Poppy - Poppy.Computer Album Review
A pseudo-YouTube pop star recently awarded the 2017 Streamy for Breakthrough Artist, the 22-year-old internet anomaly Poppy has risen from obscurity through her bizarre YouTube videos and infectious pop singles. While first feared to be the product of poor mental health or the prisoner of a cult, slowly over the course of the past year her satiric take on the brain-dead teenage pop star became evident. While the performance-art side of Poppy’s career certainly plays a role in making her one of the most interesting personalities in music today, Poppy.Computer proves Poppy can succeed purely on the merits of her music alone.
Despite being released on Diplo’s Mad Decent label and having an undoubtedly pop style, Poppy.Computer sounds unlike much else on the top 40. Heavily inspired by k-pop and chiptune, Poppy have created a concise and sugary electropop punch to the teeth condensed to just 11 songs in 34 minutes. Production and songwriting done in part by Poppy’s longtime collaborator Titanic Sinclair explodes in bright bursts of synths and chiptune flutter throughout almost every second of the album, taking the standard pop structures of these tracks and pumping them full of personality and energy.
It’s this personality and energy where Poppy.Computer finds its success. Pop albums are make-or-break on their ability to express their individuality and create a unique sonic palette within the basic fundamentals of pop. Instead of trying to subvert these sonic foundations of pop, Poppy pushes them to their limits without going overboard. Subtlety is not a word that seems to be in Poppy’s musical vocabulary, keeping the listener fully engaged in the overt cuteness and catchiness of the album.
Lyrically is where Poppy begins to subvert some of the genre's conventions, using her lyrics to create a perfectly executed satire. Her robotic and vapid demeanor mirrors the all too frequent one-hit-wonders produced in mass by major record labels while still being tongue in cheek enough to appeal to the more heedful listener. At times comedic and unsettling, her songs range from Philip K. Dick inspired teeny-bop sci-fi tales to abstract introspection. They juxtapose the cutesy production perfectly, creating an uncanny valley effect that makes the listener question if what they’re listening to is in fact a great pop album or an unforgiving satiric take on the pop album.
These comedic moments are punctuated by the incredibly endearing “Pop Music,” an acoustic ballad that seems to showcase the artist underneath the Poppy persona coming to terms with her career choices to become a “pop star” or to at least say what she wants to say artistically through the medium of pop music. The lines, “Pop belongs to everyone (oh oh) / Pop is on the radio… / Poor kids come from nothing / but they can have it too / it's egalitarian,” poignantly capture what makes music, and the pop genre specifically, such a beloved art form.
It's nearly impossible to find fault with Poppy.Computer because it perfectly executes on what it sets out to do: be a pop album that both questions and reminds the music listening community what makes pop music persist no matter how the aesthetic of the genre changes. Poppy’s personality shines from beginning to end, both appealing to pop fans who have become so accepting of the dumbed down pop stars of the twenty-first century while maintaining an air of humor for those who are looking for something more sophisticated. Poppy.Computer may not be as intricate musically nor as thematically complex as some of the other albums released this year, but it nevertheless makes an important artistic statement while maintaining its pop appeal.
Chandler Copenheaver is a senior majoring in public relations. To contact him, email email@example.com.