(This is another unpublished review!)
It wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that “I Disagree” was one of the most anticipated releases of 2020. A whirlwind of hype and controversy has surrounded the genre-defying Poppy as of late, surrounding everything from her somewhat unexpected shift away from the eccentric pop sound of her earlier material to her split with her infamous creative collaborator Titanic Sinclair (“I Disagree” is the final album they worked on together). “I Disagree”, then, is somewhat of a pivotal moment in Poppy’s career.
“I Disagree” starts off with Concrete, a song that lurches gloriously between metalcore riffs and musical stylings that wouldn’t sound out of place in J-pop or J-rock. You’d think that this would set the tone for the rest of the album but, surprisingly, “I Disagree” is much more varied than what Concrete would have you believe. The album’s title track feels almost like a heavy Billie Eilish song at parts, with the J-pop influences floating back in near the end of the song. Anything Like Me has a similar vibe too – the pulsating kicks are even very similar to Billie’s hit Bury A Friend! BLOODMONEY happily ventures into industrial territory with synth bass stabs dominating the sonic landscape whenever they appear and some seriously low guitars that could have come right off Mick Gordon’s soundtrack for the DOOM reboot.
Fill The Crown is definitely one of the album’s standout tracks. Poppy embraces the more industrial end of nu-metal on this song, delivering something that would get Marylin Manson, Korn or Cane Hill raising a few eyebrows. She does all of this whilst still retaining the high pitched, ethereal and quirky yet at the same time very familiar nature of her vocal stylings. Sit / Stay embraces this (almost!) throwback to the 90s and 00s too, creating something that’s equal parts KMFDM as it is Bjork.
Whilst “I Disagree” is definitely a heavier offering from Poppy, that doesn’t mean some of the more synthy elements from her previous album aren’t carried over. The synth-dominated Nothing I Need could have easily fit on “Am I A Girl?”, as could Sick of the Sun with its lush guitar chords and gentle electronic percussion.
The brilliance of “I Disagree” comes in that, both musically and situationally for her, it’s an album of transition. Poppy is moving away from her old career under the direction of Titanic Sinclair and into a new era where she can express herself differently. The contrast of the heavier, riffier and more industrial songs with the few that are more like the Poppy we already knew make that even more apparent. Is Poppy going to fully embrace metal? Very likely not. She’s still very much within the world of electronic music and her own, weird brand of pop. She is just pushing the boundaries of her post-genre stylings further and that includes her embrace of heavy music.