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LI's Melanie Martinez talks with Newsday about 'After School' album, music video

Baldwin-raised Melanie Martinez performs at Lollapalooza Brazil in

Baldwin-raised Melanie Martinez performs at Lollapalooza Brazil in 2017 in Sao Paulo. Credit: Getty Images/Mauricio Santana

Baldwin-raised Melanie Martinez, whose "K-12" reached No. 3 on the Billboard 200 album chart last year, has released a thematic follow-up: the seven-song EP "After School," the initial music video for which has racked up 15.3 million views in a little over two weeks.

While the song "The Bakery" is lyrically about an after-school job Martinez held during her Baldwin High School days, the video uses "bakery" as a metaphor for how artists are commoditized and packaged, the 25-year-old told Newsday last week, speaking by phone from Los Angeles.

After opening in a dollhouse-like kitchen where a pink-and-white rabbit — Martinez herself, expertly miming in full costume — is baking cookies, the video turns cheerfully nightmarish. The singer, cracked from an egg, drops into flour; as part of the dough, she is rolled flat like a gingerbread woman. Baked, decorated and delivered by the rabbit to a grandmother — Martinez's childhood friend Jacqueline Molina in octogenarian makeup and prosthetics — she is eaten, singing to the last in a pool of blood-red jelly. Intercut throughout is Martinez as herself, dancing amid a cherry-frosted fantasy.

"It is something that I go through as an artist, feeling like the industry I'm in sees me as a product," she said, pointing to another new song that's more explicit on the topic, "Numbers." "Having to mix business and creative is always difficult for artists because we don't want to compromise on our vision. We want to be able to create and express ourselves freely, but," she added pragmatically, "we have to deal with the business aspect as well, which can be very tricky."

Martinez — who wrote, directed and starred in the phantasmagoric movie-musical "K-12" that grew out of her videos for that album — nonetheless extolled how her record label, Atlantic, nurtures her creativity. But she works for it. "I just kept sending them video treatments," she recalled, "and over time, they realized the importance of the videos, because they saw that people were connecting with them. And so they thought it was an aspect of my career or my art that was worth investing in, and I'm very grateful."

For "The Bakery" video, which she directed, choreographed and costume-designed, "I drew a storyboard and sent it to them with a video treatment that detailed what shot comes in at what time in the song … and I gathered all of the visual references for the core things. If the set designer sent me photos or drawings, I would redraw or edit the things I wanted to and sent it back to them" at the Los Angeles production company Summercamp.

As a singer, Martinez gained national attention at 17 when she reached the Top 6 on NBC's "The Voice" in 2012. Martinez is the daughter of Jose and Mery Martinez (her parents moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, a couple of years ago with her brother Joseph, now 21). She went on to release the EP "Dollhouse" (2014), followed by the platinum album "Cry Baby" (2015) — for which every one of its 13 songs individually went gold or platinum.

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She is moving eventually toward filmmaking, she said. "I will always put out albums, but I like [film and music] together for the pure reason that you are able to express the story more clearly. Audio covers only one of the human senses. I feel like that's not enough to get the full picture of a story," Martinez said. She said she is about 50 pages in on a film script, "and my album can be the soundtrack that accompanies it, as opposed to it being the narrative as a performance piece."

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