Poppy Is Still An Enigma, But One On Her Own Terms
On her third album I Disagree, the YouTube sensation starts from scratch.
After years of being an internet phenom, hearing Poppy’s voice is like having a spirit visit you. Poppy has, after all, built up a following with her persona, known for YouTube videos and Japanese pop tracks. To some, she’s a cult leader with a machine-generated voice. Hearing that Poppy—who’s real name is Moriah Rose Pereira—has a sweet, girlish drawl and not the voice of a robot is almost jarring. Poppy is a real girl, but she’s a mystery too.
Perhaps the closest people will get to knowing the real Poppy is through her latest album, I Disagree. “I disagree with a lot of people, a lot of people’s opinions and a lot of people’s opinions of me, and I don’t think that art should be looked at in terms of a machine,” Poppy says over the phone. “So it’s me going against the machine and going against things that I’ve been told.”
After releasing her glossy pop debut Poppy.Computer in 2017 and the club-ready record Am I a Girl? in 2018, Poppy has shattered her musical image with I Disagree. While Am I a Girl? delivered a taste of metal, the new album sees Poppy diving head-first into the alternative world, moving post-genre. Influenced by Blondie, Nine Inch Nails, and David Bowie, a song on I Disagree is often what a Marilyn Manson and Grimes mashup would sound like.
Blending pop, nu metal, grindcore, and prog-rock, Poppy has created her own sonic framework and started from scratch in a lot of ways. “I feel that the fans that have been following me for a long time have been waiting for this,” she says. What she means, specifically, is a new kind of honesty.
“I wouldn’t say the album as a whole is a rebirth, but it’s about destroying an older version of yourself and not being afraid of the unknown,” confirms the singer. It’s something Poppy portrays visually in the video for “Anything Like Me,” directed by Jesse Draxler. “To me it’s like shedding an old version of yourself and stepping into a new light, specifically in the bridge when the camera wraps around and you just see my face is illuminated,” she explains of the visual.
I Disagree might be Poppy’s third album, but to her it feels more like her first, bringing the darkest parts of her previous work to the forefront this time. “The last two [albums] were more for the sake of the storyline that was created on my YouTube channel, and I Disagree is about destroying all of that and stepping out and being comfortable with the unknown and the questions that you’ve been asking,” she says.
Part of that was seemingly dissolving her relationship with her longtime creative partner, Titanic Sinclair. In late December, she posted a statement to Twitter regarding their split: “I met this person at a young age and things were seemingly good for a while until echoes from his past were too loud to ignore. I was never ‘an accomplice’ to this person’s past actions like some believe—I was a person who suffered similar wrong doings as one of his former partners brought to light. This person glamorizes suicide and has used it many times in the past to manipulate me. And the last time I finally had enough.”
While she wouldn’t elaborate much on parting ways with Sinclair, she admits she now has more creative control. “I just feel like there were a lot of things previously in the situation that were holding me back,” Poppy says. “Different things that I would like to explore. Different things I like to say. I believe that it’s a chapter that I can finally close, and I feel at peace with it.”
“For the music video for ‘I Disagree,’ I got to set record label executives on fire and gas them, which is something I’d always wanted to do.”
In regaining creative control, Poppy has found contentment. On “Nothing I Need,” she explores the reality that everything she wanted at one time was nothing she actually needed. For her, it’s about “finding your power within while still pushing forward for the greater goal.” Other parts of I Disagree are about her locating and using her voice—no matter how unsettling it may be. The title track is probably the strongest example of this, as she takes aim at the music industry. “For the music video for ‘I Disagree,’ I got to set record label executives on fire and gas them, which is something I’d always wanted to do,” Poppy says.
With the industrial “BLOODMONEY,” she takes another stand, this time calling out “hypocritical people” who hide behind religion. On the distorted “Fill the Crown,” she comes to the realization that “you can be anyone you want to be.” And inspired by an Alan Watts quote, “Bite Your Teeth” addresses the challenges of evolving: “Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth.”
As someone who has spent years defining and redefining herself, Poppy has learned to be cautious—especially in the music industry. “A lot of people don’t have your best interests in mind, and you should question everyone around you at all times,” she concludes. At this point in her career, she’s made protecting herself a priority. “I pretty much exist in my own bubble, and I kick a lot of people out of it.” FL