Dark Light

Released: 2015

“Dollhouse” by Melanie Martinez is a raw and revealing depiction of a seemingly perfect family, living behind a facade to hide their ugly truths. It explores the unsettling underbelly of domestic life in a society obsessed with appearances.

The song opens with the line, “Hey girl, open the walls, play with your dolls, we’ll be a perfect family,” setting a tone of artificiality and pretense. The “perfect family” is a facade, much like the dollhouse of the title, projecting an image of happy domesticity while hiding tumultuous events from view. When Martinez uses the phrase “this wallpaper glistens,” she’s not talking about a classy Home Decor palette. She’s hinting at the glittering facade that covers crumbling walls, “glistens” symbolising a surface that distracts from the tragedy unfolding beneath.

Pay close attention to Martinez’s repetition of “Please don’t let them look through the curtains.” This refrain underpins the song’s exploration of the facades people erect to conceal their true selves from society’s judgmental gaze. The curtains form a literal barrier separating the ‘picture perfect’ family from the reality of their dysfunction. She’s saying the family dons “doll faces,” meaning they put on a fake show despite reality being different – a mother lost in her jewellery, a cheating father, and a son lost in substance abuse.

When Ms. Martinez chants “D-O-L-L-H-O-U-S-E, I see things that nobody else sees,” she confronts the hidden corners of the dollhouse, or the family’s hidden secrets. By spelling out “dollhouse,” she emphasizes her wokeness to the traps of surface-level perfection – unlike others, she sees the family’s turmoil underneath the polished exterior.

The song wraps up on a somber note, repeating the line “We’ll be a perfect family,” a sarcastic commentary on societal pressures to maintain public appearances. Overall, in “Dollhouse,” Martinez utilizes piercing lyrics, overlaying a grim narrative under childlike innocence to expose the duplicitous nature of a seemingly perfect family. A slice-of-life tale of deception, buried beneath a veneer of normalcy, this song knows how to spill the tea without shattering the porcelain.

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