Tau Nell | Student Writer
Anyone partial to YouTube binges will have come across her. The arrow-straight platinum hair, the naïve doe eyes, the disarming baby voice. I refer, of course, to Poppy, whose eccentric videos have been sparking frenzied discussion since her 2015 debut: a ten-minute clip in which she repeats ‘I’m Poppy’ from multiple angles. Since then, Poppy has been consistently producing addictively unnerving content, such as the 27 minute episode appropriately titled ‘Me Laughing’. She intermittently spouts inanities (‘I like Wednesday because it’s in the middle of the week’) and jarringly acute comments (‘likes are the currency of my generation’). Poppy’s utter inscrutability gives her all the allure of a cult priestess; Wikipedia has only three lines on her personal life, and lists ‘religious leader’ as one of her occupations.
I Disagree is Poppy’s third studio album, but the first in which her former manager, Titanic Sinclair (once speculated to be her captor), has had no influence. After their messy separation in 2019, Poppy was freed from Sinclair’s bubblegum pop vision of her future, she longer chants ‘P-O-P-P-Y I’m Poppy!’ or ‘The future is so pretty!’. Try ‘I need the taste of young blood in my teeth’ for a change.
This whiplash-inducing change of direction will divide long-time listeners and newcomers alike, with some numbers on I Disagree almost unlistenable as standalone songs. Concrete suggests a sheltered teenager first discovering GarageBand and composing the most shocking song they can think of, hidden from their parents’ prying ears. This is apt given Poppy’s youth and recent emancipation, but the confused medley of energies (Billie Eilish meets Queen meets Slipknot) does not make for easy listening.
While tracks like Sit / Stay and BLOODMONEY also overstep their efforts to depart from Sinclair’s Poppy, others are trapped in a perplexing limbo; the old and new Poppy existing in parallel rather than in harmony. Fill the Crown opens resembling a traditional Poppy ditty, proclaiming ‘You can be anyone you want to be / You can be free’, but this sweet warbling is followed by demonic accompaniment as Poppy commands ‘Poison the children / Watch from behind’. In tracks like this, Poppy seems unsure of her new sound, jumping between sugary familiarity and uncharted territory.
This said, there are tracks in which the new Poppy shows great promise, executing her failsafe sweetness in a fresh and exciting fashion. Her sound adopts a new assertiveness in Anything Like Me, mature authenticity in Sick of the Sun, and assured independence in Nothing I Need. Here, Poppy truly comes into her own; not antagonising her former manager, and not desperately maintaining her sugar-dusted image. The title track epitomises the album: seething death metal, lost in Tokyo’s bubbly Ginza Strip. Whether it will plough through the colourful street and crash out the other side, or merge symbiotically with its environment, is up to its master. While somewhat disorienting, I Disagree is an encouraging glimpse of an independent Poppy: a porcelain enigma dismounting her cotton candy cloud.