Melanie Martinez is a tiny cupcake that must be protected at all costs. She has spent a lot of time feeling alone in the past but her Cry Baby World Tour has proven that today, she’ll never be alone again. Her sell out show at Auckland’s Powerstation this past Friday is one that I’ll be raving about for decades.

She walked into the venue only to be greeted by 50 meet and greet ticket holders who would love nothing more than to consider Melanie a friend. The tears, yelps of excitements, copy-cat outfits, and personalised gifts all said “I love you” better than words ever could.

I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more.

Time was limited, with only 45 minutes to get through everyone, yet all 50 of us were still made to feel important. Perhaps it’s her past experience of being an outcast that has made her such a kind person but I am more inclined to believe that she is simply inherently angelic.

Melanie made her way around the line wearing a full length vintage pink dress, protecting herself from the New Zealand winter with a baby pink puffer jacket covered in hearts (and yes, she pulled it off in a big way) and hugged every single one of us. If that wasn’t enough, there were more hugs and compliments to come with the professional photo, which meant more tears and more melting hearts.

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I wish I could put into words just how sweet Melanie truly is. Her giggle could turn even the most bitter of souls to honey. I have taken part in meet and greets that have left me wondering whether I’m crying because I’m ecstatic to have met them or because I was disappointed with the experience. In this case, there was no disappointment, only complete satisfaction and happiness at how the entire thing went down.

After the rest of the crowd entered the venue, it was time for support act Openside to take to the stage. The powerpop group are scoring the opening slot for so many international acts that you’d have to be living under a musical rock to not know who they are. I have infinite good things to say about Openside. Despite having a limited catalogue, they always perform with an energy that seeps into the crowd as soon as the first notes are played. I love the fact that they always throw in a cover as well, being well aware that, as a support act, playing a song that everyone will know is extremely important when warming up a crowd.

Then Openside left the stage, the letter blocks that spelt out Cry Baby were revealed, and a back drop sporting a body-less bunny, sitting in a pool of jammy blood was raised. That’s typical Melanie: Cute and childlike with a darker undertone. She’s a walking oxymoron.

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Opening with Cry Baby, the title track and inspiration for her debut album, Melanie showcased her awkward, zombielike dance moves for what would be the first of many times during the show, flashing her vintage 50s tattoos and shoe-less feet in the process. As someone who was once told by a friend that they couldn’t sympathise with me anymore, because “you just cry all the time”, I connect to this song in a big way. For me, it felt like the only way to open the Cry Baby Tour. Immediately, it was evident that Melanie is a natural performer. She is awkward, yes, but in a way that assures you that she knows exactly what she is doing.

“The next song is the first song I ever released from this album.”

Cue Dollhouse – a track about the sinister secrets behind the “perfect” nuclear family. It was during this track that I realised Melanie was making eye contact with every individual in the first few rows of the crowd and singing directly to each one of us. There is something so personal about this, especially when so many artists will keep up an onstage persona, avoiding any kind of crowd interaction. When you’re sharing these lyrics with the person who wrote them, it truly feels as though you’re a part of the show, rather than just a cog in a money making machine.

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The start of Sippy Cup was slowed down to sound like something out of a horror movie. Think the twins in the hotel corridor in The Shining. It was also a great sing-along opportunity for the audience with Melanie acting as our conductor. In fact, almost all of the songs allowed for the audience to showcase our voices, in particular Alphabet Boy where Melanie used her vocal break as an opportunity to glide across the stage in her own wacky way.

Soap is probably one of my favourite songs on Cry Baby so seeing it live was always going to be special. As it turns out, as well as showing off some of those sick dance moves, it also ended up being the first time during the show that I picked up on some seriously real emotions coming from Melanie. I felt completely involved in what was happening on stage and the emotions flowed perfectly into the next song on the setlist, Training Wheels.

“This next one is a love song. I want you to sing as loud as you can with me! This one is dedicated to you.”

As it turns out, Training Wheels makes me cry. A lot. You know when you just want a boy to fully commit and you don’t understand why he won’t and he’s all like “Yeahhh, but I’m moving back to England. And also I already have a girlfriend that I haven’t told you about.” and suddenly it all makes sense? Maybe not. Regardless, the live performance of this song is what triggered the connection between the two and I think the ability to evoke something in someone that they didn’t get out of the studio recording is something really special. Melanie performed it wonderfully live, her voice is unfalteringly beautiful at all times and it only reinforced the connection that I felt with her during Soap.

Fully aware that she needed to pick up the mood a little, Melanie introduced Pity Party with “Alright let’s have some fun!!” And have fun we did, particularly towards the end, where, in the recorded track, there’s a neurotic scream which the crowd had to recreate. My eardrums were shot, but it was so fun that I forgot to care. There’s something to be said for a performer that knows exactly how their audience will respond to certain things and Melanie has this down to a T, again, further reinforcing her bond with her fans.

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Tag, You’re It, and Milk and Cookies are two songs that come hand in hand, throwing a kidnapping, a hostage situation, and an escape into 6 and a half minutes. Whilst they’re probably my least favourites on the album, they translate to a live performance marvellously – particularly the harrowing, low voice situation that represents a creepy dude kidnapping Cry Baby in Tag, You’re It. It shows off Melanie’s insane vocal range perfectly leaving no doubt that she is incredibly talented.

Pacify Her once again showcased Melanie’s sexier side. As she sung the line “boy just love me down, down, down”, she slid her hand down her body, resting on her crotch. Her sexuality is so subtle – buried in amongst all the pastel and the teddy bears – that’s it even more impacting than if she were to come on the stage wearing only her underwear. It’s encouraging to know that the juxtaposition of the childlike sounds vs the adult themes doesn’t just exist in the recordings but continues to be brought to life in her live shows, too.

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Melanie is like that mum who tries to pretend that Santa isn’t coming on Christmas. But the kids all know that the presents are coming. When she said the words “these are the last two songs for the evening!”, we danced to Mrs Potato Head (aka the best song in existence) and Mad Hatter as though we believed her. As though we didn’t know an encore was coming after the lights dimmed and her and her teddy bear band members walked off the stage.

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You think I’m psycho, you think I’m gone. Tell the psychiatrist something is wrong.

They returned mere seconds later to screams which soon died down once Melanie put a finger to her lips in an attempt to quieten us for Gingerbread Man – a track that didn’t make it onto Cry Baby but is still just as well known amongst fans. With the crowd almost silent, the eerie undertones of the track became apparent and echoed around the room, sending chills with them, making it easily the best part of the set.

“This is the last one for tonight, I will see you all soon, this one’s called Cake!”

She thanked us and said she’d be back with the new album and then, suddenly, it was over. Post concert depression doesn’t hit me very often anymore, but as soon as those lights went up I felt a wave of sadness roll over me. When the show was announced, I knew it would be one of the best of the year and I wasn’t wrong. Melanie’s humble gratitude (she must have said “thank you” at least 14 times), her unique take on music and imagery, and her pure talent make her the freshest thing on the market right now. The Cry Baby Tour was unforgettable.

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Setlist

Cry Baby
Dollhouse
Sippy Cup
Carousel
Alphabet Boy
Soap
Training Wheels
Pity Party
Tag, You’re It
Milk and Cookies
Pacify Her
Mrs. Potato Head
Mad Hatter

Encore
Gingerbread Man
Cake

Feature photo credit to Jamie Miller.

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