I’m a sucker for any sort of concept album but a concept album THIS good leaves me not even knowing what to do with myself. Melanie Martinez’s debut, Cry Baby, is centered around adult themes packaged in childlike tunes, with story book visuals and nursery rhyme references. The intricacy and attention to detail is absolutely marvelous, where each sound and visual is executed so perfectly to match up with the overall vibe of the record. It’s uncomfortable yet melodic and fun, disturbing at times yet worth a few more listens. This is a record that I’ve really come to appreciate considering its intense artistic ability and is one that deserves a closer look than what most people might give it at first. So, for this ranking, I will be putting all thirteen of the standard edition tracks from good to best (there really is no “worst” song on here), and choosing a standout lyric from each one.
#13. “Soap” – “Think I got myself in trouble/ So I fill the bath with bubbles/ Them I’ll put the towels all away/ Should’ve never said the word “love”/ Threw a toaster in the bathtub”
“Soap” melodically is not my favorite, nor does it feel like a very cohesive song. Each piece from the verses to the chorus to the bubble sound effects stumble upon one another without creating any major standout moments. The lyricism makes up for this however, creating a metaphorical image of this relationship by comparing it to a bathtub over flowing with bubbles, towels, and even electrocution by a wet toaster. Among the rest of the track list, this one proves to be one of the less listenable songs.
#12. “Cry Baby” – “Someone’s turning the handle to the faucet in your eyes/ You pour them out for everyone to see”
This one serves as our opening track and introduces us to the main character of the concept, fittingly titled “Cry Baby”. It combines childlike sounding production with a strong beat, although the entire thing is quite relaxed. I really like this as the first song because as an introduction it’s interesting enough to keep us listening but not overtly crazy (there’s more of that later). However, I don’t particularly like the lyricism or overall melodies of the song; it almost feels like something’s missing. It might not be the most memorable track but it does serve its purpose rather well.
#11. Pity Party – “Maybe it’s a cruel joke on me/ Whatever, whatever/ Just means there’s way more cake for me/ Forever, forever”
If you’re going to sample an already popular song, all I’m saying is that you better make it worthwhile. And this one definitely is. Martinez sampled Lesley Gore’s hit song “It’s My Party” and put a new psychotic twist on it, showing us a wilder side of our Cry Baby character. The way that this one is handled and sung really makes it feel very real. From the disappointment of nobody showing up to her party to the “I don’t care” vibe she’s trying to portray during the chorus to the frustrated scream during the bridge, this song is so lively it doesn’t even need a visual video to go with it.
#10. “Alphabet Boy” – “You can crush my candy cane but you’ll never catch me cry”
“Alphabet Boy” is such a well written song, demonstrating this relationship Cry Baby has with a boy who keeps trying to show off how much smarter he is than her. It has kind of a hip hop feel to it, layered with small bell noises and a mid tempo beat. It’s not one of my favorites but I can’t deny that it’s one of the best put together songs on here.
#9. Training Wheels – “Wheels aren’t even touching the ground/ Scared to take them off but they’re worn down/ Promise I won’t push you straight to the dirt/ If you promise me you’ll take them off first”
Among all the craziness this record has to offer, we’re offered a true romantic song with “Training Wheels”. It’s a cute, describing the beginning stages of a relationship with very soft instrumental and melodies. It’s different sounding than most other tracks on this record, however, there isn’t much to completely set it apart, so it easily blends into the background. The thing that sticks out most on this one is how different is in in theme compared to the other songs. Despite this, it’s nice that we have a mellower song to break up some of the darker themes that are present.
#8. Pacify Her – “I can’t stand her whining/ Where’s her binky now?”
This one has kind of the same vibe as “Alphabet Boy” in terms of production, with a similar hip hop beat and vocal alterations. It’s another relaxed mid tempo track, with rather accusatory lyrics which is quite uncommon on this record. The pay on words to mean “pacifier” is also a cool concept and adds to the overall feel of the song and although I can’t say it’s the most memorable, it does serve its place on the track list.
