BY Shelley Wang

It’s rather common for artists to create storylines in albums through their song list, but Melanie Martinez has one-upped this with a full-length feature film for her comeback album K-12

Directed and written by Melanie herself, the film is a pastel, yet clinical and gory visual masterpiece that intertwines all the album’s songs into a storyline about friendships, social issues and a touch of revenge. K-12 features a continuation of Melanie’s stories about Crybaby – a fantasy persona and alter-ego that Melanie created to show a younger, more emotional side of herself.  

The theatrical film is about Crybaby and her best friend Angelita, who plan to rebel against the oppressive school staff and system at K-12 Sleepaway School by using their powers, which allows them to control things and do whatever they’d like. The pair gain friends throughout the film who experience similar powers and work together to release the brain-washed students within the school. 

Admittedly, the plot itself is rather weak and the characters lack development, however, it isn’t a huge downfall considering that the film serves more as a visual album, rather than a traditional movie. 

Throughout K-12, each of the 13 songs from the album are loosely integrated into the plot and represents a year of Crybaby’s schooling, as well as the problems that she comes across. Like her debut album Cry Baby, Martinez’s songs in K-12 give a rather airy, surreal vibes that is sonically calming but is lyrically intense and meaningful. The film and songs also allowed Melanie to bring some social issues to light, such as the pink tax, the American education system and body-shaming, and uses K-12 to voice her concerns about them.  

'Show & Tell’ and ‘Strawberry Shortcake’ stood out to me in particular when I watched the film initially – although they don’t play an integral part of the story, the message Melanie conveys through the songs are incredibly hard-hitting. Unlike the other songs, these two songs are strongly reflective of Melanie’s criticism on the media’s invasion of her private life (‘Show and Tell’) and tackles the objectification of women (‘Strawberry Shortcake’). 

Overall, I loved the entire styling of K-12 the most. From the costumes and make-up, to the set and colour-grading of the film – I felt that everything was incredibly immaculate, well-designed and even gave a small nod to the yami kawaii (scary-cute) fashion style in Japan. The pastels across all the styling choices are reflective of the innocence of schoolchildren, however, there are also some scenes where it becomes a little dark and gory, which suits the hidden corruption within the school, its staff, as well as, Crybaby’s peers. On top of everything, each of the songs are paired with intricate mix of contemporary and JFH choreography that further shows off Melanie’s talents with her fellow dancers. 

At the end of the day, K-12 is a beautifully produced visual album that really shows off Melanie’s growth, imagination and artistic integrity since the release of her Cry Baby album. For those who haven’t listened to Melanie’s music before, it’s a good way to be introduced to her unique style and aesthetic, although I also think that is a film that only suits a specific taste and isn’t necessarily made for everyone. Nevertheless, it’s definitely an interesting watch!

K-12 (The Film) is available to watch on YouTube on Melanie Martinez's official channel.

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