Melanie Martinez has always felt like an outsider. "I was picked on when I was younger for being super emotional," says the 21-year-old singer-songwriter, who grew up on New York's Long Island. "I didn't have a lot of friends." Today, though, she can claim a cult of teen admirers as a rare Voice success story who finally broke through when she embraced her not-fit-for-network-TV surrealist-pop impulses.
The daughter of Puerto Rican and Dominican parents, Martinez channeled this adolescent alienation into her first full-length, Cry Baby, a concept album about a young woman struggling with teenage issues like family, boys and body image through the proxy world of sinister teddy bears, fairytale villains and nursery iconography. This cathartic approach resonated so deeply with the Tumblr generation that Cry Baby debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 and has since gone gold, with no commercial radio airplay.