If ever there was an artist to start this blog with, it's Poppy.
What is Choke?
Cult leader and popstar, Poppy, released her latest EP, Choke, last month on June 28th, 2019. Featuring the rapmetal band Fever 333, Choke further develops Poppy's spiral into eerie, sonically-perplexing and experimental pop-influenced songwriting. The EP features five songs, each varying in style and demonstrating the breadth of her artistic capabilities. The tracklist is as follows:
- Scary Mask (feat. Fever 333)
- The Holy Mountain
Some history on Poppy
It's amazing to think that back in 2016 and 2017, Poppy appeared as nothing more than an interesting internet personality who happened to produce characteristically 'poppy' songs. Her first EP, Bubblebath (2016) and first full-length album, Poppy.Computer (2017), presented a girl delving into social commentary and catchy but meaningful lyrics. With the addition of Am I A Girl? (2018) to her discography last year, fans noted a sudden shift in her tone. Gone was the cute and technologically-influenced aesthetic of Poppy.Computer and in was the more exotic and varied sound of Am I A Girl? However, despite this drastic change in sound, Poppy has always maintained some fundamentals: her music is exactly as her named would describe; her lyrics are either tongue-in-cheek or introspective of society or herself; and, she remains to be a mysterious cult leader amassing an army of loyal fans to achieve some sort of objective. Choke does not stray from these fundamentals.
Let's talk about the songs
Choke continues that shift in tone and presents a new vision. Most of the EP, especially in the first, second and fourth songs (Choke, Voicemail and Meat), can be described as a dirty and industrial sound. Low synth frequencies dominate most of the soundscape of these tracks, juxtaposed by Poppy's unnervingly cute and high-pitch vocals. These songs stand in stark contrast to the artist's previous releases, particularly those of pre-2018. The real stars of the EP, however, are Scary Mask and The Holy Mountain. The former sees Poppy once again presenting something that's entirely metal and grungy, not dissimilar to her previous metalcore tracks, X and Play Destroy (2018). However, in accordance with her namesake, Scary Mask is fundamentally poppy and catchy: she's perfectly fused the metal sound with that of a charming, enjoyable-for-all-ages one. (Think BABYMETAL). The latter, The Holy Mountain, is something entirely different that we've never seen from Poppy. The bizarre piano-instrumental song, decorated with a trap-like beat during the chorus, features Christian god-worshipping lyrics. Again, this is just another one of Poppy's weird, eerie releases.
Choke and Voicemail
We'll discuss these ones side-by-side since they're extremely similar. Deep and grungy is the best way to describe the opening track. The distorted bassline accentuated by a low bassdrum and the singer's breathy voice emanates a 'suffocating' feeling. This is emphasised by the despairing lyrics, making existence seem so difficult. Voicemail follows up on this 'suffocating' feeling and bolsters it by adding a somewhat nauseating and perplexing emotion with its discordant, flickering melodies and ostensibly nonsensical lyrics. Above all else though, it maintains Poppy's creepy artificial image with lyrics such as, "Poppy is your mommy," almost harking back to the chorus of her previous 2017 song, My Style, with lines such as, "Poppy is your best friend" and "Poppy is an object." Poppy is reminding us that she is whoever you want her to be, she's Poppy.
God, I love this song so much. Scary Mask can be referred to as the sister of X (2018), my favourite song from Am I A Girl? Poppy revealed in an interview with Gigwise that the two predominantly metal-focused songs were recorded just a week apart from each other. The similarity is uncanny. This song, like X, features dreamy and melodic verses which are continuously destroyed by roughly screamed metal choruses. I think it's this constant, repetitive juxtaposition between harsh and soft that sets something right for me and many others who have been praising this new artistic route that Poppy has been venturing. Poppy states in the same interview that this alternative path to pop music that she's taken was "borne out of frustration." Well, it's definitely frustration that's sonically emitted from this track.
As previously stated, Meat fits well with Choke and Voicemail in terms of its grungy, low sound, however, this one features somewhat friendlier and more upbeat verses. I say somewhat because the content of its lyrics are still nothing short of creepy. You'd think though that maybe Meat is a normal, regular pop song right? Kind of. Any normalcy is immediately dispelled by its harrowing, whispered and breathy choruses. I'd rank Meat lowest on this EP, however, that isn't to say it's a terrible song. Just not what I usually expect from Poppy.
The Holy Mountain
Surprisingly, Holy Mountain comes out of nowhere on this EP as a very enjoyable but bizarre religious-themed song. The track is primarily a piano-instrumental, featuring an electronic trap-like beat during the chorus. Poppy has never featured lyrics quite this direct about religion, especially not Christianity. The preachy ballad features an acceptance of God into one's life. In fact, the length of the song is 3:33, which may refer to John 3:33 which speaks of accepting John's testimony that Jesus was the son of God from Heaven, and that by accepting this, one can see "eternal life." In her Gigwise interview, Poppy stated that with The Holy Mountain, she hopes to inspire people to seek "the higher consciousness" so that they may achieve an open mind. This track stands as one of Poppy's latest experiments with new genres, demonstrating once again that she's not afraid to use her lyric-writing pen in any way she wants.
Hopefully Poppy continues to amaze or shock us in the future with her tenacity to take the pop music genre and craft it into something that's entirely different and sonically interesting. With the large difference between this EP and her previous EP, Bubblebath, we can only imagine what's in store next. If you like the occasional synthpop and/or experimental pop coupled with a bit of weirdness, this EP, including most of Poppy's work should be right up your alley. I'm in love with it and have it on repeat.