On Melanie Martinez’s third LP, her Cry Baby trilogy comes to an end. If 2015’s Cry Baby debut introduced the titular character (and reintroduced Martinez as a fearlessly creative avant-pop creator outside of her covers on The Voice) and 2019’s K-12 “used school as an analogy for life and the systems of power our society continues to live under,” as she tells Apple Music, PORTALS is about death and what lies beyond. “I wanted to challenge my listeners’ perspective by essentially saying: Just like us, after Cry Baby’s vessel on earth has died, she lives on as a spirit in the cosmos. It was important for me to show the immortality of being a human with this record—to give people hope that there’s life after death.” Across 13 tracks largely written in her home’s “portal room”—a space she describes as “an entry point for benevolent spirits to come and rest on their journey”—PORTALS is a synthy vaudeville, from the sped-up heartbeat production and spoken-word intro “DEATH” to the uptempo alt-pop of closer “WOMB.” The lines between life and the afterlife are blurred. “I hope grief becomes easier for people while listening to this record,” she adds. “That they can enjoy this life to the fullest knowing we’re all just here to grow, create, feel, and have shared experiences with one another to help each other evolve.” Below, Martinez walks through her new album in a track-by-track guide she wrote exclusively for Apple Music. “DEATH” “One day, I sat in the portal room alone and started singing melodies. I heard a spirit with a completely different tone than mine repeat a melody I had sung out loud in the silence and it sent a chill down my body. I was really scared at first, then continued on, using that moment as confirmation from the other side. I laid down the chords; I added a simple drum loop in the chorus. That was later replaced by production from my favorite collaborator CJ Baran, as well as live drums from Ilan Rubin of Nine Inch Nails, who also put drums down for a couple of other songs.” “VOID” “This is the first song I fully produced on my own, also in the portal room. The first thing I put down was that bass guitar top line—it was an exact melody from a voice memo I had recorded a few days prior. The chorus melody and lyric came all at once just from looping the bassline. I put down a simple programmed drum loop that was later replaced and mixed in with live drums by Rhys Hastings.“ “TUNNEL VISION” “I wrote this song while in Hawaii in February 2021 with Kinetics & One Love. We were surrounded by coqui frogs singing to us, the sound of rain hitting the roof, and pure connection.” “FAERIE SOIRÉE” “There were many days I sat in the portal room wanting to create outside of my own perspective. I asked Jeff Levin (my A&R) to send me as many folders as possible of instrumental tracks created by different producers. After searching through the folders for a while, there was one track labeled ‘Respect Vol 1’ by this producer named Hoskins that struck me. It was an infectious drum groove over a guitar top line. I wrote the song very quickly.” “LIGHT SHOWER” “There is a place in the afterlife people under hypnosis describe as a soul cleansing, a place where gem-colored rays of light shine through every inch of your soul, cleansing your spirit of the trauma it had experienced during your last lifetime. I remember reading about this sitting on the roof of my garage. A few weeks later I sat in my bathtub with my guitar and stayed up all night writing a love song about this light. It was also the very first song I ever wrote for this album.” “SPIDER WEB” “‘SPIDER WEB’ is written about social media’s chokehold on society. I wrote this one on my guitar in the portal room, recorded a voice memo of it, and sent it to CJ. He created an incredible instrumental track for it that same day and even created the perfect drop using his own mouth sounds that gave it that extra spidery feel.” “LEECHES” “The next few songs are about conflict on earth. Living in the most vapid and isolating city of Los Angeles, I decided to write ‘LEECHES’ about people who live here for the wrong reasons, and how they act around people in the spotlight.” “BATTLE OF THE LARYNX” “This was the last song that was written and added to the album. I wrote this one to be about two different conflict styles: one person who yells a bunch of nothing really loudly to try and intimidate, and the other who can calmly and concisely use their words and wit to prove their point.” “THE CONTORTIONIST” “This conflict song is about bending over backwards for someone who doesn’t accept you as you are.” “MOON CYCLE” “I wrote this song in the portal room alone over a guitar loop by Pearl Lion. On each of my albums, I like to include at least one ‘taboo’ song about something many people deal with, but no one talks about in music: I wanted to write a fun, lighthearted song about being a person who experiences menstruation, how blood represents vitality and life. I wanted the chorus to be pretty and to use analogies for bleeding that were sweet. The rumbling sounds that lead into the song are my actual period cramps, recorded on my phone. With the conflict of patriarchal society brainwashing straight cis men to believe they should have any kind of say over other people’s bodies, I wanted to make the song extra uncomfy for them by going on to describe a man who lives for period sex.” “NYMPHOLOGY” “The ending interlude of this song is actually called ‘Amulet.’ My partner Verde was cleaning out his computer and an instrumental randomly started playing and my ears perked up. It was a track he had produced years ago that was just sitting there collecting digital dust. I immediately wrote over it, but writing a full song for it was difficult. I loved it so much and had no idea what to do with it. One day in the studio I randomly was like, ‘Hmm, maybe “Amulet” can be an interlude after a song,’ and as fate had it, the very last note of ‘NYMPHOLOGY’ is the very first note of ‘Amulet.’ A perfect puzzle piece.” “EVIL” “My favorite of the conflict songs. It flowed. It was a mental turning point, where I was finally able to articulate perfectly what I had dealt with in my last relationship. I wanted the lyrics to be the most savage—every time I wrote something, I was like, ‘No, it’s not mean enough.’ It’s about dealing with a narcissist who ironically calls you evil because you’re able to see through them. I spent the entire day blowing out my vocals recording it.” “WOMB” “I knew I wanted the album to end on the title ‘WOMB.’ This was one of the earliest songs, written in 2020. I had a session one day with Omer Fedi, and he started playing these guitar chords that were so beautiful, I asked him to play it on loop while I stared at the corner of the room, quickly writing lyrics. CJ and I had Rhys come in and record live drums around two years later to complete it. This song is written from the perspective of entering a new lifetime—the nerves and excitement that arises when you’re about to let your human experience on earth move your progression forward.”

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