Sumerian Records· January 10, 2020
I Disagree is the 25-year-old’s third album and upon first glance it provides a stark contrast from her previous work. The front cover displays a black-and-white Poppy wearing spiked chains around her neck, seemingly covered in blood and glaring at the camera. As the album art suggests, the music represents a dark departure of the cutesy futuristic themes displayed in past years. Poppy is attempting something that has almost never been done by a mainstream artist: blending radio-friendly synth pop with heavy metal. That may sound like a disastrous combination, one that has been rarely attempted for good reason. But Poppy proves time and time again on I Disagree that she is an artist capable of pulling off the audacious task.
The tracks with the heaviest metal influences are extremely abrasive and intentionally over-the-top. There’s no better example than the third track and lead single from the album, “BLOODMONEY,” with a screamed chorus and bass-boosted, industrial instrumental that border on ridiculous at times. The song evokes Christian imagery beside creepy lyrics and showcases Poppy at her angriest, as she repeatedly shouts the chorus “Keep telling yourself that you’ve been playing nice / then go beg for forgiveness from Jesus the Christ.” The following track, “Fill the Crown,” features the only true example of a traditional death metal performance from an uncredited collaborator. In between the metal verses, Poppy performs a melodic pop chorus, which provides perhaps the strongest juxtaposition within a single song on the whole record.
The most glaring issue with the album is a weak stretch within the middle of the album, when the initial shock of the stylistic presentation of the music has worn off. I Disagree relies on continually impressing the listener with its outrageous blend of genres, and falls short on a couple tracks. However, by the end of the record, Poppy dials up the aggression even further. “Bite Your Teeth” contains easily the most raucous, metal-influenced instrumental of the project, sounding like it would fit in easily on a Megadeth or Iron Maiden album. Naturally, Poppy places perhaps her most calming vocal passage in the middle of this song, and concludes it with an ethereal string excerpt. The penultimate track, “Sick of the Sun,” serves as an exceptional cool down from the previous eight tracks, showcasing a great melody and vocals supported by appropriately despondent lyrics. Closer “Don’t Go Outside,” is the most traditionally structured metal song on the record, with Poppy’s soft vocals serving as a 2-minute build-up to the main thrash-inspired instrumental, with a short, nihilistic verse finishing off the song.
Poppy shows a breathtaking level of innovation and ambition, regardless of whether the listener is left impressed with the final product. While metal purists could easily complain that the rock instrumentals throughout the album aren’t particularly original or groundbreaking, that wasn’t Poppy’s goal. If nothing else, her objective was to leave the listener slightly stunned for a half-hour duration, and it’s hard to see this album as unsuccessful in that respect.
Listen to I Disagree: