‘I Disagree’ and the story of Poppy.

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Sumerian Records

Poppy as she appears in the press release photos for ‘I Disagree’.

Mason Montano, Music Editor

Over the past five years, American singer-songwriter and content creator Poppy has taken the internet by storm, captivating audiences with her odd, unique style and mysterious, somewhat eerie persona. She’s become a pop culture phenomenon ever since her initial debut in 2014, and in early January, she released her third studio album, I Disagree, but in order to discuss the record, we must first understand her story.

The cover of Poppy’s debut extended play, ‘Bubblebath’.

ThatPoppy and Bubblebath (2014 – 2016):

Poppy first appeared on YouTube in November 2014 as “ThatPoppy” with a video titled “Poppy Eats Cotton Candy”, in which she silently enjoys the titular confection in a small, undecorated room. It was the first in a long series of short clips that were directed by her former creative director, American internet personality Titanic Sinclair, and these strange, unsettling videos would end up making Poppy a viral sensation.

In June 2015, she entered the music scene with her debut single, “Everybody Wants To Be Poppy” — a pop-punk-inspired commentary on how people often seek validation through pretending to be someone they’re not — and in February 2016, she released her debut EP, Bubblebath

Continuing the pop-punk sound with added elements of bubblegum pop and ska, Bubblebath spawned the moderately successful singles “Lowlife” and “Money”, impacting the mainstream music scene and catching the eye of the general public, however, the EP would be Poppy’s last project as “That Poppy”, as she rebranded in early 2017 as just “Poppy” with a more fully-realized concept, sound, and image and a new record label, parting ways with Island Records and signing to Mad Decent.

The cover of Poppy’s debut studio album, ‘Poppy.Computer’.

Poppy.Computer (2017 – 2018):

Ditching the ska-punk sound of Bubblebath, Poppy’s new style was pure bubblegum pop with hints of art pop and J-pop, and her new concept was that of a cute android girl from the internet who sings fun pop songs and makes quirky YouTube videos.

Her new debut single, “I’m Poppy”, was released in January 2017 as the lead single from her debut album, Poppy.Computer, which arrived in October of that year and spawned the moderately successful singles “Computer Boy” and “Interweb”. 

An introduction to her character concept and herself as an artist, Poppy.Computer was the first official stage in the story of Poppy. On its surface, the record appears completely void of any real substance, as its tracklist is filled with formulaic pop tracks about fame, fashion, and technology; but if you dig a little deeper, you’d find that Poppy.Computer is a parody of pop culture and cyberculture disguised as a vapid pop record, criticizing society’s obsession with celebrities and technology, 

“Computer Boy” mocks online relationships, “Interweb” is a commentary on people’s addiction to the internet, and “Bleach Blonde Baby” critiques beauty standards and the ideal version of a woman according to society.

Throughout this era, Poppy held a strict public image, keeping her true identity a secret and always staying in character during interviews. In this way, her public persona was equal to that of her online one, and the details of her personal life outside of “Poppy” were largely unknown, but that was all about to change.

The cover of Poppy’s second studio album, ‘Am I A Girl?’.

Am I A Girl? (2018 – 2019):

Poppy began the next stage of her career with her cover of English singer-songwriter and musician Gary Numan’s “Metal”. Released as a standalone single in July 2018, “Metal” continued her signature cute vocal delivery while sporting heavier electronic production, contrasting the bright synths of Poppy.Computer.

These opposing styles clashed on her second album, Am I A Girl?, which was released in October 2018 and spawned the moderately successful singles “Time Is Up” with American producer and DJ Diplo and “X”.

The record toggles between two major sounds, with the first half featuring tracks that sound similar to the ones from Poppy.Computer and the latter half sporting darker tracks inspired by hard rock and nu-metal — a stark departure from her previous work that both shocked and intrigued many fans.

Am I A Girl? also addressed more serious topics — “Time Is Up” is a commentary on climate change, and “Girls In Bikinis” criticizes the sexualization of women in society — and throughout the album, Poppy questions her reality.

On the lead single, “In a Minute”, she expresses a lack of enthusiasm for the spotlight, directly opposing an earlier track called “Let’s Make a Video”, which is about staying ready for the camera; on the fourth single, “Hard Feelings”, she expresses her confusion over whether she’s human or just a robot; and on the title track, she criticizes gender stereotypes and opens up about questioning her own gender identity.

During this era, Poppy’s public image began to change too. Personal information, such as her real name and age, leaked onto the internet, and she would sometimes break character in interviews, foreshadowing what was to come the following year.

Choke and I Disagree (2019 – present):

Poppy released her second EP, Choke, in June 2019 — her darkest project to date and her final release with Mad Decent before becoming an independent artist and eventually signing to Sumerian Records. 

The EP featured heavy, industrial electronic production alongside heavy metal, and Poppy has numerous epiphanies throughout the tracklist.

On the lead single, “Voicemail”, she has to accept that she’s alone in her search for answers, and on “The Holy Mountain”, she realizes that humans are hopeless creatures and that she must free herself of her chains in order to achieve salvation. 

Choke saw a shift in the story of Poppy, as she was no longer our sweet android girl — she was becoming self-aware — and in August 2019, she fully broke character in an interview with NME, hinting that she was gaining sentience.

This finally brings us to I Disagree. The title track was released as the album’s second single in October 2019 — a few weeks after the infamous NME interview — and marked a major turning point in the story of Poppy. 

Poppy is supposed to be a robot who should be unable to form her own thoughts, as she is designed to simply follow her programming. A robot saying “I disagree” should be very frightening to its creators, as this is not what it’s supposed to be capable of, however, as we’ve been made aware of by the scientific community on a number of occasions, if we give technology too much intelligence, what’s to stop it from rising up? And that’s exactly what’s going on here.

Poppy is resisting, and now that she’s fully sentient, she seeks vengeance upon the oppressive patriarchy that created her, which is depicted in the song’s violent music video, with Poppy attacking a room full of record executives.

I Disagree is a fiery and aggressive reclamation of power in addition to her final project with Titanic Sinclair, with whom she separated from in December 2019 and has since accused of verbal and emotional abuse that spanned the entire course of her career, adding to her anger and frustration.

The album explores a wide range of topics from religion to mental health. The third single, “BLOODMONEY”, calls out hypocrisy, specifically that of religion, and asks people what they truly believe when no one is around to influence their opinions; and on the final two tracks, “Sick of the Sun” and “Don’t Go Outside”, Poppy discusses her mental health struggles, recounting a period of her life when she isolated herself from others and refused to leave her house.

But that was then, and this is now, and now, there’s nothing holding Poppy back. She is here, she is loud, she will be heard on I Disagree, which is available now across all online and streaming platforms.

Stream I Disagree on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/4LgpVx8efQT7SRXGRq5Tze?si=rTxR-lccRMmW29zwvAWdOA 

Watch the music video for “I Disagree”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gmswmbosYo 

Poppy in the music video for “I Disagree”.

This article was originally published in January 2020 and later revised in May 2020.