Poppy, the sweet character fantasized by pop culture and the music world, is burning down everything we know about her and her music as she re-defines the boundaries of our “post-genre” age. Equally as gothic as it is bubblegum and pretty, I Disagree is the debut album of Poppy 2.0, an open, vulnerable, and new persona compared to the distant and robotic character she has become known to be. “I don’t think genre really exists much anymore,” the singer shared with Loudwire in an exclusive interview.
I Disagree was released in January this year, but later this year, the artist dropped the deluxe version, titled, I Disagree (more), calling us back to the new world of juxtaposition of bubblegum pop and gothic nu-metal. And as we look back, we will break down each song from the album, old and new.
Last year, we were officially introduced to Poppy’s new sound in, “Concrete,” artistic and gothic with a sweet-candy sound with a music video of vibrant reds and pretty black dresses. Her message told the world that if you thought you knew her by now, you are dead wrong. “I’m a different kind of girl. You like coffee, or tea… I want concrete.”
Many would say that Poppy’s album I Disagree (more) was to bring the analogy of two unlike things combined. Poppy explains in “Concrete” that she isn’t that at all. She is something entirely different, as is her entire persona.
The album’s title track follows “Concrete.”
“I Disagree” is blood curdling screams, metallic guitar, and ritualistic chanting. It’s nothing short of an anti-conforming anthem to those who try to get you to fit into a box. “I disagree with the way you continue to pressure me/ I disagree with the way you fail to pleasure me / I disagree, everything you believe is a tragedy/ I disagree with the way you’re pitching insanity/I disagree, everything is going the way it’s meant to be,” chants Poppy in each verse.
Poppy pulled from her own experiences in projecting her own frustration with the music industry, and in the title track, it describes the running theme, as tensions build in each verse to break from conformity and the toxic environment Hollywood created for Poppy, as well as many females in the music industry.
“One example [of how that happens] is when you’re a pop girl and nobody really knows you yet, so a label will present you the idea of, You can sing on this dance song, and then it’s like the kiss of death for most people,” she says in an interview with PaperMag (1). “Because [once] the song blows up, you become known for that, and then you’re the feature-song girl for the rest of your life and nobody actually cares about anything you have to say” (1).
The bridge breaks down into an entirely different genre, softer with sweet and hopeful undertones, “If only you can see the world the way I see, and we can live in harmony.” The bridge seems to be a cry out to anyone who would listen, then Poppy screams and the song continues. Asking for the machine of the “big time” music industry to listen to someone who doesn’t want to fit in their box was pointless. And you can feel that pressure building and building until the end of the song.
“My struggle has never been ‘the machine'” Poppy says later in the interview. “Even when I was in the [major label] machine, I never had the help of the machine. So I’ve had to shed some creative relationships of my past — them being like, I don’t think you can do this, and me: Yeah, I can, actually. Watch” (1).
As a song titled “BLOODMONEY,” you don’t know what to expect next from Poppy. The song faces hypocrisy from a two-faced society head on, calling anyone out who’s used their ideologies (an example would be religion) as an excuse to behave poorly behind closed doors. Critics who consider the track and video blasphemous seem to only prove her point.
To make things more impressive, the music video appears to be taken on one camera and all in one take (possibly two, creatively done). Poppy tackles down bodyguard-sized figures with ease, then moves into the spotlight, staring at the camera. The video finishes with her rising off the floor with a neon cross behind her.
Though the beat in this track has more of an EDM feel, metalheads can listen and have their thirst for guitar riffs and screeching vocals fulfilled.
In a mainstream religious culture where love is supposed to lead, why are there people who use it against those who don’t believe the way they do, and instead spread fear tactics to inspire conversion? It doesn’t make the religion itself or everyone who follows it bad. Poppy simply calls out those who use it as a mask to hide their more true and sinister intentions.
“Anything Like Me,” begins with her signature sugary hook, pulling you in with a quiet, and sweet pop verse. Then suddenly, she seems to snap, breaking into heavy guitar and blood-curdling horror screams.
Referencing a lawsuit Poppy faced with Mars Argo, this is Poppy’s message after breaking out of it and becoming something much more. We don’t know the details about what happened behind the scenes, nor is it necessary to find out, you can see that the incident had a massive impact on Poppy as a whole, and she breaks free from it in this song, a message against the copycats and the toxicity she faced in her life.
Although the running theme throughout the album talks of Poppy and her personal trials in the music industry, “Fill the Crown” is an homage to her old, “pop star robot” personality; though it still beats within her chest and is a part of her, she teases it as superficial and something that kept her trapped and confined into something that was clearly not who she wanted to make her career being.
Fully new and different, she opens up to a raw, emotional, and broken-out character that shows everyone more of who she really could be; a skilled artist unbound by any genre or aesthetic who inspires others to not be confined by societal standards. “You can be anything you want to be,” she sings sweetly.
“Nothing I Need” is a straightforward arrangement, according to Poppy, “kind of like a deep breath. It’s about everything I thought I wanted is actually nothing that I need [and] coming to terms with a lot of things. Maybe certain things that I was drawn to [or] attracted to, and I realized that what I need I already have at the bare minimum, and happiness is way more important than material objects” (2).
A song about minimizing excess and focusing on passions instead of things you don’t need, Poppy preaches finding happiness when you ditch the weights holding you down and keeping you from following your passions. Happiness is lighthearted, and it’s not found when there’s nothing but heaviness and anxiety about focusing on things that ultimately don’t matter. Poppy wraps her message and her album’s story into a concept of empowerment in this song, which continues until the conclusion. Though she continues to express the struggles she faces, she hopes to inspire people to take the first step in finding true happiness. “Do things that make you happy every day. It’s about having good friends, making art, spending time with people that you care about and traveling the world. At least to me, that’s what it’s about” (2).
