Moriah Rose Pereira, known as Poppy, started out in 2011 as a social media personality – performing pop covers across festivals and posting videos on YouTube. Her early sound was reminiscent of the contemporary radio pop chart artists of the time.
Around 2014 Poppy began a ‘creative partnership’ with director and musician Corey Michael Mixter, known under the alias Titanic Sinclair. The two began to work on Poppy’s social media presence and to create a unique branding and image.
The essence of the video work and music produced became an abstract conceptual art piece. A performance art inspired by the works of Andy Warhol, David Lynch and Tim Burton. This would later evolve to take on a kawaii J-Pop/K-Pop influence.
A vital component to Poppy’s musical career has been longtime collaborator, Simon Wilcox – a singer-songwriter with many credits on songs in the pop and rock genres for diverse acts such as The Used, Selena Gomez, The Fever 333, Rita Ora and Blink182.
The creative endeavours of the Poppy contingent began in the heavily ska-punk and reggae influenced pop EP, Bubblebath, released in 2016 through her original partnership with Mad Decent Records.
The 2017 debut album, Poppy.Computer, took on an art-pop/bubblegum-pop sound that would define the early impressions of Poppy on the ‘mainstream’ consciousness.
This album also introduced elements of electro and synth and leaned into a Japanese influence, being produced with Ryosuke Sakai.
On her sophmore album, 2018’s Am I A Girl?, Poppy worked with multiple producers to continue her efforts in electro and synth sounds. The back end of this album showed hints of what was to come with the introduction of a nu-metal inspiration.
On the release of 2019’s Choke EP, Poppy experimented further in the terrain of metal genres. This featured a collaboration with The Fever 333 on the track Scary Mask.
During her career, Poppy has navigated further multimedia creative outlets releasing ambient music in 2016’s 3:36 (Music To Sleep To), 2019’s ICU (Music To Read To) to accompany her first graphic novel – Genesis1 – and the forthcoming Music To Scream To for her second graphic novel – Damnation; Poppy’s Inferno.
Poppy’s work has also been stated by some to be a social commentary on internet and social media culture.
This may be exemplified in the creation of Poppy.Church in 2018 – a website that acts as a social media platform – and a book, The Gospel Of Poppy.
I Disagree is the 3rd studio album from Poppy. It’s released through Sumerian Records – an independent label from the metal and prog-metal scene – after an unceremonious departure from Mad Decent. Featuring 10 tracks the record clocks in with a running time of 35 minutes.
This album is produced with previous Poppy collaborators Chris Greatti – known for working with Grimes, Yungblud and Black Veil Brides – and Zakk Cervini – Simple Creatures, Beartooth and Good Charlotte.
It is also worth noting that I Disagree appears to be Poppy’s first album not to feature any association with Simon Wilcox.
The intentions of this record are signified immediately in the cover artwork from Jesse Draxler. This is a darker presentation of Poppy than any imagery that has come before.
Album opener Concrete reveals the new, heavier identity of Poppy’s sound.
Opening with a blaring air raid siren, this track proceeds to hurtle through a panorama of tones; blurring the lines of techno, metal and bubblegum-pop into a new beast that Poppy labels ‘post-genre’.
There is a clear influence of Babymetal in this sound but the track never rests too comfortably in one genre before blistering into the next. Even taking a reprieve into a Beatles/ELO-esque “breakdown” partway through with Queen inspired riffs interlaced to close the track out.
Lyrically, Poppy flatly makes her mission statement clear; “Bury me six feet deep. Cover me in concrete. Turn me into a street”. This lays the old incarnation of Poppy to ground. “I tried to eat ice cream. I tried to drink tea. But I need that taste of young blood in my teeth”. She tried to conform but she is now embracing her new ‘self’.
Title track, I Disagree, is my favourite song on this album. A Die Antwoord inspired dark, sinister vocal delivery provides an undercurrent that boils beneath a chugging techno-metal groove.
This is offset with a chorus that sees a pop vocal delivery of dark lyrics. Lyrics that confront oppression and self-inflicted repression; “Down, let it all burn down. Burn it to the ground. We’ll be safe and sound when it all burns down”.
The tracks Bloodmoney, Anything Like Me and Fill The Crown bring a stomping industrial metal overtone to the record reminiscent of Nine lnch Nails and Marilyn Manson.
