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Audience invited into Melanie Martinez's "perfectly-curated madness" during OKC stop

Image via Warner Music
Melanie Martinez recently performed at the Diamond Ballroom in Oklahoma City.
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- I seriously underestimated the appeal of Melanie Martinez. 

Her show at the Diamond Ballroom on Friday night wasn’t even set to start until 8 o’clock. But when I pulled into the parking lot at 6:30, there was already a line stretching around the venue and out along the street that looked at least a half-mile long. 

And I’m not exaggerating when I say at least half of the fans waiting fervently in line were decked out in some outlandish costume honoring Martinez. One young woman looked like a real-life Corpse Bride wearing a white wedding dress with a beehive hairstyle complete with baby rattles sticking out. Another was wearing a skin-tight rainbow jumpsuit with equally garish makeup and green-colored pigtails. A young boy with his mother was wearing heels and bright red lipstick with the official t-shirt from Martinez’s ongoing Cry Baby Tour, of which this date at the Diamond Ballroom was a part of. 

And here I was thinking I was a big fan. 

At 21, with only one studio album, 2015’s Cry Baby, to her name, Martinez has already amassed legions of devoted fans. Which is especially surprising since her initial claim to fame was when she auditioned for The Voice in 2012, became a member of Team Adam, and was eliminated by the fifth week. 

But while she failed to make much of an impact on The Voice (but honestly, who does?), she quickly caught on once she unleashed her inner weird and started releasing original content. With her distinctive visual style, quirky costumes, and ever-changing hair colors, Martinez is an unabashed weirdo who always looks like she just stepped out of a Tim Burton movie. Let me put it this way: If Hot Topic ever released their own version of Candyland, it’s fair to say that Melanie would be one of its characters. 

But before we would get sucked into Melanie’s twisted little world, we had indie-pop group Handsome Ghost to tide us over. At first they seemed like an odd choice to open for Martinez. After all she’s a frantic and fanciful pop star with an adult baby fetish, so what were these guys from Boston doing onstage wearing beanies? 

But that hardly mattered once they got into the swing of things. Sometimes I forget that it’s better to have an opening act who isn’t a carbon copy of the headliner, but instead a nice parallel to shake things up. And with a sound infused with everything from pop to R&B, Handsome Ghost had the crowd grooving with them by the end of their set. 

Lead singer Tim Noyes has a soulful quality to his voice that was especially apparent on a standout track like “Graduate.” They certainly owe a lot to the hazy New Wave sound of the 80’s, and you could almost imagine hearing their song “Promises” in a John Hughes movie. That’s just how catchy and nostalgic Handsome Ghost’s sound is, and I think the crowd’s uproarious applause at the end of their set proves that I wasn’t the only one who thought this. 

I’ve been to a lot of shows at a lot of venues both big and small. And I can say with complete certainty that I’ve never seen a crowd react the way the one at the Diamond Ballroom did when Melanie Martinez stepped out. Her two-piece band were wearing animal costumes, the stage was adorned with an oversized birthday cake, and the backdrop depicted teddy bears with bleeding eyeballs. 

And with the sound of her breakout hit “Cry Baby” echoing throughout the sound-system, Martinez popped out of an adult-sized crib on the corner of the stage. I actually think my ears may’ve started bleeding from the hordes of 16-year old girls screaming with glee at the sight of the pint-sized pop princess. 

Martinez’s Cry Baby is a concept album that tells that story of a girl from her beginnings in a dysfunctional family and follows her through hardships related to everything from romantic relationships to self-image. With themes of abuse, heartbreak, depression, and substance abuse, the music itself is surprisingly chipper. And that’s because Martinez filters these complex themes through a child’s worldview, making for an album that’s as fun and danceable as it is sneakily depressing. 

Martinez’s show reflected this sensibility well. The performer herself was having a helluva time, repeatedly expressing to the crowd how grateful she was to be in Oklahoma City and share her music with her fans, aptly titled “Crybabies.” Wearing a light-pink sailor gown with perfectly straightened hair, Martinez never stopped flitting and twirling around the stage during the 15-song set. 

“Dollhouse” was a definite standout, with its creepy undercurrent made especially macabre as a live performance. Telling the story of a family that only appears ideal on the outside, Martinez had a crazed look in her eyes singing “Place, places, get in your places, throw on your dress and put on your doll faces. Everyone thinks that we’re perfect, please don’t let them look through the curtains.” 

With its ridiculous bubble-popping sound effects, “Soap” is a sleek electropop number that recounts the regrets Martinez has about expressing herself to a presumed lover. While she sang lyrics like “God I wish I never spoke, now I gotta wash my mouth out with soap,” bubbles were even blown into the already manic crowd. 

Even if Martinez wasn’t much a talker in-between songs, her singing voice was beyond spectacular. Her whispery mezzo-soprano brings a sort of elegance to her twisted nursery rhymes. At times, like during the twinkly “Training Wheels,” she sounded like she might burst out in tears powering through the last chorus. But then she’d flip a switch and passionately scream her way through her hit “Pity Party,” which samples Lesley Gore’s 1963 classic “It’s My Party” to chilling effect. 

As a whole, the show was a uniquely bizarre experience. It was a sensory assault filled with flashing lights, outlandish costumes from both the performers and the audience members, and crying baby sound effects. But it was all a sort of perfectly-curated madness that invited the audience to join the fun instead of cautiously standby. With her Cry Baby Tour, Melanie Martinez has crafted a communal madhouse where she invites her fans to come and join her on a quest for love, lust, and happiness. 

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About the Author

Keaton Bell

Born in Minnesota but raised in Oklahoma, Keaton is a senior at the University of Oklahoma...

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