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Released: 2019

Underneath the shimmering veneer of Melanie Martinez’s “High School Sweethearts,” there’s a biting honesty about the highs and lows of romantic relationships. Martinez weaves rules of engagement into the fabric of this song, drafting an agreement for her partner that demands authenticity, commitment, and passion. Think of it as a manual for navigating the tumultuous sea of love, given with a heavy dose of cynicism and draped in high school nostalgia.

Let’s start with the opening: “Can we just be honest? These are the requirements…” This clues us into the fact that Martinez isn’t here to play games. She wants a partner able to meet her needs fully. The ghostly, haunting refrain “I will rip your fuckin’ face apart” might sound a tad violent, but it’s more metaphorical – a promise of retribution if heartbreak ensues. It’s a power play, swiftly establishing the consequences of crossing her emotionally.

The numbered steps that follow are where things get punchy. “You must accept that I’m a little out my mind” – A candid ode to her quirks and eccentricities. Any suitor must be willing to love her, with all her outlandish tendencies intact. The fourth step, begging for more passion, underscored by the antithesis: “If you can’t handle a heart like mine… Go home”. This is a clear warning against half-hearted endeavors and serves to underline the magnitude of her emotions.

Martinez carries on, further emphasizing her demands for emotional vulnerability and public displays of affection. She reinstates consequences for mistreatment in step seven with the threat, “If you cheat, you will die, die”. The macabre tone, again, serves as a metaphorical stand-in for the emotional damage betrayal can cause.

And then, of course, there’s the chorus: “High school sweethearts, line up.” Martinez takes aim at the idealistic portrayal of high school relationships. Such relationships are often painted as the pinnacle of romance in popular culture. Here, she throws her hat into the ring, unapologetically broadcasting her standards and sifting through potential suitors like a prospector panning for gold.

In the closing verses, Martinez dares to show vulnerability, seeking comfort in the wake of emotional turbulence. References to “salty face when I start crying” and “could you be my first time” exhibit an openness and sensitivity that stand in stark contrast to the bold assertions made earlier. The combination creates a layered portrayal of a young woman grappling with the complexities of love and loss.

In essence, Melanie Martinez’s “High School Sweethearts” is a potent mix of power ballad and confrontational creed. It’s an ultimatum set to music, breaking down the beautifully chaotic process of falling in love into a dozen concrete steps, each one more audacious than the last. But beneath it all, it’s an ode to vulnerability, a call for transparency, and a testament to the intoxicating, maddening rollercoaster that is love.

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