In her newest music video, Melanie Martinez highlights sub-par coping methods and the dysfunctional behaviors of modern day schools. This month, Martinez released her newest album entitled, “K-12,”but she did not simply release thirteen tracks. After writing and directing her own hour and a half music video, she in no way cuts the source of her critiques any slack.
Melanie, since her debut album entitled “Cry Baby”, has never been one to sugar coat the harsh realities of the world we live in. She does not change this in K-12. Martinez seamlessly blends gore with glitter and bold lyrics with harmonies that captivate the listener. She combines bizarre visuals with dark themes, all of which are too real. Through these revolutionary techniques, Martinez highlights issues such as eating disorders, mental health, bullying, substance abuse, and the sexualization of young women, all of which are ignored by the school systems within America.
Martinez’s ethereal voice opens “Strawberry Shortcake” with a common ideology among young girls. She sings, “Feeling unsure of my naked body.” As young girls, we are thrown into situations within school where we are forced to compare ourselves to our female peers. In the video, Martinez showcases the common occurrence of changing before gym class in front of everyone. She furthers this commonality by expressing, “Wondering why I don’t look like Barbie.” In an age of social media, girls are told they must be a certain size and look a certain way in order to be perceived as beautiful.
Furthermore, Melanie sings, “Instead of making me feel bad for the body I got, just teach him to keep it in his pants and tell him to stop.” Young girls are told that we must cover our bodies and behave “ladylike” for the sake of our male peers.
It is not our fault that media has forever changed the outlook on the female body. It is not our fault that wearing a low cut shirt distracts others. Like Martinez says, rather than bashing girls for the body they are already confused about, teach boys how to simply turn their eyes from what is “distracting” them. Girls are easier to blame because we, “put icing on top.”
If we dress a certain way or put more makeup on than what is deemed “normal” then we are told we were “asking for it.” Girls are the ones to blame because society thinks we are the easier of the two to silence. Melanie begs this cycle to stop.
In “High School Sweethearts” and “Lunchbox Friends,” Martinez makes her first point of girls not having a grasp of their own self-worth and adds in the task of building relationships during young adulthood.
In high school, most people struggle deeply with self identity. Those who say they never did, are lying to themselves. High schoolers do not even know who they are, yet they must attempt to build friendships and love connections in order to do so. It is a hard balance that many do not grasp within those four, short years.
Melanie shows through her striking visuals the guards we must put up in order to protect ourselves from being harmed. Yet, she sings the truth behind those walls we build. In “High School Sweethearts,” she sings, “If you can’t handle a heart like mine, don’t waste your time with me.”
So much of our time in early adulthood is spent building relationships, only to have them be a waste of time. It is part of growing up, yes, but it still hurts.
“Orange Juice” brings the spotlight to teen eating disorders. Martinez established that girls are taught to hate their body unless it is “perfect.”This idea leads young women to turn to drastic measures in order to look like “Barbie.” Martinez sings, “Oh, oh‚ stick it down your throat. I’m watching from the bathroom making sure I don’t choke‚ choke from the words you spoke. When you’re screaming at the mirror, now you’re sitting in the cafeteria.”
Bulimia is a frequent issue for young students. It is promoted through the encouragement of the “It” girl within Melanie’s fictitious school. These girls went from forcing themselves to vomit, to smiling and behaving as if everything is completely fine. This is the most vital point Martinez makes within “K-12.”
Mental health is not often promoted within school systems, which means students do not feel like they can properly express their feelings and what goes on within their lives behind closed doors. We feel as if we cannot vocalize our private lives due to the lack of mental health awareness and acceptance.
Briefly, in a variation of health class, we are taught eating disorders, consent, and mental health as a whole; however, students cannot delve deep into their mental well-being because the typical school environment does not give them an opportunity to do so.
Finally, in “The Principal”, Martinez says, “I’ve tried to make you listen, but you want it your way, right? Killing kids all day and night.” She explains that the adults do not make the well being of their students their top priority. Sadly, money is their driving force.
One could argue and say not all principals behave this way. Yes, this is true, but think for a second on all those issues and occurences within the album. Now, try and tell yourself that none of that happened within your high school. If it did, it is rooted within the administration.
Melanie is not stopping the “K-12” story after the release of the music video. In her first album, “Cry Baby,” Martinez began her story through telling the family struggles her fictitious alter ego faced. Now, in “K-12,” she shows the struggles many children and teens face outside of the home. Martinez has since revealed to her fans that she plans to release two more videos. All of this is coming as a shock to her audience after she took a nearly two year break after sexual assault alegations back in 2017.
As Martinez said, “I like scaring myself.” Her portrayal of the gruesome realities of students in a pastel, Victorian inspired world scared her fans.
The truth is scary, and it is up to us to allow it to ignite rage within the very hearts of those still affected by the issues Martinez showcases.