It’s still shocking that the Poppy who released Moshi Moshi – a sunny dose of electronic pop from an extremely online artist – would go on to sign with Sumerian Records. It might end up quite the coup for a label best known for its technical metal and breakdown-enthusiastic roster. This current iteration of model / YouTuber / actress Poppy has lots of eyes on her, in large part thanks to her corpse-painted face on I Disagree’s cover, a far-cry from her trademark genteel vocals.
It’s the combination of her bubblegum pop voice with mosh pit-ready nu metal riffs that makes the record intriguing, above all else. Opener Concrete – with its “bury me six feet deep, cover me in concrete, turn me into a street” refrain – goes from furious double bass drums to a syncopated rhythm with Poppy’s voice playfully skipping over the top, singing “chewy, chewy, yummy yummy yummy.” It’s this mish mash of disparate elements that makes I Disagree confusing at first, as it jolts from one genre to the next, often layering them on top of each other in ways unfamiliar to western audiences.
The influence of j-pop is all over Poppy’s sound and image, which are tough to separate from each other. Metalheads who took against Babymetal’s brand of combining crushing riffs with kawaii will have much of the same issues with I Disagree, and it all feels equally as calculated. Poppy has full command over every aspect of what enters the public domain, making her Instagram posts as important to her brand as a new song. For some, this influencer sheen, which inherently takes away all rawness from a typically primal genre, will be a step too far.
The key comparison is Bring Me the Horizon’s amo. Oli Skyes’ crew have been at the forefront of what’s trendy in the alternative scene for the last decade, and with their 2019 record they brought metal, pop, and electronica together to make an erratic collection of songs that updated heavy music for the present day. Dripping with aesthetic the same way I Disagree is, this formula has placed them as the only modern British metal act to regularly sell out arenas and appear on Radio 1. Who can blame Poppy for seeing potential in a genre crying out for figureheads to take it into the future?
And the songs do rock. The title track’s bouncing intro introduces one of Poppy’s more sinister vocal deliveries before a radio-friendly pop-metal chorus, both infectious and something to bang your head to. Most of BLOODMONEY is a crunching cocktail of distortion and shouting, and taken in isolation its authenticity would never be in question. It’s no surprise she references Rammstein and Marilyn Manson when talking about Fill the Crown which has a more industrial edge, taken and warped into something that would fit on both a Code Orange album and something far cheerier.
Whether Poppy even settles on this style is unclear, especially now she and her collaborator Titanic Sinclair have parted ways after she publicly accused him of manipulating her. She currently feels hidden behind several layers of smoke and mirrors, undoubtedly interesting but also distant. Which means, while I Disagree is a well-produced pop metal album, its emotional resonance will always be stunted by a giant question mark over what it’s really all about.
I Disagree is available now, out on Sumerian Records