Rejoice! Poppy is free from her previous label, her character co-creator Titanic Sinclair, and back with a candyfloss razorblade aural representation of the inside of the millennial brain. And true to any millennial recently divorced from their care giver, her new offering I Disagree is surreal, genre bending, heavy, light, childish and mature all at once.
On your first foray into Poppy’s world, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d ingested LSD at one of Charles Manson’s more measured gatherings. Her YouTube, featuring down tempo pop ballads, drifts occasionally into surreal, confusing performance art videos exploring Poppy’s occult pastel world. In one, she bursts into manic laugher, before staring blankly forward to deliver a mantra on time, space, and roller coasters. In another she pats the ground furiously, in eyeball stoned lace gloves – seductively asking the camera “Where is it?” and “Will you help me find it?”.
But what you have to remember about Poppy – and, indeed about most millennial humour – is that we’ve bred a society where the surreal, occult and outright bizarre are the tools of amusement. There’s no space here to pinpoint why exactly that is, so – for now – we’ll have to place it as something fuelled by a world with access to all of the explanations of philosophical points of view, every David Lynch movie, too much sugar and a heavy dose of anxiety and depression.
Filter Poppy through this then, both parodying the YouTube fame she’s risen too and subverting it with her occult imagery and themes – and we start to click with just how brilliant Moriah Pereira’s portrayal of Poppy is. With I Disagree, Poppy releases her version of Lemonade; both channelling the pain of her recent controversy, sticking two fingers up to the past and translating her performance art into music.
Opening with a siren, and a whisper chant of “bury me six feet deep, burry me six feet deep… cover me in concrete, turn me into a street” we’re kicked into nu-metal riffs that give way to J-pop style opener – again undercut by her lyrics “Sugar in my teeth, demons in my dreams, watch me whilst I sleep…”. I Disagree charges along at a breakneck speed, Poppy’s performance art videos translated musically, in place of her traditional long pregnant pauses there’s repetition, and switches in tempo, once more creating the uncomfortable and awkward sense of distance, and just plain odd.
Truly, there are some moments of stunning visceral clarity here. In BLOODMONEY, Poppy is furious, screaming vocals about being used and manipulated (“Keep telling yourself you’ve been playing nice and go beg for forgiveness from Jesus the Christ”). Anything Like Me handles the rage/bliss cycle, whilst Sit/Stay veers into rave territory, and Don’t Go Outside gives us a careful, calm ballad. Elsewhere, this genre hopping would come off as a mess, but here it is as transgressive as Poppy herself – heavy where we thought it would be light, childish where we thought it would be mature.
For Poppy, no doubt, I Disagree adds up to one hell of an exorcism. She closes out the album by quietly telling us “You can be anyone you want to be”. And hey, it worked for David Bowie, so maybe Poppy isn’t as far from conventional music superstardom as it seems. Just make sure you watch some of her YouTube videos before you listen so you’re on her level.