Review: Melanie Martinez – After School

25-year-old Melanie Martinez is a talented singer/songwriter from Queens, New York, who has been gradually growing over the past couple of years. The singer is best known for her unique style of songwriting, where she twists childhood memories and highlights key issues we face as a society. Martinez’ songs tend to lean towards the alternative and emo pop persuasion, songs like Dollhouse that debuted in 2014 really define the kind of music and underlying messages she tries to get across through music. After releasing her movie and album K-12 in 2019, she has blessed her fans with an EP that almost acts like a sequel to K-12. The Dollhouse singer, has released her EP After School, featuring 7 tracks during September 2020. She’s kept her fans on their toes by gingerly releasing her song titles via instagram stories. Her album and movie K-12 was based on school events and ideas, this is why her new EP can act like a sequel. Singles like Test Me and Field Trip add to the theory of this mini album being connected to her 2019 album. 

The EP After School, like most of her work symbolises a certain stage of life, with her new tracks moves on to adulthood and the workplace. The amazing concept and theme Martinez has stuck too, has kept fans wanting more and new listeners intrigued. The journey from Crybaby to After School, really is like listening to and travelling through an entire life. Not only has she been able to stick to her theme of songs that represent stages of our lives but she has also been able to include her political ideals.

The Bakery

Her song The Bakery is the only track out of the seven that has a music video so far… Although the track was included in her K-12 album from 2019, it has formed part of her 2020 EP. The song is broken down into 3 verses and 1 chorus, the theme it follows: is how members of society wind up working in undesirable jobs but continue in order to earn cash and capital. 

Martinez then refers to “Mother Mary” her boss, and continues to describe her superior’s actions as evil. Which can be interpreted in different ways, however one idea is obvious — her boss is the devil in disguise, with the mask of a saint. The bakery represent corporations, and her chorus is a description of her hate towards The Bakery. Her song then continues to highlight the presence of hatred in the workplace, she continues to highlight the tragedies labour tend to face in a work environment. The singer concludes the song by bringing to light how the boss is nothing but a painful presence in her life, who’ll show no mercy towards her or fellow colleagues.

The Notebook

A underrated track out of the 7, the song is about a lost love and how he needs to take a note or two, in order to better himself in his next relationship. Her starting lyric gets straight to the point — “I’m not Physically fulfilled”, an instant give away to her listeners as to why the relationship went into a downwards spiral.  Her first verses describe the key area where he lacked both sexually and emotionally. Martinez goes on to explain how she “sacrificed blood” for him whilst he stayed selfish. The songs title is what she she advises the boy to write in, she describes the relationship as “a friend who occasionally fucks” her. Martinez brings to light a clearly toxic relationship which led to its end, and this song is a powerful message for selfish lovers and partners. A song with unforgettable lyrics and an almost latin beat, keeping the songs flow and diss alive.

Test Me

Martinez in this EP focuses on life events and this track might be the most direct when addressing difficulties we face entering adulthood. Test Me is about how we as a society face challenges throughout our lives, but in this track she describes the challenges as tests given to us by gods. Martinez uses her lyrics to state that tests that we must pass, are what allows us to gain experience and wisdom.

Gotta learn, yeah, eyes are always on the next goalBut space isn’t there to always be filled upIt’s the quiet, the downtime to breathe in my lungs— Melanie Martinez

These specific lyrics in her second verse, highlight how as people we need to be productive even when we don’t have a set goal. The singer took to Instagram to explain the meaning behind Test Me, she discusses how school classes do not prepare us for real life problems and that these tests given to us is what replaces the lack of teaching from school. The fact that the singer herself announced that school classes don’t teach us enough may mean her song is rebellion piece, against the broken education system. 

Brain & Heart

A beautifully produced song, made up of a rhythmic and almost fantasy feel drum beat. The song is about balancing decision making, and choosing between your brain and your heart. She discusses how subject areas such as anxiety and depression, which allows the song to be relatable today, especially since mental health is better understood. 

Help me, when I’m at a loss for words— Melanie Martinez

The track covers the anxiety people deal with when faced with important decision making. Although one of the most underrated songs on the EP, the lyrics when properly analysed can cause listeners to appreciate this song much more than earlier Martinez tracks. When the singer came out with a statement about Brain & Heart, she discussed how our hearts balance out our brain — logic and emotion. Without the actions of the heart, logic would lead us to becoming an emotionless society.

Numbers

One of the more complicated songs on the EP, with lyrics that attack the social system. Although a meaning for the song hasn’t been verified, fans speculate it may be a diss towards certain people who formed part of the singers past. However, after listening to the song, one could assume the song is debating how people are seen as just numbers to mass corporations and companies. 

Am I just a number ‘cause it seems like that’s your goal? 

You push us past our limits just to watch decimals grow— Melanie Martinez

After school we enter higher education, the workforce and adulthood, the social system give us those paths and causes us to conform. We live to work, rather than vice versa which allows us to become a random number in the billions. As a society we conform to the normalcy, basically becoming clones who learn to work for multinational corporations. Although this workaholic lifestyle is normalised, Martinez uses this song to explain how our futures can be “something more magic”. She also explains how we are pushed to the edge by companies just to make money.

Glued

Glued is another song, like Brain & Heart, debates two sides of opposing extremes. She explains how attachment can cause us to get hurt but detachment can keep you from feeling the level of love when you are attached. The track is a lot more focused on romance, the metaphor and angelic instrumental makes the song a beautiful production to listen to on repeat. In comparison to her other songs it is a lighter lyrics wise, but shares a fantasy feel.

Glued up, sometimes it’s too much

I’m fucked up and clueless

I’m stuck in the vortex, stuck in the vortex

Glue-less, life would be boring

Empty, but no hurting

Is it necessary? Detachment is scary— Melanie Martinez

Field Trip

Out of the seven tracks this is her most personal song, it covers her life and being mixed race. Martinez covers her hispanic heritage (Puerto Rican/Dominican) and explains how she feels when people say she doesn’t meet the standard as a Latina. Fans were shocked when she sang in Spanish in her second verse.

I’m never gonna be what you had envisioned

You say blanquitas feel more Latina than you, ¿ahora lo entiendes?”— Melanie Martinez 

As a mixed Latina myself, with a similar mix I can relate to the song. Being mixed can cause people feel unsure about their cultural identity. This song can act like an anchor for the thousands who face the same feeling of loss when it comes to nationality. The topic of dual identity is what makes the song personal to Martinez but is also what allows fans and listeners to feel heard.

This is EP, is exactly what fans were hoping to hear after her K-12 Album from 2019. Each track follows her musical theme, where she covers important life problems and difficulties using metaphors and symbols. The EP releases on the 25th of September reached its peak on 10th of October, where it got to 39th on the billboard 100. Although the tracks haven’t gained the popularity her other songs like Dollhouse & Pity Party did, this EP is worth a listen. Holding powerful messaged and gorgeous instrumentals, no one can regret listening to each track.

By Karla Louis Hallett

Listen to After School now on Spotify:

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