Melanie Martinez at The Ritz
The Ritz, Tampa FL
Menacing 808 drums shook in the background while the stage crew for the Ritz in Ybor pulled large black sheets off the stage to reveal the very child-like decor below. In the center was a large crib with a mobile over it, spinning slowly and strung up with hearts, candy and baby dolls hung upside-down by their feet while an impaled clown doll rotated in the center. The backdrop was made to look like a light pink infant’s room, complete with framed pictures of decapitated bunny dolls and crying teddy bears. It looked and felt like a nursery from hell. Baby noises could be heard in the background as the “Cry Baby” was metaphorically born. She pushed down a wall of the crib and sashayed to the mic out front.
The Voice’s Melanie Martinez performed in Ybor Saturday, April 2. She was originally slated to perform in early March but had to cancel a string of shows on her “Cry Baby” Tour due to kidney stones.
Some of the more diehard fans came to the streets of Ybor as early as 5 AM to wait in line. Even some of the security guards for the venue turned out to be avid watchers of the voice and huge Martinez fans as well. The line to get in wrapped around the side of the building and down the street as fans awaited anxiously for the sold out show.
Girls throughout the audience had almost any hair color imaginable. Green, purple, blue, yellow, pink and all sorts of combinations of colors adorned the heads of girls anywhere from 12 years-old to their late 20s. So many bows, flower crowns and bunny ears rested atop the heads of various girls in the crowd. Some people took it to the next level, dressing in a full body LED suit, a french maid outfit or a gothic queen’s dress. Akin to Melanie herself, her fans were obviously too old to play dress up like this but do so anyway, almost in a dark defiance.
Her fans are dedicated and elaborate in dress. One particular girl in the crowd looked exactly like Melanie Martinez herself, right down to the white fur coat and half-and-half hair-dye job. While the girl posed for picture after picture with fellow fans, her sister made comments on their shared love for the singer. “I love how she’s presented herself since leaving The Voice. She’s so dark, but in the cutest way possible,” she said as the lights went down for the opener to start.
Mainland, her opening act, was a rock/pop band from New York. They were a standard four-piece band with a music style reminiscent of Matt & Kim with a dash more rock. They were alright musically but were likely meant to cater to the younger crowd in attendance due to their lyrical repetitiveness and popish bass lines. The young crowd squealed at the top of their lungs as the lead singer went to wipe his face with the bottom of his shirt.
With the opener and black sheets off the stage, it was clear that the set had Melanie’s signature style in the decor of the set. Children’s alphabet blocks spelled out the words “Cry” and “Baby” on either side of the crib. The half electric, half acoustic drum set was decorated with a peppermint candy design on the kick drum and the back of the keyboard was covered in long, pink fur. When her two band members came out, they were both dressed as large teddy bears with smiley faces on their sweatshirts. She appeared in a leathery, baby blue dress that had a cartoon duck’s face on the front and black stitching around the seems.
One of the main reasons that Melanie Martinez impresses is her ability to tell a story, full of metaphors to childhood and innocence, but also full of meaning and intellect. In her first song she released as an artist, “Dollhouse,” she depicts a family that appears to be happy on the outside but is actually falling apart without letting anyone know. In this, she likens a happy family picture of a dysfunctional family to a family of dolls that fight and cheat when their owner isn’t looking, all while using deep bass and hip-hop-like snare and hi-hat rhythms. Her elaborate yet transparent use of symbolism puts her songwriting over the top when compared to most pop songs today.
One of the best parts of her music videos have always been her elaborate use of color schemes to set moods. The lighting she used beautifully corresponded to the feeling she wished to elicit with each song. An aquatic blue was used to light the song “Soap” to simulate being inside a bathtub, a mix of deep purple and vibrant blue served as her light scheme for the dark “Cry Baby,” and a mix of pastel colors served as her dollhouse lighting in the song “Dollhouse.” Even her dancing was unique in the fact that she moved in an almost possessed way, almost like a haunted doll in a movie. Her incredible use of ascetics only add to her impressiveness as an artist.
Even her hair functions as a beautiful metaphor to her style as an artist. Though the colors change often, her most common hairstyle is having one full color on either side of her head, split right down the middle. Her hair functions as a brilliant metaphor to the duality present in her music and style. She sings songs about very adult situations with a surprisingly explicit vocabulary but uses childlike metaphors to contrast the maturity in the theme. The same duality is present in her wardrobe as well. Her large tattoos on either arm serve as a stark contrast to the childlike wardrobe she sports.
It goes without saying that Melanie Martinez is an all around-incredible artist. Her fan base is younger, as she is an emerging artist fresh onto the scene, but they are incredibly dedicated. Get used to the name Melanie Martinez, because she’s talented and we will see more from her soon.