#7. Carousel – “This horse is too slow/ We’re always this close/ Almost, almost, we’re a freak show/ Ride right when I’m near/ It’s like you disappear/ Where’d you go?/ Mr. Houdini, you’re a freakshow”
Going to the fair or carnival as a kid are some of the best childhood memories many of us have, and this track takes on that theme but twists it around to mean something different. As with most songs on here, it sounds intentionally fun and innocent but lyrically it describes a relationship that’s just going in circles, the same way a carousel does. The sound effects and feel of the song are very well executed and it’s rather relaxed, which is almost unexpected. It’s entertaining but leaves the listener in suspense the entire time, where we’re kind of waiting for a freak out moment. This proves to be one of the best crafted songs on the record due to it’s production methods and fitting lyrics.
#6. “Sippy Cup” – “Your favorite candy’s cotton, that’s why all your teeth are rotten”
Lyrically one of the darkest songs on here mixed with a modern indie feel makes this a track to remember. There are so many things to undercover here which highlights some of the worst behaviors of modern society, demonstrating how we attempt to cover up our issues. With Martinez’s hushed sounding vocals on this track layered into simple instrumentation you’d expect to feel a divide between what the song is saying verses how it feels; yet, it flows smoothly throughout the entire three minutes and is like a little treasure hunt if you’re willing to look deep enough.
#5. “Dollhouse” – “Everyone thinks that we’re perfect/ Please don’t let them look through the curtains”
I’m just going to cut to the chase with this one: “Dollhouse” is one of the best produced tracks on here. It has a little bit of everything: dark lyricism and plenty of metaphors blending in with a chill indie pop vibe and a prominent bass line. Each one of these components is so well balanced and the instrumental leads into each part without feeling disconnected or repetitive. Even the storyline about a seemingly perfect yet extremely dysfunctional family is relatable, making this one a standout track on the record.
#4. Milk and Cookies – “One, two, melatonin is coming for you/ Three, four, baby, won’t you lock the door/ Five, six, I’m done with this/ Seven, eight, it’s getting late, so close your eyes, sleep for days”
This is like “Mad Hatter” 2.0, being just as creepy with a similar strong dance inspired beat. This one, however, features some of our favorite nursery rhymes such as ring around the rosy. It’s insanely interesting in every way, but it’s mostly the dark lyricism that traps you in like a black hole. This song mainly reminds me of how spooky childhood songs and traditions can be which we don’t realize until we’re much older.
#3. Mrs. Potato Head – “Potatoes turn to French fries, yeah it’s common sense/ All you need’s a couple more condiments/ And a hundred thousand dollars for some compliments”
From the get go, this one comes off so nonchalant, and so relaxed. It’s mid tempo with very easy going vocals and rather light electronic influenced production. However, that doesn’t dull the shine of the outstanding lyricism of this track, which details the extremes of plastic surgery and this modern world we live in where looks matter more than ever. It’s explicit but so real, never necessarily calling anyone out but alluding to a few particular things and people. I like that this one is intricate enough yet gets straight to the point without lingering on longer than it needs to.
#2. “Mad Hatter” – “My friends don’t walk they run/ Skinny dip in rabbit holes for fun/ Poppin, poppin balloons with guns/ Getting high off helium”
This song is absolutely psychotic and I love every second of it. A strong dance beat paired with Alice In Wonderland imagery make this an easily likeable song but what really stands out is the way it’s relentlessly dark yet so seemingly innocent. It starts out with a simple bell chime and rips into synthesizer and production so in your face it’s impossible to look away from. The lyrics are on the more explicit side of things as most of these top rated songs are, but again, like most of them, this song doesn’t come off as overbearing or too much at any point.
#1. Tag, You’re It – “Eenie, meenie, miny, mo/ Catch your lady by her toes/ If she squeals don’t let her go”
Terrifying is the first word that comes to mind when I think of this one. It’s dark and twisted, creepy yet innocent in the most childlike way by alluding to the inconspicuous game of tag. While the overall theme of the song may sound like rough children playing the game and knocking each other down just to avoid being “it”, the verses are what brings this song to life by alluding to sexual assault. It’s not exactly obvious, as this dark meaning is coated in soft vocals by Martinez and dream like production. Underneath it all however, this is another kind of expose track the record is full of; among the others, however, this one proves to be the most serious, shifting the spotlight on something almost everyone is too afraid to mention.