In another track expressing the feelings of being boxed-in, “Sit/Stay,” was written in the thick of it, which really adds to the tension of the feelings she was enduring as she tried to break free from the padded cage she was locked in.
Not only is she expressing what it felt like to be locked up, she paired it with a haunting music video; where she is featured as an uncanny-valley inducing creature, crawling around an asylum room and trying to break free.
“Sit/Stay” also conveys a warning to new musicians. “The thing you love could ultimately be the thing that will kill you inside.” She encourages other artists and creatives to focus on being happy in the moment. Searching for happiness in something you don’t have yet is the most dangerous thing, because it is those thoughts that suck you in to the trap.
“I’ve had all these wild experiences watching the pop machine and how it works, and watching people burn really bright then fast only to burn out,” she says. “I’ve been told, ‘You can have this, too, and it’s shiny and sparkly. Don’t you want it?’ But in order to have that sparkly thing, you’re told you have to surrender everything that you want. While tempting, it’s terrifying as well” (1).
“Bite Your Teeth” is based off of a quote Poppy heard when writing the track. “Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth.”
With one of the heaviest breakdowns in the album, it seems she really pushes the boundaries in her new sound, leaving people who haven’t heard her music yet to wonder more about what genre defines her.
Vampiric and gothic, “Sick of the Sun,” leaves California transplants like me missing the clouds and the rain of the Pacific Northwest. On a more serious note, Poppy admits that she sometimes grows sick of the sun, too, but with a touch of agoraphobia and longing to avoid other people, this song projects that.
In the bridge, Poppy sings about depression, and how those who don’t understand the feeling tend to say, “it gets better,” without understanding the true battle of the mental illness within. The statement, especially in this song, comes off dismissive, but as we progress through the rest of the track, the laid back electric guitar lulls you into a state of fighting a battle against complacency and giving into the depressive mindset. Following this theme, the conclusion track inspires anyone who is listening to keep fighting and to find happiness in passions.
The initial conclusion to the album, “Don’t Go Outside” is a beautifully written track about rising from the ashes and starting anew. Alluring and encouraging, the song inspires empowerment, then repeats the lyrics from the album’s title track and “Concrete” to further connect the concept.
“Let it all burn down/ Burn it to the ground/ We’ll be safe and sound,” she sings sweetly.
Poppy’s album, I Disagree, is not only expressing frustrations and breaking open the box confining her experiences with the music industry, but it also alludes to much more than that; finding happiness in your passions, and other themes, to relate fans even more to her music, while it breaks the boundaries of what we thought we knew about genre.
“The album as a whole is just about not stepping to anyone and disagreeing with people in positions of power and not accepting ‘no’ for an answer or ‘you can’t.’ And sometimes when people tell you [that], or at least when I’m told that I can’t, it makes me want to have it more. It’s all about burning down the music industry in a way and stepping out of any box that anyone might have tried to lock me up inside. The message is empowerment, not gender specific. Just empowerment” (2).
Also, let’s take the words in this song literally, from surface level; can we confirm that Poppy predicted the outcome of this year? Fan theories say she is a robot, not human, created by the government, who can predict future events because of how ahead of her time she is.
You think I’m crazy? Listen to this song, where wildfires rage in the west coast, unusual weather throughout the nation, and where COVID keeps us locked in quarantine. Whether you can’t go outside due to the weather conditions, toxic air, or a pandemic, Poppy has the perfect anthem of 2020 for you, written before any of these incidents ever happened.
Still think I am crazy? Watch this video from three years ago:
Where we wondered back in the day why we were provided with this information, now we find it suggested in our YouTube feeds and thank her for it. Note how the title suggests “your” instead of “a…” And as funny as this sounds, fans have noted Poppy’s unusually eerie content as something much more than surface level, pretentious videos.
I Disagree (more) contains the following four tracks: “If it Bleeds”, “Bleep Bloop”, “Khaos x4”, and “Don’t Ask”. Each song seems to be something you would hear on an avant-garde couture runway fashion show, with it’s heavy beats and supernatural, conceptual elements. Released last month, the four tracks embody something that all her fans can relate to this year as we face one of the toughest years this country has yet to have faced.
As the start of the deluxe edition, “If it Bleeds,” starts off with a strong beat fitting the theme of the previous songs, in continuation. Each verse has an electro-pop feel, with singing static guitar riffs that take the stage in the chorus.
“Bleep Bloop” is about turning the tables, making someone else afraid rather than giving into the fear that has been filling Poppy to the brink of insanity, it seems. She admits that this track is a time stamp of her past, showing herself what state of mind she was in as a reminder to not go back to that time. And now, fans can listen and understand more about how the challenges she has faced made her feel.
Similar to “Sick of the Sun,” and “Don’t Go Outside,” “Khaos x4” goes deeper into depth with the paranoia and suspicion of the unknown, the outside world, as well as depression, anxiety, isolation, and apocalypse. Written in the middle of a bout of writer’s block, the track can show us the state of mind the world was in when it was released earlier this year.
“Don’t Ask” is the one standalone pop track in the album, but unlike her past albums, this one is unafraid of being raw and opening up to emotion, feeling the pains of trials, and trying to grow past traumatic events.
Stream the full, deluxe album, below.