Julia Shapiro lives in Seattle and performs in the bands Chastity Belt, Childbirth and Who Is She. Chastity Belt put out their third record in June 2017 called I Used To Spend So Much Time Alone on the label Hardly Art. Some of her other interests include watching reality TV, taking long walks, petting dogs, and gossiping.
My first introduction to the mysterious YouTube sensation Poppy, was by watching her video “I’m Poppy,” where she repeats the phrases “I’m Poppy” and “I am Poppy” in a chilling, soft, robotic baby voice from various camera angles for ten minutes straight. This video has over 17 million views (a disturbing truth about the state of the world today), and after watching about 30 seconds of it and scrolling ahead a few times, I felt like I must be missing something. I felt deceived by the view count, and angered that I was adding to it. For a moment I was tricked into the false intrigue created by her bizarre, feigned artsy performances.
I found myself watching more of these overly contrived videos and searching her name on the internet trying to figure out what the fuck her deal was. It turns out she’s just a 23-year-old gal from Nashville named Moriah Rose Pereira who got her start doing cringy MGMT covers. There are definitely intriguing things about her, and the parody aspect to her videos is somewhat clever, but my curiosity turned to disgust when I realized her entire act was completely at the will of her puppet master/director/boyfriend Titanic Sinclair. Sinclair generated this enigmatic celebrity persona from nothing, and we all fell for it. Now Poppy’s YouTube channel has over two million subscribers, and she just put out her second studio album Am I A Girl? on Diplo’s label.
To give her a little credit, Poppy’s over-the-top persona is definitely making some sort of commentary on popstars today, whether or not it’s completely intentional. I mean, the mere fact that anyone is even giving her attention is commentary in itself. From what I can tell, she and Titanic Sinclair are attempting to make a statement about consumerism and fame, but I’m not entirely sure what that statement is, and I don’t think they are either. Based on her two studio albums and hundreds of YouTube videos, along with the interviews she’s given in which she never breaks character, Poppy is full of contradictions. She and Sinclair are trying super hard to be edgy and deep, but totally missing the mark. Their whole act is like a bad college art project that somehow got international attention before they figured out what their thesis statement was. In an attempt to mock fame, Poppy has also completely given into it. I mean, at this point, she’s touring, giving interviews, and collaborating with musicians like Grimes. Poppy’s new album Am I A Girl? doesn’t answer any of the questions we have about her, but instead creates more confusion, as well as a garbage-pop induced headache.
The majority of the album is pretty vapid and light, touching on fashion, fame, and life as a robot, but on a couple songs, she attempts to get a little more political, covering topics like gender fluidity and global warming. I’m not sure which track I like best, but the environmental song “Time Is Up” definitely made me LOL. The song is produced by Diplo, and it’s one of the catchier tunes on the record. Poppy starts off sing-talking about how she is a computer: “In the factory/In the sterile place where they made me/I woke up alone.” This robot storyline is definitely one of my favorites of hers. Contrary to other celebrities who could, for all we know, be androids posing as humans (Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Keanu Reeves, etc.), Poppy is changing the narrative—she’s a human posing as a computer. There are some conspiracies about Poppy being a Satanist or somehow tied to the Illuminati, but I feel like it’s pretty obvious that all the mystery she has created around herself is just meant to cover up the fact that she’s a pretty average person.
The song gets a little more political once the chorus kicks in: “I don’t need air to breathe/When you kill the bees/And every riverbed is dry as a bone/Oh, I’ll still survive when the plants have died/And the atmosphere is just a big hole/Baby your time is up.” So when the world ends, I guess Poppy will outlive us all. Oh well. I appreciate the sentiment about climate change, though. Way to take a stand, Pops!
On the title track “Am I A Girl?” Poppy poses that very question pretty blatantly. She attempts to make a statement about gender fluidity, while at the same time completely playing into gender stereotypes. The song starts off with her singing, “I want to be a girl/In all the normal ways/Pose for a photograph/Put on my pretty face/Thank God I’m not a boy/I’d always have to pay/Pretend that I was strong/And never got afraid.” Then the chorus kicks in and she’s singing, “Am I a girl?/Am I a boy?/What does that even mean?/I’m somewhere in between.” I think her intentions are good, but she’s also simplifying gender in a really ignorant way. In an interview, she once said, “There is no such thing as gender, only computers,” which I think was supposed to be shocking and edgy, but is actually incredibly stupid.
There are more references to Poppy being a computer on “Hard Feelings,” and at one point in the song she asks, “What crimes will you make me commit?/Am I a replica of someone that you loved?” Well, according to Mars Argo, Titanic Sinclair’s previous girlfriend and the original Poppy, the answers to these questions are: copyright infringement, and yes, yes you are. Before Titanic Sinclair started working with and dating Pereira, he was involved with a woman named Brittany Sheets (a.k.a. Mars Argo), and together they produced videos that are very similar to the ones on Poppy’s YouTube channel today. This resulted in a copyright infringement lawsuit. Sheets also claimed that Titanic stalked, harassed and emotionally abused her during their relationship. Pretty dark, huh? Perhaps Poppy is referring to this scandal when she sings, “If I can never love, why do I have hard feelings?” And in the bridge, she repeats the line, “Someone you made me to replace.” Or perhaps I am an idiot for taking the time to analyze this horrible pop song so deeply. Either way, it sounds like Poppy and Titanic have some shit to sort out.
Aside from the lyrics in “Hard Feelings,” the music itself is pretty unbearable—a generic pop algorithm with a few cheesy heavy metal riffs sprinkled throughout the song. “Play Destroy” (a collab with Grimes) also features a combination of pop and heavy metal—a bold mashup that Poppy repeatedly attempts, although it really doesn’t seem to work that well. The press release for the last song on the album, “X,” was “Poppy conquers nu-metal;” This song combines bad nu-metal (“Get me get me bloody/Please get me bloody”) with a ballad about world peace (“I wanna love everyone/Empty every bullet out of every gun.”) To really drive this point home, the music video cuts back and forth between Poppy, covered in blood, surrounded by what looks like a more glamorous version of Slipknot, to her dressed like a ‘60s-era hippy, skipping around a field with her hippy friends.
I don’t know why Poppy angers me so much, but I guess she’s doing something right, because I can’t help but hate-watch everything she does. It’s not really Poppy I’m irritated by, but Titanic Sinclair (what a douche), the music industry, and us, the idiotic consumers who will ingest any media that’s fed to us in a somewhat mysterious and compelling way.