Poppy has undoubtedly had one of the weirdest careers in recent pop history. If you’re unfamiliar with the songstress, you might think some of the better-known wildest scandals and career transformations that have happened in the past handful of years can top her, but no. You’re wrong. The singer-songwriter has only moderate scandal under her belt; she’s been too busy with her operations as a (former?) cult leader and (possible?) robot.
And, now, the bubblegum pop princess has transitioned to hard rock and metal-lite with her latest album, I Disagree, a twist in the Poppy lore no one would’ve seen coming considering her achingly sweet Bubblebath days. Lyrics like I Disagree’s “bury me six feet deep, cover me in concrete” aren’t exactly pop princess material (unless you’re Billie Eilish, I imagine).
Poppy, however, hasn’t forgotten her roots completely: I Disagree is a seamless fusion between thrash metal and electropop. Poppy herself has described her angelic brand of metal as “post-genre”; on I Disagree, she revels in the ability to break rules, clanging the clashing genres together so forcefully that it’s bordering on an assault to the ears. Yet, somehow, it’s strangely pleasant.
The aforementioned “Concrete” is the lead single as well as opening track. Poppy asking to be buried and “turned into a street” is what paves the way for her new direction. Within the electric opening track, she sets the tone for not only the rest of the album, but her career looking forward. “Concrete” marks Poppy officially shedding her satirical artpop skin and emerging an industrial pop powerhouse. Poppy has referred to I Disagree – her third album – as her first album and “Concrete” doesn’t hold back on quite loudly and adamantly explaining why.
Title track “I Disagree” is unstoppable. Verses are laced with spite as Poppy lists all the reasons she, in her most free form yet, just simply disagrees. When the unhinged, downright nasty guitar kicks in, Poppy serenely coos, “down, let it all burn down” and, although her voice is softer than the rest of the song, it’s nothing short of cathartic. The bridge launches into a tune worthy of a Disney princess with vocals to match, only to kick back into an incendiary instrumental. Explosive and packed with emotion yet polished, “I Disagree” is probably one of the biggest highlights from the album.
Both of these songs showcase the new Poppy trademark: irate instrumentals broken up by Poppy’s cherubic, almost innocent-sounding vocals. The two blend together in a melodiously abrasive harmony. Rage transitions to serenity with ease but it’s never jarring; they blend together in an abstract way. The painful bite of Poppy’s shot at the music industry, “BLOODMONEY”, is soothed immediately by the soft hint of synth on “Anything Like Me”.
“BLOODMONEY”, might I add, is a clear ascendancy. Poppy doesn’t hold back: she screams and murmurs, the latter of which are even delivered with a sharp bite. This is her shot back at the industry that molded her into her former self and an unflinching one at that. The release of her emotion blends into a rowdy instrumental marked by a glitch effect, punctuated with an ear-piercing scream.
Despite unyielding rage being layered throughout the album, Poppy takes a few other spare moments to slow the pace down on other songs. “Sick of the Sun” is a huge surprise on an album otherwise filled with messy rock, yet one of the superior tracks. The instrumentation is distorted, with ethereal vocals giving it a dreamy, otherworldly feel.
The floaty “Nothing I Need”, while not as memorable, falls into a similar position; it’s pure pop and allows Poppy’s vocal ability to shine, while still spitting the venom that permeates the rest of the album: “I’m not gonna ask permission, I’ll never ask permission.”
The best word to describe I Disagree is, as the title suggests, unapologetic. Defiant to the expectations placed on her, Poppy’s opposition to them only raises them up even higher for her next album. I Disagree snaps and snarls in the face of anyone who would dare to call Poppy’s art a gimmick and this album is some of her best work yet. Even if her experimentation with musical alchemy wasn’t a success, Poppy’s confidence in her vision would have made it worthy of a listen. Poppy isn’t necessarily post-genre, but she’s her own genre and she’s one you absolutely have to hear.