Melanie Adele Martinez (/mɑːrˈtiːnɛz/; born April 28, 1995) is an American singer, songwriter, music video director, and photographer. Born in Astoria, Queens and raised in Baldwin, New York on Long Island, she first participated in the MSG Varsity Talent Show during her junior year of high school, and subsequently rose to prominence in 2012 after appearing on the American television vocal talent show The Voice.
Following the show, she produced her first music video for her single "Dollhouse". Signing to Atlantic Records, she released her debut EP, Dollhouse (2014). Martinez later released her debut studio album, Cry Baby (2015). Her music revolves around the protagonist of her concept album, Cry Baby, and illustrates themes of dysfunctional family environments, body image, romance, and coming-of-age. Her biggest distinctive asset is her two-toned hair.
Martinez performing at Gramercy Theatre in New York City in February 2014
|Born||Melanie Adele Martinez
April 28, 1995
Astoria, Queens, New York, U.S.
|Residence||Los Angeles, California|
|Home town||Baldwin, Long Island, New York, U.S.|
Martinez was born in Astoria, Queens to parents of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent. Her family moved to Baldwin, New York on Long Island when Martinez was four. She listened to Brandy, Britney Spears, Shakira, The Beatles, Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls and Christina Aguilera growing up, and wanted to be a singer from a young age.
Martinez attended Plaza Elementary School, crediting her teacher Mr. Nadien with teaching her how to sing, and in kindergarten, Martinez began writing poetry. Martinez says she had few friends growing up and was a homebody, as she was "very emotional" and found it difficult to explain her feelings, crying when overwhelmed. She practiced photography and painting. Due to her emotionality as a child, she claims to have been referred to as a "cry baby" by others, which sparked the creation of the titular character of her debut album, Cry Baby.
She attended Baldwin High School. At 14, Martinez taught herself how to play guitar by studying chord diagrams of songs that she enjoyed, which she found online, and wrote her first song by adding her poetry to one of the chord diagrams, but claims that playing guitar "eventually got stale". During her sophomore year, she won the talent show at Baldwin High School. At 16, after watching 101 Dalmatians, Martinez dyed half of her hair blonde, in the same vein as Cruella de Vil. She received criticism from her classmates after appearing on The Voice. Martinez graduated from Baldwin High School.
In 2012, during her junior year of high school, Martinez participated in the MSG Varsity Talent Show, a televised talent competition. She sang "Money (That's What I Want)" by Barrett Strong and "Shake Me, Wake Me (When It's Over)" by The Four Tops. She was eliminated in the second round.
Later in 2012, Martinez auditioned for the third season of The Voice. She had not watched the show herself prior to the audition. The initial, untelevised audition was an open call, held at Javits Center. She recalls that while she and her mother were driving to the audition, her mother's car broke down before they reached the Midtown Tunnel, and the two were forced to "hitchhike" a taxicab in order to get there. Several months after the initial audition, while at Roosevelt Field Mall, Martinez received word that she had advanced to the "second round". She then received multiple callbacks until she was finally selected to audition on the show itself.
Martinez auditioned singing Britney Spears's "Toxic". Three of the four judges, Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton, hit the "I Want You" button for her. Martinez chose Adam Levine to be her coach.
In the Battle Round, Martinez competed against Caitlin Michelle. They performed a duet of the Ellie Goulding song "Lights". Martinez won and moved on to the Knockout Round. Caitlin Michele was stolen by Cee Lo Green and also moved on. In the Knockout Round, Martinez was paired with Sam James. She chose to sing La Roux's "Bulletproof". Levine eliminated James, and Martinez moved on to the Live Rounds as one of the five remaining members of Team Adam. In week one of the Live Rounds, Martinez sang "Hit the Road Jack". Public vote saved Team Adam members Amanda Brown and Bryan Keith.
