When the quirky-pop songbird Melanie Martinez appeared on The Voice's third season, she blazed her own trail of innovative arrangements and off-beat performances. Her covers of Britney Spears' "Toxic, White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" and Young The Giant's "Cough Syrup" set her apart and cut through the noise as a true, remarkably talented artist.
Looking back at her time on the show, she admits to Popdust, exclusively, that there are a few songs she wished she had been able to do. "I actually wanted to sing ‘Video Games’ by Lana Del Rey and ‘Creep’ by Radiohead my last time, when I sang ‘Crazy’ instead," she shares. "I do [the second one] at my live shows all the time. They didn’t want me to do it because it wasn’t familiar to people or something..."
She adds, "I'm almost happy I didn’t get to do the songs I wanted because I think those are really strong songs. I think I would have been able to stay another week or so. Everything happens for a reason."
Overall, Martinez is fond of her time on the show. "I really am happy that I got up to where I did and didn’t necessarily win it," she admits. "If I would have won, I would be in a completely different position and wouldn’t have grown as much as an artist as I have. I’m really happy, too, with where my music is right now. I don’t think I would’ve been as excited about my career if I had won [the show]."
As far as doing covers week-in and week-out, the singer-songwriter is pretty honest of the dark reality of doing a singing competition. She explains, "It’s a completely different world when you are on a singing show in front of a camera than when you are actually in your career. I feel like I want to make it aware to people who want to audition for singing shows that there’s a very high chance that you could not do music afterwards."
"There are some parts of it that are really disappointing," she admits. "You can get that minute of fame and then it goes away. Then, you kind of feel like you’re nothing. That’s when people stop working hard. They kind of fall off completely. That’s why it’s really hard to bring yourself up after a singing show."
"That’s my only advice to people that wanna do it: You’ve got to be able to work hard after," she advises.
In case her fans are wondering, she is still in contact with her coach and mentor Adam Levine, "He’s extremely supportive [of my music]. He’s a really awesome dude."
With the show behind her, Martinez has been writing and recording for her possible debut album or EP. Her current single is the eery "Dollhouse," which features metallic sounds and an ominous atmosphere. She co-wrote the song with Kinetics and One Love, and it was sparked by an adoration for toys. Of the songwriting process, she details, "That was our first-ever writing session together. That was the first time we met, too, and the first song we came up with. We were really inspired off toy sounds. That was the first thing I brought up in the session."
"I really want toy sounds in all of my songs, and I want it to be a cohesive body of work, basically," she notes, citing the exact meaning of the song. "So, we started with toy sounds and thought it sounded like a dollhouse. We just rolled with that. Then, we thought of it as a doll family. We wanted to have a double meaning for how people view celebrities and how they put them in boxes. It’s like they’re dolls, and they have to put on a facade and act like like things they’re not."
"All their fans know it and know no human is perfect. We dehumanize celebrities. It’s really weird," she says.
And to be clear, Martinez did not draw from her personal life for the song, contrary to internet rumors. "I have a great family life. I just love to tell stories," she clarifies.
The song's music video (below) features the singer front-and-center in a brutal and haunting tale. How does she come off so creepy? "I think that’s just kind of how I act naturally with a few of my songs. In my head, I’m not thinking I’m being 'creepy.' I’m simply acting like a doll as I wanted it to be portrayed. If it came off as creepy, that’s cool. That was also the vibe," she laughs in her cute way.
Even though the video has compelling Child's Play (and Chucky doll) overtones, it is not based on any horror movies. "Well, I’m not inspired by them to write at all, but I love horror movies," she says. "That’s actually my favorite genre. I don’t really like anything else. I don’t like action. I love anything suspenseful and anything that’ll get me to scream or freak out or not be able to sleep."
On her favorite scary flick: "’The Shining’ is my favorite, always has been."
Back to her intriguing music, she has gotten plenty of comparisons to Fiona Apple and Lorde, but Martinez doesn't "really think about them."
"People are always going to compare people to other people," she cautions. "There’s nothing new under the sun. The whole point of artists is to better ourselves always. I feel like we have to stand on our toes and not to change but always upgrade, almost. If we’re inspired by things, we can’t be exactly that. We have to make it our own, and our personality has to really come to life with our music. I don’t really mind the comparisons."
"Dollhouse" isn't the only song she's written the past year that draws from child-like wonder. She describes another: "I have one that’s called ‘Carousel,’ and it’s like a creepy, carnival kind of tune. It also has a really heavy beat. It’s really fun. I think the thing with all my songs is I wanted to have the same element: a little kid. I call my music ‘a heavy child.’ It’d be like a genre, with a heavy beat but with a children’s music box in the background -- really weird stuff like that."
She adds, "It’s all inspired off my childhood, little things that remind me of that time. I love carousels and always have. I just wanted to write a song about it and turn it into this really sad love story. It’s like me and someone that I’m in love with on a carousel. I’m behind them, and it just spins and spins. You can never reach the person because you’re glued to the carousel and can’t move. That’s what I felt in one of my relationships. So, I wrote a song about it in that way."
When the singer does release a full-length record, it could very well be concept album. She says, "All of them are basically like ‘Dollhouse.’ Not every single one has a very vivid concept like that, but they are all different stories. You’ll be able to tell what story is what."
In addition to Kinetics and One Love, she's also been working with Robopop, "He’s really awesome. Those are the two I’ve been working with the most and kind of my favorites at the moment. Those are two producers and writers I really feel comfortable with. They understand my vision."
Don't forget to grab a copy of "Dollhouse" on iTunes now!