Review Summary: That Poppy: Where high quality concepts meet middling execution
That Poppy has undoubtedly established itself as the ‘oddball’ of pop music for 2016. Hailing from San Francisco, That Poppy is a collaborative effort between 15 year old vocalist Moriah Pereira, visual artist Titanic Sinclair, and Island Records. The trio have worked extensively over the last two years not only extending Poppy’s presence in the industry, but also creating a disturbing web series on YouTube following the character that is “That Poppy”. Presented as a young, blonde girl, the series follows the musician interacting with viewers in an unsettling, off-kilter mannerism. Often repeating phrases in a hypnotic state with a broken flow while accompanied with jarring cuts, visuals, and music. These videos, accompanied with her official recordings and music videos, paint what is the beginning of a comprehensive narrative. Flirting with the possibility of Poppy being a victim of what conspiracy theorists dub “Monarch Mind Control” due to her inhuman behavior and mannerisms.
, Poppy’s debut EP, plays into this visual/audio narrative with a four track collection of seemingly innocent pop cuts that suggest something of a far more sinister nature underneath. This narrative is presented in a revolving-door mannerism, where specific lines in each track take on a double meaning that, when sliced and pasted together, represent the backstory of where Poppy “came from” along with glimpses into the destruction of her previous identity and life. This serves to be the most interesting aspect of Bubblebath
, when the album focuses on intertwining these dark elements into fun and easy-going pop songs with consistently excellent production.
Lead single “Lowlife” and third track “Altar” both display these elements at their absolute best. “Lowlife” features a slow chugging, reggae-fused guitar line and a mixture of low churning bass synths that carry an infectious hook with the passing of each horn. The track on it’s surface level details a relationship with toxic lining, referring to this hypothetical man as the “highlight to my lowlife” and covering base with Poppy experiencing abandonment issues without them. Below that however, lines begin to highlight the “dark side” of the Poppy persona with the second verse, which details “This bad taste, these headaches/Wake up on the floor again, ah yeah/My torn dress, this failed test/Soon they will be erased”
. While fairly speculative, these lines illustrate the abusive experiments many alleged “monarch victims” experience through extensive drug and sex abuse.
“Altar” itself is more abstract. The track suggests a dreamy, romantic “let's get away” vibe with an overload of sugary synths and lines about a fantasy Poppy has of interrupting her love’s wedding to save him from an abusive partner. However, an “altar” shares definition with a slate where various religious rituals are performed for deities, which can be easily tied to the alleged satanic ritual abuse that goes on within the music industry. While being just two examples of this speculated narrative from those familiar with Poppy’s YouTube channel, they both display a very valid and incredibly engaging outlet that gives what are already well produced and fun singles an extra edge to make them more interesting and engaging for listeners who can piece together their own narrative provided by the project’s music and videos.
Like a revolving door however, when the EP isn’t sticking to the script, it instead deviates lyrically into cliched and often embarrassing lines and quips against the modern generation at the hand of project head Titanic Sinclair. Anyone formerly acquainted with Sinclair will be familiar with his disdain for many aspects of modern society and music. With many of his projects over exaggerating stereotypes for the sake of attacking them. While “Money” middles with average lyrics and decent electro-riff production, it’s “American Kids” where the quality of the songwriting and production nosedive. The track starts with lines blatantly telling the audience about Poppy selling her soul and undergoing experiments (“Sold my soul to the man with the handshake/Lost control but I don’t think it’s too late.
) removing that layer of “piece-it-yourself” analyzing that made previously mentioned tracks fun. Beyond that the lyrics take consistent stabs at “millennials” with lines such as “Boys, aren't even boys anymore”
and “My father may be gay but I don’t know”
having questionable implications and a few lines about how “not like the OTHER teens” Poppy is in a completely unironic delivery. Meanwhile the track carries a boring, one tone fuzz heavy synth lead that almost seems parody of various “our generation” teen anthems such as Halsey’s “New Americana”.
While it’s duds are heavy and the inconsistency bleeds into even the best tracks of the EP, Bubblebath
is an incredibly intriguing and consistently fun release that spins the narrative that fans of the Poppy character have been following for years into a new direction while still finding room to have fun despite the project’s impulsive need to stab at “kids these days”. Where the project goes next is entirely dependent on where the webseries finds itself going next, with the latest episodes seeing the character having the beginnings of an inhuman breakdown develop. Where this piece of the narrative will take the music next is an exciting thing to anticipate, and hopefully, to continue having fun with at the end of the day.