Bloodmoney confronts the morals of an individual – “Never forget the excess of a man because the grabbing hands always grab what they can” being a subtle reference to Depeche Mode’s Everything Counts – whilst Anything Like Me rages against perceptions and expectations.
Fill The Crown is another favourite of mine. This has duality in the pop elements preaching a message of salvation – “You can be anyone you want to be. You can be free, you can be free.” – against a metal omen of a corrupting force – “Poison the fountain, empty your mind. Follow the leader, the leader is blind”.
This theme brings the theatrics of the band Ghost to mind – also an element that seems to have inspired the current presentation of Poppy and her band in their live performances.
The featured vocals on this track have created speculation of Marilyn Manson’s uncredited contributions due to the known friendship between Poppy and Manson. There is a contending theory that cites Poppy’s current partner, Ghostemane, as the vocalist.
Nothing I Need and Sit/Stay see the second half of this album somewhat calm the pace and energy. Elements of dreamy, psychedelic trap-pop beats become a more prominent feature of the sound.
Bite Your Teeth brings spikes of energy in a pounding Slipknot-inspired snarl of attitude. Bracing against pain and confronting it rather than shying away.
Sick Of The Sun resumes the trap-pop soundscape and examines depression. Wanting to step away from the scrutiny and attention found in the spotlight.
Album closer, Don’t Go Outside, persues these motifs but with a nihilistic spin matched with an ominous orchestral undertone – a track that seemingly finds inspiration from Black Sabbath and Ghost.
“The TV says you’re out of time. Suck the fear in through your eyes” is a commentary on media inflaming fear. “Everything will be okay” becomes a rising mantra to allay that fear, holding the creeping thoughts at bay.
The themes of the album are brought full circle and summed up through an emotionally fulfilling reprise calling to “let it all burn down”, “bury me six feet deep and just cover me in concrete” but remember “you can be anyone you want to be”.
This first half of this album encapsulates the achievement of Poppy’s new heavier, ‘post-genre’ sound; pop inflections delivered in cohesion with metal sensibilities. Fighting the definitions, creatives parameters and restrictive boundaries of genre.
This sound is angry and finds empowerment in that anger. You don’t have to do as you’re told. Poppy has stated that this album embraces her desire to burn down her past and start over. This is her reinvention.
Where this falters is in the pacing of the second half of the album. Even though there is a simmering sinister undertone to the later tracks, this is where the album sonically feels like two separate EP’s.
The composition on some of these tracks and the track listing itself can be unnecessaryily jarring. It feels as though this issue could’ve been addressed by re-ordering the last five songs to create a gradual dip and lift. As it is, the pacing cuts off the albums momentum and lowers the energy too much and struggles to regain it.
A flaw in the pop construction of the song writing relies on a repetition of lyrics. This means that although the themes and issues Poppy addresses are presented, there feels little substance to the sometimes abstract lyrical content.
This is also reflected in some of the stilted vocal deliveries for the aesthetic of the sound. This may be a conscious choice as an effect of the performance art but this holds the listener back from a deeper emotional investment in these tracks.
Admittedly it may also be that I am not the target demographic for the lyrical content.
This album finds a vast array of inspiration but also brings to mind the question of influence versus imitation. Some elements of these songs feel like complete lifts from those Poppy finds inspiration in, compiled into a mash-up remix track, cashing in on the modern trend of nostalgia.
There is a component of Poppy’s art that bears some thought; how much does satire play into the social commentary and how far does that thread unravel?
That being said, Poppy does deliver a freshness to these sounds on the stand out tracks of the album.
This is Poppy’s first release to start registering on the worldwide charts. The critical reception of the album has been generally favourably received. Even being noted as ‘revolutionising music for a new generation’ but it has been noticed that there is a lack of consistency.
Poppy has recently toured with Bring Me The Horizon and was slated to tour with Deftones and Gojira in 2020.
While there is a chance that Poppy may be divisive to metal fans, the strong singles, theatrical presence and eclectic visuals and aesthetic make their live performance ideal for the main stage of festivals.
Since the release of this album Poppy has abruptly parted ways with Titanic Sinclair. As a result she appears to be dropping the facade of the performance art a little and talking more personally.
It will be interesting to see where Poppy’s next musical forays lead from here.
Poppy’s I Disagree is inconsistent but the first half of this album is more than worth the price of admission. The droning hooks with catchy pop melodies are infectious and will remain as highlights on my playlist for awhile to come.