POPPY — I Disagree (review)

POPPY — I Disagree album cover Album · 2020 · Alternative Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
0.5/5 ·
I wasn't going to review Poppy's I Disagree, which is her first full metal album after playing with metal elements somewhat in her past work, which was otherwise electronic or ambient based, depending on the album. I had my reasons for not doing it and they were good ones. For one thing it's pretty clear that this is a 'not for me' kind of album as alternative/nu metal generally isn't in my wheelhouse. At least not any more. I just find it an area of metal that apart from the few special bands with staying power has over time lost whatever appeal it may have once had for me; what may have worked when I was a teen or even a young man just doesn't wash now I'm older. I feel like it's almost designed for a younger audience looking for something to rebel to. Of course I know that's not true of every alternative metal act, but it is an overall impression I've acquired. Maybe I've just become a grumpy old man before my time.

I Disagree is an album I would have overlooked had another reviewer not made me curious through what I call the curse of the negative review. The warning was there, but I would not be told and I listened to it. What followed was a horrific experience on the ears, after which the logical thing to do would be to not take my relationship with Poppy's music any further. And it really could have ended there, but here we are, I'm reviewing it all the same. So what changed?

I suppose it's a combination of getting caught up in how much attention the album was getting through that first review, which is the most active I've seen MMA in a while, and my own apparent willingness to be a glutton for punishment for not immediately putting this album out of my mind, instead starting to jot down some notes of what I could say about it until I suddenly reached the point that I'd spent too much time on this album not to review it. Of course one could counter argue that I've also spent far more time on it than this album will ever deserve.

I will make one thing clear in this review for full disclosure reasons: I listened to I Disagree in full once. Just once, with the rest of my experience of it just skipping through checking details and switching it off again. Many will likely argue that this is far from enough times to form a fair opinion of it for a serious review. To be honest I agree, but in this case once really was enough. I also never claimed that this would be a serious review. Instead thinking of it as some random grump throwing in his penny's worth because nobody asked.

And there are really two ways that I could go about this now. I could try to be diplomatic and find some small reasons to give Poppy a bit of credit where I can, or I can just let loose with how I really feel about it. Well actually I'm going to do a bit of both, but one of these things is going to heavily outweigh the other I'm afraid and we're going to go through where I can give Poppy credit first, the few positive things I can acknowledge about I Disagree: it's an ambitious album, the young lady does possess a good voice and her music has a kind of quirkiness to it that could have actually made something entertaining if not of actual substance. And that's as far as I'll go with that!

And now for the truth: I Disagree is an absolute train wreck of an album that comes across like Poppy and her collaborators (who apart from writing credits seem to be a real tight-lipped secret over who actually plays on the album) jumped into the deep end of the pool that is metal music straight away after they barely learned to paddle in the kiddy pool, resulting in an album that while ambitious feels like too many eggs in one basket, one that they then didn't know how or didn't have the ability to handle effectively. Alternative metal was founded on adding atypical ideas to metal, which this does in spades, but it goes overboard, ending up with metal elements that just aren't very interesting and the rest just a complete mess of conflicting ideas that ultimately creates a directionless album that seems like it's stuck between two worlds: where Poppy came from and the metal world she's trying to now break into.

Or is she? You see I did a bit of research on Poppy while piecing this review together. And I found out something that I've heard before from artists who obviously are playing metal: Poppy doesn't actually consider her music to be metal. And that really rubs me up the wrong way. This is an excuse we've heard before in the metal world when an artist is likely savvy enough to realise that what they do won't sit well with the 'true' crowd, as if disassociating what they're doing from metal will make everyone turn around and say 'oh, that's all right then, we take everything bad that we ever said about you back'. Korn did it, but at least Jonathan Davis had a reason to back up the statement for his band: he considered them to actually be based in funk (but sorry Jon, you actually were metal despite your words). Know what Poppy considers her music to be? Post-genre. How fucking pretentious can you get? If by that Poppy means that she just doesn't give a fuck, then I suppose I have to do a 180 and call this album a resounding success, because that's exactly what I Disagree sounds like: throwing literally anything in heedless of what ideas gel together even slightly well. Some of it does, but that doesn't necessarily mean those parts are actually very good.

And unfortunately for her it's very difficult to see where she's coming from with disassociating her album from metal, because unless your metal upbringing was based on the Encyclopaedia Metallum diet of no alternative, -core, industrial and the like, it's pretty obvious that above all else metal is what Poppy has released on I Disagree and she also seems to be trying way too hard to look badass on the album cover. She looks like a fucking caricature.

There are a few tracks here where metal elements are either taking a back seat or not featured at all, but most songs on this blessedly short album are metal songs. Metal diluted with whatever the fuck Poppy's retained from her prior work. Take the opener Concrete for example; it's basically about her getting murdered and her corpse buried in concrete to become a street to hide the evidence of the crime. Some of the album's heaviest music is in this track, but then she goes and mixes it with all with power pop. It would be darkly quirky were the music itself not so jarringly disjointed. At one point she sounds like she's instead singing some anime theme tune. All sunshine and roses when the subject matter of her lyrics is really quite messed up!

And that's really what bugs me throughout this album. Everything included seems to be at odds with everything else. Some might call it experimental, progressive or avant-garde, but I call it simply messy. I'm left feeling that it would actually be easier to take I Disagree seriously if it were obviously that Poppy was just another one of those cute metal acts like Babymetal or Ladybaby, meaning an intended novelty that exists for a bit of fun and not be taken too seriously, as paradoxical as that sounds. But Poppy doesn't belong in the same category as those acts because apparently she's a serious artist.

That's a 'good for her' kind of thing I guess, but I for one remain to be convinced that she has any idea what's she's doing or what kind of music she actually wants to make. If its metal, then she really needs to get her head out of her arse and realise that us headbangers are pretty demanding folk whether our favourite genre is alternative metal, death metal or symphonic post-thrash based mathcore with undertones of gothic rock and celtic folk music and that while we actually are very open to other elements being mixed with metal (several entire genres have been built on that basis), we do still like the actual metal elements to be good. And here they're certainly not. The best I can describe them as is bland. If it's the other stuff, then maybe she should actually focus on that other stuff a bit more, not necessarily never touching metal or heavy elements again but certainly only using them to flavour the music she made her name on. From my personal experience of what fans of pop and electronic like, they also may be happier for it in the long run. Of course that's just speculation, since for the most part people (who are they I wonder?) seem to keep heaping praise on Poppy, but maybe that's just the culture of her background in commercial music: the following is not necessarily based on what the artist sounds like, but their looks or persona. If that's so then she may as well enjoy it, because once her five minutes of fame are up she'll be regulated to the bargain bins for the rest of time.
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Vim Fuego wrote:
4 months ago
Good summary. I like the comparisons to Babymetal. That's what I thought when I heard this - Babymetal without the charm. Or the metal cred...


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