Feb. 18, 2023, marked the death of Crybaby — aka, Melanie Martinez’s beloved character from her debut and visual album, “K-12.” The singer’s second album marked itself as a beautiful creation that not only allowed them to experiment with a storyline about a demonic character but also explore messages about self-love and identity all while critiquing higher education.

Martinez’s new album “PORTALS” features the singer as a pink creature with four large eyes, fairy wings and a flowery dress. Their new look was fully shown in their single’s music video “DEATH,” where Martinez’s Crybaby character is seen laying on the earth as their new body emerges from it. Rather than the typical pastel pink and blues from past settings, Martinez reimagines a new environment filled with pastel green hues of nature and new oddities.

Tracks such as “TUNNEL VISION,” “FAERIE SOIRÉE” and “SPIDER WEB” take on a different approach in their rhythm as they contain a lighter feeling, pulling listeners into Martinez’s fantastical journey. This is especially felt in “VOID,” the second released single and Martinez’s first solo-produced song. Though it begins with a cheerful tone, the song’s beats pick up speed and release emotions of feeling trapped in one’s thoughts. There’s a certain anguish in Martinez’s voice, causing “VOID” to feel personal as they reflect on their mental health journey.

“LIGHT SHOWERS” is one of the slower tracks on the album. Its somber lyrics allude to finding that safe person for oneself and wanting to be with them forever, but Martinez doesn’t sugarcoat the desire in wanting to devour that person and remain infinitely together: “You’re a shower of light I’d devour any day of the week / Baby, cleanse me.” The seventh track, “LEECHES,” follows the aforementioned track’s use of string instrumentation as it draws upon the ways people portray themselves around others.

Similar to past songs, Martinez utilizes sound effects in “THE CONTORTIONIST” such as the crunching of broken bones and Martinez’s signature laughter that bellows throughout the chorus. The song begins as a soft, almost playful tune and later evokes sorrow and anxiety as power dynamics in relationships are critiqued. “(Bones are crushing, bones are crushing) Pushin’ me / (Body’s touching, body’s touching) Lovin’ me” repeat in the pre-chorus, creating a sense of desperation of having to meet a partner’s expectations to continue being loved.

“MOON CYCLE” plays with strings as the track hits upon the stereotypes against menstruation and adds a flair of criticism toward misogynistic views. “It’s so scary how my aura got him howling at my moon cycle, baby” may cause some to squirm and recoil, but it illuminates a taboo subject about menstrual cycles that certain audiences may not find appealing.

Straying away from pop sounds, “EVIL” kicks on a synth-rock rhythm as Martinez fully embraces the idea of leaving a toxic relationship. Their voice chants the lyrics powerfully and makes listeners root for Martinez’s closure. The album closes with “WOMB,” a track that feels down-to-earth with hipster elements as Martinez’s character and musical career are reborn.

After “PORTALS” was released, Martinez went on Instagram to say, “This album is the last part of Crybaby’s trilogy.” The journey of this character has evolved from childhood to adolescence, and now appears to be on a new journey within the afterlife, and as Martinez describes her, as a spirit.

Verdict: “PORTALS” encapsulates Melanie Martinez’s return to music with an ethereal-like essence and brutal honesty.