Review Summary: Sugar in my teeth, demons in my dreamsI Disagree
is not only the title of Poppy’s third album, but also a phrase that will be uttered a lot by those discussing her latest work. If you feel as though this album is a genre-busting slice of innovative pop-metal, then you’re incorrect. If you think it’s unfocused meme-ready rubbish, then you’re equally as wrong. If you reside somewhere in the middle by seeing its merits and flaws, you’ll get lambasted from both sides. The chances of this being the most disagreeable mainstream record of 2020 a la Billie Eilish is already through the roof, so you might as well strap yourself in for the ride. I Disagree
is hyper polarizing, but Poppy wouldn’t have it any other way.
Poppy has always been looking to erase the boundaries of music, although subtlety isn’t her strong suit. Most of the aggressive style changes that occur here are about as obvious as the music video for I Disagree
’s title track, where Poppy plays to a group of bored, irked-looking record/label executives before gassing them and ultimately lighting their corpses on fire. The message is clear: she doesn’t want to, nor can she, be contained by the pressures of the modern music industry, society, you, or anyone else. It’s a positive and empowering mindset, but again, it’s laid on so thick – both cinematically and on record – that it almost comes across as satirical. It’s the exact same issue you’ll encounter with artists such as Eilish or Slipknot; the question remains, am I really buying into this
Touch aside, there’s no doubt that I Disagree
is a boatload of fun. Poppy continually shoves square pegs into round roles, but the clashing aesthetics of Manson reminiscent nu-metal riffs and sugary Grande styled choruses has never been so wildly entertaining, save for perhaps the Babymetals of the world. At her best, Poppy infuses her god-given knack for pop hooks with a metal injection that actually fits the overall vibe of the song; we see it on ‘Concrete’ when she blasts down the doors with a fiery barrage of shredding and machinegun percussion only to cool down a few verses later with Sgt. Peppers meets Poppy
, very much sounding the part of a modern ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’ during the song's melodic moments. We see it again on ‘Fill The Crown’, which is bolstered by dark, mysterious male backing vocals and the richest, most burly sounding electric guitars on the entire album. The guitar work throughout is nothing spectacularly complex – it’s all straightforward and mostly to fulfill the very
pointed purpose of making sure we recognize the heavier influences. Much like the ham-fisted lyrics, it’s effective despite being technically unremarkable.
Perhaps more impressive than the shoehorned metal influences are the electronic elements that she carried over from last year’s Choke
EP which, while sparse, find themselves contributing just as much to the sense of darkness that Poppy craves. ‘Anything Like Me’ is the prime cut in this instance, beginning as a meek ballad before diverging into territory that exists somewhere between Eilish’s ‘bad guy’ (last mention, I swear) and Skrillex. Yet somehow, it works far better than either of those artists individually, or how any awkward melding of the two might sound.
Ironically, Poppy also finds herself at the top of her game when she drops the heavy-as-hell façade during ‘Sick of the Sun’, which is a genuinely great pop track with an addicting chorus and breathtaking ambience. It won’t score many points for adventurism, but it’s the most natural sounding of her many musical characters. We witness a similar phenomenon on the closer, ‘Don’t Go Outside’, which still features a metallic edge but sees it organically unfold rather than appear sporadically and haphazardly. Dystopian balladry gives way to an eerie, Rammstein-esque breakdown (anyone else hear ‘Hallomann’?) before alternating between unconvincing chants of “everything will be okay” and a callback to the lyrics/melody of ‘Concrete’, thus bringing I Disagree
full circle. It feels like the most complete song on the record, realizing her heavier aspirations without coming across as gimmicky at any point. It’s a lesson that could have been applied to some of the album’s leaner offerings; but again, Poppy’s entire M.O.is kitschy, hybrid pop – so maybe we should just count ourselves lucky that a song like ‘Don’t Go Outside’ was created under her purview at all.
is a record you’ll want to enjoy, but not necessarily analyze. It’s perfect for a romp down the highway at 90 MPH, or engulfing your personal critics in flames. It’s not going to spark much conversation intellectually or musically, with the caveat to the latter being the obvious hype that will emanate from just how contagiously fun it is. More than anything, Poppy is furthering the “dark-pop” movement that seems to be taking hold in recent years, providing some much needed contrast to the perfectly smiling do-gooders that dominate too much of the pop scene. It’s a good move for Poppy, whose appetite for change continues to stir up some truly gripping and thoroughly disagreeable music.
Die for the attention
You pray for a reaction
I'll stop when it's no more fun