“I don’t know what I just heard, but I’m also not mad about it.”
This was my first thought upon hearing Poppy for the first time. Her song “X” was used as a theme for the latest NXT TakeOver show, and it threw me for a loop when I heard it. Here’s a conventionally pretty blonde girl, making music that blends nu metal, pop vocals, and electronic music breaks. What the actual fuck is this?
Poppy takes the phrase “coloring outside the lines” to an entirely new level, even with her new album’s black and white color scheme. With her most recent album, I Disagree, the YouTube star and content creator creates mish-mashes and wild musical Frankenstein’s Monsters of songs. One section can be djenty, chuggy goodness, and the next can be a kawaii, giggly break, before going back to the metallic mayhem. It is a wild ride, cramming a lot of influences and motifs into just over thirty-five minutes, but for my money, I Disagree is kicking off metal’s 2020 with a childlike chuckle… right before it takes your head off your shoulders.
Starting off the album is “Concrete,” with a klaxon preceding in Poppy’s whispered vocals. The low-tuned guitars alternate between chugging and leedle-leedling before giving way to the casual extremism and lyrical lucidity of the verses. The post-hardcore musical style of the verse bleeds into more pop-oriented choruses, with lines such as “turn me into a street” and “I need the taste of young blood in my teeth.” It’s borderline absurdist lyrics, but the music makes it undeniably catchy and surprisingly listenable. It reminded me almost immediately of BABYMETAL, a band that has divided the metal community for a while now. Just my two cents, but if you’re digging what Poppy has to offer, but continue to shit on BABYMETAL, well… might wanna think about your choices.
The sing-along chorus of “Concrete” fades out into the title track, which is another instant earworm. The verses utilize Poppy’s talk-singing over an industrial beat, with the guitars driving the chorus forward. It may be the most conventional song on a disc full of unconventional numbers, but it doesn’t make it any less of a standout. “BLOODMONEY” thumps in with heavy bass, extended-range guitars, and a deliberate, chant-like delivery. While I adore the Static Starlight and Moris Blak remix of this song (check out my coverage HERE), the album version of the track would be right at home at a club night just the same. It’s heavy, grungy, and yet so accessible.
“Anything Like Me” calls on more electronic elements, and vaguely reminds me of Billie Eilish with a twist. The bass-heavy guitar riffing in the repetitive chorus gives the track plenty of edge, and a guitar solo adds a rocking sensibility to this far more pop-leaning song. The electro-heavy “Fill the Crown” features a grooving bass line, layers of clean and unclean vocals, and a dancey rhythm. The guitars take a backseat on “Nothing I Need,” opting for a smoother, more radio-friendly sound.
“Sit / Stay” has a techno, damn near a Matrix-style feel. The bassline is prominent and right out front, with a faster tempo and clean guitar sections. The pew-pew synth lines mix with the low tones of the guitars for a cyberpunk soundscape perfect for Poppy’s dreamlike vocal lines. “Bite Your Teeth” comes roaring in with thrashy guitar riffs and a sense of urgency. It stirs the listener awake from the dream state the previous track may have put them in, and reminds them exactly who they’re listening to.
“Sick of the Sun” is loaded with clean guitars and a laid-back rhythm. It’s a pretty track, between the guitars, synths, and the vocal harmonies. It feels like a song that would be in the end credits of a movie or a video game, it has that sort of reflective quality to it. Closing out the disc is “Don’t Go Outside,” with its uneasy guitar arpeggios in its first section, until an alien-sounding arena rock second section mark another shift in tone, assuring that this album won’t go into the night quietly.
The sheer volume of styles and sensibilities that Poppy brings together on I Disagree is staggering, and the execution of this is downright impressive. I can see why she may be a divisive figure in the music world, and how many will try to fit her into a box or a label. Here’s a tip for those folks: don’t. Just enjoy the music, enjoy the efforts that this girl of just twenty-five years is making, and strap in for what comes next.
Poppy is currently on tour in North America in support of Bring Me the Horizon and Sleeping with Sirens. I Disagree is available now through Sumerian Records.