"I have so much excited anxiety right now," Melanie Martinez said at the premiere of her movie K-12 in Hollywood on Tuesday night (Sept. 3). The singer-songwriter can add film writer and director to her resume with this special project that features music from her new album of the same name. She continues the story of Crybaby from her titular 2015 album as the character goes to a school where fantasy and nightmares come hand-in-hand. Martinez and Crybaby use the Fright School Musical experience to grow into a stronger person and supernatural pop star.
Martinez is most known for her time as a standout finalist on season 3 of The Voice in 2013. Though she didn't win, Melanie was able to transcend her reality TV start with the buzz-worthy Dollhouse EP in 2014. The following year, her debut album Crybaby was released and it garnered many fans along the way. The space in between Crybaby and K-12 may have seemed like downtime for Martinez, but she was hard at work on the latter project.
"I wrote the album first in late 2015 after I put out Crybaby," Martinez said in a Q&A session following the movie. "Summer 2017 is when I started to write the film and that was a process. I handed it in early 2018 and had to do revisions because it was too expensive at first. People think, 'She's just chilling and taking her time.' No, I'm working my ass off. This is a lot of work."
Martinez wrote, directed, and later shot K-12 over a two month period in Budapest once her label Atlantic gave it the green light. "I'm super grateful to have met such incredible friends," she said about her castmates. Alongside bonding with the crew, the new hats Martinez wore for this project were enriching for her both personally and professionally. "Stepping into my confidence and growing as a human and as a director and as a writer, I'm so happy and excited," she added.
After years of work on the K-12 movie and album, ArcLight Cinemas Hollywood hosted the premiere this week. Martinez arrived with her castmates in the pink school bus from the movie and they strolled down the similarly-colored carpet. Lucky fans in attendance were able to get an advanced screening and listen of the project ahead of the worldwide Sept. 5 release.
For K-12 being Martinez's first film, she made some points with the amazing, Guillermo Del Toro-like special effects. Crybaby and her best friend and celestial sister, Angelita, navigate the titular school with special powers that they use to protect themselves from the evil and immoral staff. All 13-tracks on the album soundtrack their mischievous adventures.
Some of the best musical numbers in K-12 see Martinez stepping outside her comfort zone and performing choreography for the first time. For "Show & Tell," she plays a marionette being controlled by a crazy teacher. The pop star really jumps out in the sexy "Detention" and show-stopping "High School Sweethearts" where Martinez slays her dances moves like a seasoned vet. She was choreographed by Brian Friedman, the guy behind some of Britney Spears' most iconic music video routines.
"The choreography is the new kind of aspect for me, which is super exciting because I love dancing now," Martinez said. "Before I was super nervous about it, but I'm really into it now."
As much as K-12 is a wild wonderland, the story lines in it are very much grounded in what's going in right now in the real world. Some of the issues Martinez tackles is transgender workers' rights, the legalization of marijuana, and "liberty and justice never being for all," as said by her African-American classmate. In the bit for "Drama Club," she battles the old archetype of submissive women while having hope for a female president in the future. With "Orange Juice," Martinez highlights the pressures young girls face with unrealistic beauty standards.
"My purpose in life is to make music that in some way, shape, or form can help people heal," Martinez said. "I think it's necessary to talk about uncomfortable topics in art and music. It's uncomfortable but these are real things on a daily basis that we experience, that we see in the news. This is like every day."
Fans and audiences are in for a treat when K-12 rolls through their city. The cool concept behind the visuals and album perfectly comes together to create a fun and unforgettable musical experience. In the fall, Martinez will also tour the album across the country. She is going to do her best to bring parts of the movie to life in her shows.
"I'm really trying to rely all the different vignettes from the movie - every song and its individual story - and try to capture that moment onstage," Martinez said. "I'm trying to add other elements to it. I mean I used scent machines during the Crybaby Tour as well, but for this one I think it will be much more impactful for 'Orange Juice.' It's like the orange tree and its pouring out juice and you can like smell the oranges. Things like that. I'm just trying to make it more immersive."
As another chapter in the Crybaby saga closes with K-12, Martinez revealed that she already the future of her star character in mind.
"I can't say what the next part of her story is because it will be too much of a spoiler, but what I can say is that she will definitely evolve and grow, just not in a literal way," Martinez said. "It's not going to be like she's going to college now. Her being will evolve and transform. I have my next two films with albums planned out already."
The K-12 movie will show in theaters around the world on Sept. 5. The album drops on Sept. 6.
Photo composite courtesy of Atlantic Records