Poppy – I Disagree (Album Review)

POPPY – I Disagree
Released: January 10th, 2020

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While innocently passing the time scrolling on Instagram, I happened upon a pale girl with white-blonde hair posting bizarre videos about being a famous robot without so much as a twitch of expression.  Something about her cold eyes and the way she spoke captivated me, and I watched every video she had made. People kept saying “you’re not watching that weird girl again are you?” and I was, I couldn’t stop.  This was my introduction to the enigma that is Poppy.

Poppy is the stage name of/character played by Moriah Rose Pereira who started as a YouTuber.  For those who looked deeply into it, her videos seemed to be a satirical commentary on the state of society and fame. For those looking at a surface level, her videos were just bizarre, with a clinical white background, creepy yet strangely soothing binaural music, an arch-enemy who is a talking mannequin and a plant best friend. Poppy amassed a cult-like following with many joining the Poppy.Church, she gained over 2.5 million YouTube subscribers and almost 900 thousand Instagram followers. Then she decided to go into music.

Her first two albums were not my cup of tea, very pop and electronic and with relatively superficial lyrics about being a girl and the things that famous people have to do. That is until the last two songs on Am I A Girl? ‘Play Destroy’ and ‘X’ which suddenly had heavy guitars and drums and made heavy music lovers sit up and pay attention. Then she released ‘Scary Mask’ with Fever 333 and Poppy made her way into heavy playlists and rotations. Poppy was announced on the Good Things Festival 2019 lineup, and as I did with BABYMETAL the previous year, I made sure I caught her set which was an interesting but great way to start an incredible day.  I have since been waiting in anticipation for the release of I Disagree to see which direction this album would go in.

Speaking to Browny at Good Things, Poppy said that while she was writing Am I A Girl?, most of the songs didn’t match how she was feeling and what she was listening to. She wanted to make an album that kept to the same formula as ‘X’, an album that was a deliberate shift from what she had put out before. She calls this the beginning of “Poppy Version X” and says, “in terms of doing what I wanted to in every element from start-to-finish, this feels like my first album. The narrative is really about destroying the things that try to destroy you.” So has she achieved this and does an album that has a hodgepodge of influences such as Madonna, Air, Gary Numan, Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson, work?

The short answer is yes, mostly, the album is heavier than her previous releases but there is a range of sounds from pop, progressive, electronic, metal and classic rock with a bit of acoustic guitar thrown in. The album starts with a siren that will drive fear into anyone who has played or seen Silent Hill and creepy whispering, followed by the familiar flurry of guitars and double kicker drum in the song ‘Concrete’. This song has a BABYMETAL like sickly-sweet chorus “Chewy, chewy, yummy, yummy, yummy. Sharp and pointy, yummy, yummy, yummy” but also talks about being buried and demons. The listener gets a taste of the fact that this album isn’t going to be as upbeat and positive lyrically as Poppy’s previous albums. The second song ‘I Disagree’ is another excellent example of the emotional and angry turn Poppy’s music has taken. The lyrics speak of unhappiness and anger with how she has been treated and the film clip shows Poppy and her band in a meeting with music executives who she eventually gasses and lights on fire.

The lyrics to Poppy’s song aren’t hugely complex, and she is a fan of repeating phrases, but this works well in the context of the angry, “taking control of your life” theme this album has. The songs are calls to action that encourage the listener to rise up, raise their fist and angrily yell along. This is the case with ‘BLOODMONEY’ which is a highlight on the album. The lyrics demand “What do you believe when everyone is watching? What do you believe?” and “Keep telling yourself that you’ve been playing nice, Then go beg for forgiveness from Jesus the Christ”. The guitar solo in this song is also one of the best on the album, which is saying something because they are all great. ‘Fill the Crown’ is another highlight and my personal favourite from the album, it’s such a catchy song with so many different sounds that all lead well into each other. The menacing back-up vocals and guitars in the verses give it a Marilyn Manson vibe, but the chorus breaks into Poppy’s sugary vocals with fantastic harmonies and backing vocals. Speaking of Marilyn Manson vibes, ‘Anything Like Me’ starts slow and electronic with a Billie Eilish feel. The chorus, however, demands “you shouldn’t be anything like me” and has chords very similar to Manson’s ‘Beautiful People’.

The album changes from metal to electronic and pop with the 1980s vibes of ‘Nothing I Need’ and then to the electro-pop ‘Sit/Stay’. The latter is super catchy and fun but won’t be for those who solely like the metal side of Poppy.  The album comes back into metal with the only song on the record that I can say I dislike, ‘Bite Your Teeth’. Honestly, this song is a bit of a mess; it is confusing,  hectic and almost anxiety-inducing in its switches and changes that happen too many times. I am all for songs that change, but this one is too much for me, and I feel it would be almost impossible to enjoy live.

The end of ‘Bite Your Teeth’ leads into my other favourite song on this album, ‘Sick of the Sun’ which starts with rich, classic-rock guitar chords. Poppy comes in with the lyrics “I’m sick of the sun, It burns everyone. I want it to go away, I just wanna float away | I’m sick of the sun. Can’t trust anyone. I want it to go away. I just wanna float away” which I relate to. Literally, because I too hate how hot the sun is and avoid it at all costs but also figuratively. This song is clearly about Poppy feeling depressed and wanting to hide in the dark, and as someone who has lived with depression for much of their life, I understand this sentiment. The final song ‘Don’t Go Outside’ sticks to this theme, staying with an almost Foo Fighters rock feel. This song starts sombrely, but halfway through, it breaks down, says everything will be ok and revisits ‘I Disagree’, ‘Concrete’ and ‘Fill the Crown’. The listener is taken from depression, to hope and then triumph. This album finishes with the listener feeling strong and ready to take on anyone who has fucked with them. It is an excellent wrap up to the album and brings it all back together in a nice conclusion.

It is evident in this album that Poppy has been through a lot and is trying to come out the other end as strong as possible to make sure she is not fucked with ever again. The lyrics and meanings in this album are much deeper, and it is a positive change from the superficial pop she released previously. The musicianship on this album is incredible as well. The identities of Poppy‘s band members are unknown, but whoever they are, they are unbelievably talented. The soaring guitar solos are wonderful, and the drumming is relentless in such a great way in the heavier songs. For the most part, this album is excellent, and while the more pop-like moments are a nod to the previous albums, this album has achieved the metamorphosis into the more authentic self that Poppy wanted. I hope Poppy stays in her Version X persona from now on and future releases stick to this dark, heavy formula.

poppy - i disagree album

Poppy – I Disagree tracklisting:

  1. Concrete
  2. I Disagree
  3. BLOODMONEY
  4. Anything Like Me
  5. Fill the Crown
  6. Nothing I Need
  7. Sit/Stay
  8. Bite Your Teeth
  9. Sick of the Sun
  10. Don’t Go Outside

Rating: 81/2 out of 10 talking mannequin arch enemies.
I Disagree is Out Now via Sumerian Records. Purchase/Stream here
Review By Caitlin MacDonald (@cait_2tone)

 

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