Stepping through ‘Portals’ to new eras

Melanie Martinez’s concert at WAMU Theatre fostered lasting friendships among fans, bringing new mythological feelings to music

Isabella Tranello, Features Editor

On February 18, 2023, Melanie Martinez released the first teaser to her new album, “Portals,” on her Instagram. The post was a video of a giant mushroom that, when zoomed in on, had a single heart carved into the middle that read, “R.I.P. Crybaby.” The music accompanying this post would soon be known as the first track on the album, “Death.” 

This post would confirm what most fans speculated leading up to the release of Martinez’s album, her beloved character from her first two albums, Crybaby, was dead. Well, at least as she appeared in the physical world. Melanie performs in her new music videos and on stage as a pink-skinned, four-eyed fairy-like creature created in place of Crybaby. 

Some fans were upset to hear that not only was Crybaby dead, but also the music from the albums “Crybaby” and “K-12” would not be performed on the “Portals” Tour.  Despite some fans’ disappointment, Martinez performed a spectacular show at the WAMU Theatre in Seattle on Saturday, June 3. Her setlist consisted only of songs from “Portals,” but she performed all 13 songs from the album, plus the three bonus songs from the deluxe edition. 

Before fans even heard Martinez sing their favorite songs from the new album, they had to wait outside the venue in the hot sun. The show began late because of unforeseen circumstances, leaving all fans, including those with VIP Portals Experience and VIP Early Entry, wondering if they would ever get inside.

Hands of fans playing UNO on the concrete ground outside of the WAMU Theatre in Seattle (Isabella Tranello)

Despite how hot it was outside and how difficult it was for fans to wait to enter the venue, they found camaraderie and friendship with fellow fans. People from many different backgrounds, even countries like Canada, gathered around each other and formed bonds. Some even made circles on the ground and engaged in a classic battle of UNO as they waited for the kind and accommodating security guards to let them know it was time to enter. 

At about 6 p.m., two hours after they were supposed to go in, VIP Portals Experience ticketholders triumphantly cheered as security began checking their tickets. Inside, they found that the wait was worth it as they experienced an AI photo opportunity with Martinez, a chance to write a letter to the deceased character of Crybaby, photo booth backdrops and exclusive merch, which included a signed tour poster.

A shrine at the VIP Portals Experience dedicated to the character Crybaby featured in the small picture frame (Isabella Tranello)

The floodgates opened once they had finished their private experience and secured the coveted spots on the barricade. Early Entry VIPs and General Admission fans entered the building. 

The room quickly exploded with screaming and eager fans who wanted to get the best spot possible on the open floor of the WAMU. Some even pushed their way to the front of the pack and stood beside those who had secured barricade spots. 

Tanukichan, the opener, began her set at 8:30 p.m., featuring her most popular music. Her music has a heavy-rock influence, and she and her band members played all the songs on their own instruments. There was no backtrack of music accompanying them. 

As they finished their set and helped set up the stage for Martinez, they gave the set list to a fan in the front row, making them scream and jump for joy as the paper hit their fingers. 

About 30 minutes passed before the room went pitch-black, and an eerie fog began to flood the room and stage, marking the long-awaited entrance of Melanie Martinez. The show started with a single candle lit on a screen, and the hauntingly distorted voice of Martinez’s new character floated around, speaking to the audience. 

Fans waited in silence and anticipation as the smoke and fog began to clear and the all-too-familiar words, “Death is life, is death, is life..” started ringing through their ears, signaling that the song “Death” was about to open the show.

The crowd’s roar was deafening as Martinez took the stage and began energetically performing the song, letting the world know that the old Melanie Martinez was gone and that a new era of her music had begun. 

Martinez sang and danced on the stage dressed up as her new character, wearing an all-pink bodysuit, a prosthetic mask, and a green moss-like two-piece that flowed around her as her body moved with the beat of the music. While Martinez’s dance moves throughout the show added excitement to the spectacle, nothing was more impressive than her background dancers.

While they sometimes danced around Melanie in songs like “Death,” “Void,” “Faerie Soiree,” and many others, they also would dance behind her and tell the story of the song as separate beings from Martinez. 

One of the most impactful performances was during the song “The Contortionist,” where one male and female dancer engaged in a fight of sorts and snapped their bodies in unbelievable formations to accompany lyrics such as “Twisted all my limbs for you” and “done doin’ backbends, I break, and I snap.”

Melanie Martinez’s background dancers bending backward for the song “The Contortionist” (Isabella Tranello)

Martinez’s vocals were unwaveringly clear and beautifully heartbreaking in songs like “Light Shower,” where the artist appeared on the brink of tears with every lyric flowing from her mouth. Still, her dancers stole the show, transported fans to another world, and pulled them through the Portal. 

Some fans may want the old Melanie Martinez and Crybaby back, but it is clear that this new era of Martinez’s story and music is alive and well, while the other has been left in the mortal realm and did not survive its “Death.”