On Oct. 30, famous pop singer Melanie Martinez came to Philly to perform her latest album K–12.
This album—released on Sept. 6, 2019 by Atlantic Records—consists of 13 songs, beginning with “Wheels on the Bus” and ending with “Recess.” As can be observed through the album title and many of the song names, the overarching theme of the album has to do with school. From lyrics that talk about “lunchbox friends” to songs like “The Principal,” Martinez drives a quirky, eerie vibe home with this album.
Martinez originally rose to fame through the popular TV series The Voice, where she blew the judges away with her acoustic rendition of "Toxic" by Britney Spears. She subsequently joined Team Adam, where she was coached by Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine before being voted off during the season.
Despite not winning The Voice, she quickly went on to produce her own albums. In 2015, she released her album Cry Baby, which contained hit songs like “Soap” and “Carousel.” She’s also released a variety of singles over the years. While she has accumulated a decent following, an accusation of sexual assault in 2017 threatened the stability of her career and fanbase.
K–12 is Martinez's second studio album. She uses a common juvenile thread through all her songs and albums: From “Sippy Cup” to “Tag, You’re It” this theme is made clear. But while the song titles and lyrics have a juvenile focus, there’s a bit of an edginess to her songs. She often twists many of these childhood topics into something much darker, as seen in songs like “Mad Hatter” and “Dollhouse.” Her music tends to be catchy and haunting; K–12 is no different. And her performance of K–12 at the Fillmore Philadelphia only enhanced her sound.
The crowd couldn’t calm their anticipation before Martinez took the stage. Chants of “Melanie” rang out in the large auditorium as the lights went dark. Nearly everyone in the room screamed when the lights were finally brought back to life on a projection screen. Immediately, an introductory film began to play; a “teacher” addressed the audience, saying “they’re coming,” but that she needed to get through a couple lessons first. The teacher’s eyes were manipulated to look demonically black on the screen. That moment foreshadowed a fact that would become apparent as the concert progressed: This wouldn’t be an ordinary concert.
It was not. Martinez didn’t just perform her songs, she created a story. The video projection remained on throughout the entire show, creating the backdrop for her and her dancers. For her first song “Wheels on the Bus,” the stage transformed into a school bus and the dancers pretended to be sitting in seats. As the songs progressed, so did the backgrounds and the story.
Despite each song having its own dance choreography and theme, each piece was also connected together by the teacher character that was introduced at the start of the show. After every couple of songs, a new clip would show up with the teacher giving a new lesson. The lessons weren’t academic—rather, they discussed important issues in today’s society that Martinez wished to creatively address. Lesson one was to respect others and avoid pushing and shoving. Another was telling the audience members to seek their own benediction and not underestimate their power. There were multiple other lessons, including one about the unnecessary beauty standards pushed on society. Overall, the lessons overlapped with the ideas put forth in the songs, creating fluid, cohesive transitions.
While some artists might not live up to their fans’ expectations live in concert, Martinez sounded just as good live as she does on Spotify. She seamlessly executed each song, singing perfectly on–key and hitting every note—even when she was moving through wild choreography.
For the most part, the show was enjoyable—but there were a couple of negatives. For one, because there was so much acting involved, it often took quite some time to transition from one song to the next. During the transition periods, her dancers acted and pranced about, but it dragged on so long that it was sometimes hard to stay attentive. Beyond that, she could have engaged the audience more. Although the show was mostly meant to be watched and viewed as more of a live film production, it would’ve been exciting to see her interact more with her fans.
Martinez’s show was entertaining, with an edgy cinematic twist. It was a full performance, rather than just a singer on stage. Martinez will continue her tour across the United States and internationally in the coming weeks. Her album, K–12, is available for purchase online or for streaming through Spotify.