Featuring dancing and theatrics, Martinez’s sold-out show at The National on October 19th was a significant upgrade from her last sold-out Richmond show.
When singer-songwriter Melanie Martinez came to The National three years ago, she was an up and coming artist. The “Pity Party” singer was on tour promoting her debut album, Crybaby, a concept album revolving around a fictional character based on Martinez’s own life story. On the album, Martinez used childlike themes on songs like “Dollhouse” and “Mrs. Potato Head,” masking the dark themes at the heart of the songs.
Yet, her performance at the National three years ago didn’t meet the expectations that Crybaby created. Unless you were in the front row, you could barely see Martinez as she pranced around the stage, singing through the 13-track album and the bonus tracks featured on the deluxe edition. Outside of a few props that she used during select songs, her stage presence was about as visible as she was. Most of the energy at that show came from the audience hyping her up.
By contrast, in 2019 when she returned to Richmond, Martinez is no longer a fresh face. After the success of her debut, Martinez faced controversy after being accused of sexually assaulting a former close friend, Timothy Heller. The allegations remain unresolved to this day, with fans having to choose who they believe.
However, Martinez has carried on, and released her follow up to Crybaby, K-12, on Sept. 6th. K-12 continues Crybaby’s story as she enters school. The album shares thematic similarities to Crybaby, with Martinez using childlike topics to mask the dark stories presented. Along with her sophomore album, Martinez released an accompanying film of the same name.
For her second performance at the historic Richmond venue, Martinez brought the K-12 film set with her. The event began with a video presentation in which a woman introduces herself as the substitute teacher and lectures to the class (the audience) about “bus etiquette; respecting each other as like how you would be respected.” This was followed by Martinez and her dancers coming onstage and opening the show with “Wheels on the Bus,” against a bus backdrop.
Back by a live band that included a harpist, Martinez danced and sung through the 13 tracks on K-12 in sequence. The concert basically became a live musical, mimicking the events that happened in the K-12 film. Between songs, when Martinez and her dancers weren’t on stage, the set would transition to the set for the next song, adding the props necessary for a dramatic performance of the upcoming track.
During the performance of “Strawberry Shortcake,” Martinez performed in a giant inflatable dress; throughout the song, her dancers emerged from underneath it. Along with set changes, Martinez and her dancers went through four costume changes over the course of the show.
The main set ended with a dramatic performance of K-12‘s closing song, “Recess.” Against a heart-shaped window backdrop, Martinez wore a Victorian-style dress, walking down a grass-covered runaway as she sang. Towards the end of the song, rose-colored confetti fell from the sky as the backdrop changed from the window to a garden.
Martinez returned for an encore before saying good-bye to her fans, performing a few songs from Crybaby and ending the evening with an unreleased song entitled “Fire Drill.”
Unlike her performance at the National three years ago, this time around, Martinez brought her A-game. On top of the dancing and the set design, the lighting was better. Even with all the dancers onstage to accompany her, Martinez didn’t fade into the background. She kept up with all the dancers, making sure that she was always the star of the show. While I’d consider Crybaby a better album, the K-12 show gave the songs from that album a new life.
K-12 is currently available on streaming platforms, or you can purchase the album here.
Music Sponsored By Graduate Richmond