Review Summary: An uncompelling debut from a paper thin character
The initial draw to That Poppy, and the music attached to her persona, was the intriguing nature of the channel surrounding the pop star that “everybody loves”. Poppy’s repetitive style of droning off-kilter phrases above unsettling ambient compositions quickly garnered her a dedicated cult following. Which is completely appropriate, seeing as Poppy herself spouts marketing friendly ramblings akin to that of a cult leader with devout followers in the palm of her hand. All of which is a satirical take on the idea of a pop musician brainwashed by the conspired Illuminati Satanic Reptilian Hollywood Hierarchy, or what have you. Thanks in part to her channel’s success, along with a back catalogue displaying her ability to craft a pop song that has a little “something more” with her concept in mind, That Poppy quickly found herself in the limelight fairly early in her career.
But that was two years ago. The That Poppy project has mostly stuck to the same formula since then, and it’s gotten stale. Poppy still stares into a camera with a dead eye expression, something odd happens, and then she vanishes until the next day to repeat it all again. The channel has undoubtedly spread itself thin by pushing the limits of how engaging the same style of video is day in and day out, and unfortunately, Poppy.Computer
is inadvertently affected by how limited the Poppy mythos is. Unlike The project’s debut EP, Bubblebath
, this record aligns itself with the characteristics of Poppy, the brainwashed YouTuber, as opposed to Poppy the musician who is similarly brainwashed. And when you scrub away the “popstar who lives online” concept from the record, it becomes clear how uninteresting of a debut Poppy.Computer
Without a doubt, the most intriguing tracks of the record are those most engrossed in exploring the character of Poppy. The mechanical, archaic computer beats of album opener “I’m Poppy”, along with her paradoxical ‘super cheery/barely interested’ vocal style draws likeness to a PC Music project. That is, if the “PC” in PC Music was 100% literal and said PC was running a copy of Windows 2000. “My Style” works by similar logic, running off a laundry list of things Poppy considers trendy, and that’s why you should consider them trendy too. The track also features a character from the YouTube channel, Charlotte, delivering unexpected lines such as “Poppy will break your neck” through her text-to-speech voice. And for tracks such as these, that semi-archaic, computerized instrumentated style works. The quirky synthpop stylings are fitting of Charlotte's cold, robotic demeanor and it benefits Poppy’s controlling tone. As a whole, however, Poppy.Computer
never really finds equal ground between the aesthetics built around a character such as Poppy and the necessities needed for a well written pop record.
While it’s undeniably consistent in style, the tracks less interested with Poppy’s character here struggle to bring quirky lyrics and catchy production to the table; things which came naturally in the aforementioned tracks. Despite her limits, Poppy is an interesting character to experience, and that’s why they work. And when the best tracks of the album are the most character dependent and context heavy to enjoy, then something has clearly gone wrong. “Moshi Moshi” and “Computer Boy” are instantly approachable of the short stack. “Moshi Moshi” rides along a bouncy synth line and cutesy lyrical content that is equally dreamy and adorable. While “Computer Boy” busy, blaring synths in its chorus and Poppy’s slightly dirty computer/person analogies demand a sing-along. Songs such as “Let’s Make A Video” and “Bleach Blonde baby”, however, falter with too little to offer outside of a potentially catchy hook or two.
It’s in songs such as these where the album loses its ability to maintain interest either by being too bubbly or not dynamic enough instrumentally, though “Interweb” may be the most guilty of this. It’s the one and only track of the album which deviates from the “archaic computer pop” sound, opting out for a dark and menacing atmosphere akin to a Grimes tracks. However, it gives too little to digest aside from a singular bass sample and kick beat that carries the brunt of the track’s meat. Given that it is also the longest song on the record, even throwing in a guitar riff or a few quick paced drum fills between Poppy’s pauses throughout the chorus would have saved it from sounding homogenous. At half an hour, Poppy.Computer
feels as though it has too much on its plate with songs that leave no lasting impression. It would’ve worked better as an EP, even if at this point it’s too little too late to maintain interest for Poppy as a character and Poppy as a music sensation. Since from the sounds of it, barely either work together.