This is how Poppy (Moira Rose Pereira) introduced herself to the world in one of her first YouTube videos, made in collaboration with her former creative partner, Titanic Sinclair (Corey Mixter). Poppy's persona was an android, whose often short, disturbingly sterile, pastel pink videos were filled with non–sequiturs and incongruous memes without punch lines.
Poppy made pop music as well, produced by Diplo's Mad Decent record label. She released tongue-in-cheek songs like "Computer Boy," whose glossy exterior belied something sinister beneath. She critiqued pop culture while firmly being a part of it. Once described as "illuminaticore," her aesthetic was a purple can of self-aware inanity that had a kick of occultism.
Titanic Sinclair, now infamous for his lawsuit against his former collaborator, Mars Argo, and his alleged abuse, directed these videos. Poppy recently separated from him, alleging he used "manipulative patterns."
In this context, Poppy's new album, I Disagree, can be seen as a declaration of independence. She angrily tears off her old android persona, becoming more human and complicating her nightmarish, off-kilter world. However, like anything with Poppy, nothing is simple. Sinclair co-wrote all the songs on Poppy's latest album, leaving the listener with an ethical dilemma not dissimilar from listening to Kim Petras, who works almost exclusively with Kesha's publicly shamed alleged abuser, Dr. Luke.
Having first hinted at this new direction with the last two songs of her preceding album, Am I a Girl?, Poppy dives further into metal on I Disagree. Further signifying the great sea change that has happened in Poppy's career, her latest LP comes via Sumerian Records, a label renowned for its heavy metal releases. In sharp contrast to the bright, winking, ironic pop of her previous studio efforts, I Disagree is a heavier, angrier affair, less concerned with critiquing the culture of celebrity and trends and more focused on exorcising deep–seated grudges and righteous self–determination.
While I Disagree could be considered a metal record at its core, from track to track, the album is decidedly post–genre. It blends disparate elements from across the musical spectrum to still make a compelling, cohesive whole. Like a good workout playlist, the first half of the record is filled with high-octane guitars, robotic riffs, and snarling growls, a rebellion against all that Poppy used to be, while the second half blends R&B and classic rock into a surprisingly soothing pop concoction similar to the cool down after a hard session at the gym. I Disagree is the sound of an android (or puppet) becoming human.
In typical Poppy fashion, the lead single and album opener "Concrete" is all theatrics and high–octane pyrotechnics that calls to mind "X" from her previous record. Poppy begs the listener to "bury [her] six feet deep," while she makes nonsensical puns of choosing blood over coffee and tea with harmonies reminiscent of '60's sunshine pop. A staple of the first half of the album, the song features heavy, crunchy, sludgy guitars that pummel the listener with adrenaline like sporadic shots of lightning.
While the second half of the album is largely and regrettably forgettable, the highlight "Sick of the Sun" suggests that there is more to Poppy than the constant guessing game of "Is she pop? Or Is she metal?" Taking cues from both classic rock and contemporary R&B, "Sick of the Sun" lulls the listener with light, airy hi–hats as Poppy croons about depression. The song will surely fit in well with any "chill" playlist on Spotify.
I Disagree is ultimately Poppy's protest against classification and clarity. The album blurs the lines between pop and metal, as well as reality and fiction. It will pump you up just to chill you out. This is not an album to sleep on or fall asleep to.