” has the same lullaby vibes as “FAERIE SOIRÉE” in the beginning, but definitely ramps up the tension. It’s a pretty good song, with disturbing lyrics such as “I’ll wreck you if you chase me,” but the song is not really to my taste. It felt too soothing for the lyrics. It may not be up to “TUNNEL VISION” standards, but it’s still a song I can listen to again, so I’ll give it a nine out of ten.

Drawing on the same themes as “LEECHES,” “THE CONTORTIONIST” is all about sacrificing yourself for the amusement of others. However, this song is more gentle on the ears. I especially love how the sounds of bones cracking throughout the song. I found the lyric “Stretching my self-worth like you usually do” really puts in perspective how being someone that others want you to be impacts how you see yourself. I’ll give the song a solid nine out of ten.

The next song on the album is “MOON CYCLE.” There’s some howling in the beginning of the song, which is an interesting sound choice, but I feel like the song doesn’t provide the same poetic lyrics as other songs in the album, making it feel short and somewhat boring. I wasn’t a fan of it, so it only gets one out of ten from me.

Next, “NYMPHOLOGY” falls in the same category as “MOON CYCLE.” The song’s lyrics feel kind of slow-paced. The childlike vocals in this track were also really grating, and made me dislike it even more; however, the beat picks up a little at the end. The song gets a two out of ten.

“EVIL,” the following song, feels like an explosion of pent up anger and annoyance. It shows Martinez sick of lies and conflict while in a toxic relationship, with lyrics like “If you bite my hand again, I will never feed you.” There’s definitely notes of finality with the lyric, “Loving you was lethal, guess that makes me evil.” I love how it shows confidence in ending the relationship and moving on. I’ll give it a five out of ten.

The last song, “WOMB,” shares many parallels with the opening song, “DEATH.” The narrator is talking about rebirth in both of these songs, though DEATH has a more optimistic outlook about the idea of rebirth than WOMB, which has lyrics which portray Martinez as lost and confused, like “Yet I feel unprepared, kicking, screaming ‘cause I’m scared.” The mysterious outro is the same as the intro in DEATH, tying the album together. It’s a good song to end this album, so it gets seven out of ten points.

In all, PORTALS is full of songs that explore themes as rebirth, regrets, and changing yourself for others. It’s definitely an album where you can spend hours dissecting lyrics and figuring out the hidden meaning and easter eggs or simply just enjoying the mysterious music. I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys pop music and a good narrative.