Levine then chose Martinez over Loren Allred and Joselyn Rivera to remain in the competition. In week three, Martinez's performance of "Seven Nation Army" finished the voting period at #10 on the iTunes Top 200 Single Chart, causing her iTunes votes to be multiplied by ten. This occurred again in week four, when "Too Close" ended the voting period at #6. Martinez was eliminated by audience vote in week five, along with the fellow Team Adam member Amanda Brown, leaving Levine with no artists. In response, Martinez said, "I never expected to get this far and this is beyond what I've ever dreamed of. I'm just so glad I got to express who I am as an artist and really touch people's hearts because that was the ultimate goal."
|Blind Audition||"Toxic"||Britney Spears||September 7, 2012||4.1||3 Chairs Turned
Joined Team Adam
|Battle Round||"Lights" (vs. Caitlin Michelle)||Ellie Goulding||October 15, 2012||11.5||Saved by Coach|
|Knockout Round||"Bulletproof" (vs. Sam James)||La Roux||October 29, 2012||16.5||Saved by Coach|
|Live Playoffs||"Hit the Road Jack"||Ray Charles||November 5, 2012||18.3||Safe (Coach's Save)|
|Top 12||"Cough Syrup"||Young the Giant||November 12, 2012||21.9||Saved by Public Vote|
|Top 10||"Seven Nation Army"||The White Stripes||November 19, 2012||23.3||Saved by Public Vote|
|Top 8||"Too Close"||Alex Clare||November 26, 2012||25.4||Saved by Public Vote|
|Top 6||"The Show" (Coach's choice)||Lenka||December 3, 2012||27.10||Eliminated|
|"Crazy" (Artist's choice)||Gnarls Barkley||27.6|
After the show, Martinez began working independently on original material, and claims to have spent the majority of 2013 writing said material. She released her debut single, "Dollhouse", on February 9, 2014. She later compared the song's story to that of Edward Scissorhands, saying "[It's] the perfect home with the perfect lawn and they all look the same. But behind each house there’s a screwed up group of people who are hiding behind wealth and perfection." Martinez also released a music video for the track, which was fan-funded by an Indiegogo page created by Martinez, and hair, makeup, and shooting were all done by friends of hers. The video's set was based on a dollhouse that Martinez designed and furnished herself, which was also used in the video itself. It has been viewed over 100 million times on YouTube as of January 2017. The song was produced and cowritten by NYC songwriting duo Kinetics & One Love.
On April 7, 2014, Martinez was signed to Atlantic Records and announced that she would be going on tour. She released her debut EP, Dollhouse, on May 19, 2014. The album was supposedly inspired by toy sounds. Martinez's single from the EP, "Carousel", was also certified gold by the RIAA, and featured in a preview for FX's miniseries American Horror Story: Freak Show. Martinez wrote the song before having heard about the theme of the fourth season of the show, and when informed, had her manager pitch the track to the show's producers a year before the promo aired. She was informed that the song was to be featured in a promo for the show two days before it was released. The song reached number 9 on the Alternative Digital Songs chart. A video for the track was also released.
On June 1, 2015, Martinez released the single "Pity Party", which was certified gold by the RIAA, and the chorus of which samples Lesley Gore's "It's My Party". On July 10, 2015, Martinez released the album's second single "Soap". It reached number 12 on the Alternative Digital Songs chart, and number 16 on the Pop Digital Songs chart. "Sippy Cup" followed on July 31, followed by the album 14 days later. Cry Baby was released on August 14, 2015, to critical acclaim. The album debuted at number 6 on the Billboard 200. Martinez released a Christmas-themed single, "Gingerbread Man", in December 2015. She initially released the song on SoundCloud on December 21, 2015 as a "gift for her fans", but later released the track on iTunes on January 29, 2016 as a single. The music video of her song "Cry Baby" was released on March 14, 2016. It was inspired by the 1988 film Alice. The karaoke-style music video for "Alphabet Boy", which Martinez directed, was released on June 2, 2016. Martinez has released double feature videos for "Soap" and "Training Wheels" together, as well as "Tag, You're It" and "Milk and Cookies."
