Poppy Expands Her Musicality and Challenges Genre Conventions on 'I Disagree'
Poppy lays bare a necessary reminder to reject conformity and encircle empowerment. Whereas I Disagree explores what is confining and liberating - the latter is the album's unequivocal focal point.
10 January 2020
I Disagree, the third album from prominent YouTuber Poppy, is a bold and deliberate departure. Twisting her pop sensibilities towards more of a heavy metal energy, I Disagree bleeds between pop, electronic, and metal. Despite the instrumental admixture, the album enshrines individuality and empowerment as its central theme. In the press release, Poppy explains I Disagree's narrative is "about destroying the things that try to destroy you". Poppy lays bare a necessary reminder to reject conformity and encircle empowerment. Whereas I Disagree explores what is confining and liberating - the latter is the album's clear focal point.
Poppy's emphasis on reinvention is evident in the opener "Concrete". The track musically fluctuates between electronic pop to a shredding metal only to then transition to formulaic bubblegum pop. The seemingly antithetical juxtaposition of metal to bubblegum pop is the artist's statement on the overlap between the two genres. "Concrete" unabashedly connects both genres' reliance on bombastic and catchy hooks with notable breakdowns. Poppy's point is underscored by the sound of an audience chanting "Poppy, Poppy, Poppy". She is pointing to metal's head-banging energy and the freneticism found in a pop star's stadium performance.
As such, "Nothing I Need" is distinct in its R&B finesse and pushes the album into a dreamy, but still thrash infused amalgam. In "BLOODMONEY", Poppy relies on an industrial electronic sound, an element carrying over to "Anything Like Me". The latter finds renewal in a sweeping bridge that adeptly returns the listener to the previously heard cacophony. Here she reaffirms the album as a marker of her empowerment with the lyrics "Sorry for what I've become / Because I'm becoming someone." Poppy's missive is direct: she will not be molded to meet expectations. When she sings, "You can be anyone you want to be / You can be free, you can be free" in "Fill the Crown", Poppy is engendering absolute agency.
Poppy continues her swagger on the subsequent title track while also setting the context for her creative furor. Poppy's voice is angelic as she sings, "Let it all burn down / Burn it to the ground / We'll be safe and sound / When it all burns down." The contrasting riotous guitar riffs serve to highlight her effervescent vocals. The track forcefully demonstrates Poppy's subversion, but it hasn't been an easy path for her to do so. Poppy recently split from longtime collaborator Titanic Sinclair, accusing him of abuse and manipulation. Without question, her creativity was growing in a direction unsupported by Sinclair and the music industry. A sentiment affirmed by the lyrics "I disagree / With the way you continue to pressure me / I disagree / With the way you are failing to pleasure me." The video also finds Poppy lighting music execs on fire. After her self-advocacy is met with blank stares and eye rolls, Poppy burns institutionalized oppression to the ground. In her rejection of Sinclair's abusive control and the music industry's formulaic drone, I Disagree serves as a symbol of Poppy's autonomy.
Poppy's rejection of control is revisited in "Sit, Stay". The title, a cheeky reference to basic animal obedience, encapsulates her lack of independence. Yet I Disagree is not a portrait of a maligned artist. The album and "Sit, Stay" specifically, depicts Poppy thwarting marginalization and hurling towards self-fulfillment. Poppy refuses to be stepped to: she takes control of her identity as an individual and artist. Yet, the iteration of her empowerment becomes gauche as her message never lightens and verges on heavy-handedness. At some points, it's easier to resign to her freedom instead of reveling in it.
Poppy maintains explosive energy throughout I Disagree. "Bite Your Teeth" is an enigmatic epistle while "Sick of the Sun" is as ephemeral as it is nihilistic. The closer, "Don't Go Outside", starts as a gentle acoustic only to meld into a post-grunge sound. Poppy uses the album's final moments to lyrical and musical revisit elements from the previous nine tracks and restates her thesis: "Down, let it all burn down / We'll be safe and sound."
I Disagree is boundless and a product of Poppy's own design. She has expanded her musicality while also challenging genre conventions. A major shift from her previous endeavors, I Disagree will challenge her established fans while amassing new appreciation for the artist.