Martinez has finished recording her second album, describing it as the stories of characters living in Cry Baby's neighborhood. In October 2016, she released a commercial for her fragrance called Cry Baby Perfume Milk, adding that the "idea for this perfume has been cultivating in my brain since the moment I finished writing my album." It will be directly distributed by Martinez's record label, Atlantic, making them the first record label to distribute a fragrance. In November 2016, Martinez released her second EP, Cry Baby's Extra Clutter, a physical vinyl release of the bonus tracks from Cry Baby as well as Martinez's single, "Gingerbread Man". She released the music video for her song "Pacify Her" followed in December 2016 by a video for "Mrs. Potato Head". The video for "Mad Hatter" was released September 23, 2017.
Cry Baby was certified Platinum on February 24, 2017.
In March 2017, Martinez expressed her wishes to produce a film telling the story of each song from her second album, explaining "I'm currently writing a film...I'm going to spend the year working on it, directing, shooting, make up and everything so it's a lot of work".
On December 4, 2017, Timothy Heller, a woman with whom Martinez once shared a friendship, said via Twitter that Martinez had sexually assaulted and raped her. The following day, Martinez tweeted a response to Heller's accusations, saying the allegations "horrified and saddened" her and Heller "never said no" to any actions. On December 9, 2017, Martinez released a second statement, denying that she would "be intimate with someone without their absolute consent."
The subject matter of Martinez's songs are typically based on personal experiences. Martinez describes her own music as "very dark and honest" and "hip hop/trap inspired beats with creepy nostalgic childlike sounds such as baby pianos, music boxes, and toys".
Martinez's music has been described by The Guardian as "off-kilter, sweary electropop". Rolling Stone described Martinez's music as "twisted lullabies about love, danger and madness", and compared her music to that of "'Coin-Operated Boy'-era Dresden Dolls" and Lana Del Rey. The New York Times' Jon Pareles described her music as "perch[ing] prettily tinkling keyboards and concise pop choruses amid the slow, ominous basslines and twitchy percussion of Southern hip-hop – a candy-coated variation on the dirges of Lorde and Lana Del Rey", and described her voice as "whispery, sardonic, tearful, [and] furious". Billboard's Jason Lipshutz also compared Martinez to Del Rey and Lorde, saying, "Martinez is clearly cribbing from the dimly lit pop stylings of Lorde and Lana Del Rey, but while her wispy delivery strikes the same femme fatale poses, she lacks the subtlety of her influences", and that "Martinez is admirably ambitious, but her insistence on sticking to Cry Baby's central idea leaves her contorting into uncomfortable positions". The Guardian called her image "doll-like and decidedly emo...hyperreal", and described her music as "part-nursery rhyme, part tragic life story".
Martinez has cited the Beatles, Neutral Milk Hotel, Feist, Kimbra, Zooey Deschanel, Regina Spektor, and CocoRosie as influences of hers. Specific albums which have influenced her music include The Idler Wheel... by Fiona Apple and Ariana Grande's albums Yours Truly and My Everything. She attributes the "heavy hip-hop influence" in her music to her father playing hip-hop music in the family's house often during her childhood. Martinez cites Mark Ryden, Aleksandra Waliszewska and Nicoletta Ceccoli as her favorite visual artists, saying that they've influenced the visuals in her music videos. She has also named Tim Burton as a large influence of hers, and has said that to make a movie with him would be her "one dream".
Martinez collaborated with cosmetics company Lime Crime, Inc. to release two "exclusive" lipsticks: a blue lipstick called "Cry Baby" on August 17, 2015 and a brown lipstick called "Teddy Bear" on March 9, 2016. On October 25, 2016, she released a commercial for a new fragrance called Cry Baby Perfume Milk. It was directly distributed by Martinez's label, the first record label to distribute a fragrance.
It's my birthday. Not really — tomorrow's my birthday.