“Variety is the spice of life.” A saying that is as old as time has a meaning that finds itself relevant in the current social atmosphere very frequently. It can be applied to a lot of different facets of life, whether it be changing a preconceived routine, disrupting typical social normalcy one may find themselves in, or something else that is part of the human experience. One aspect where the quote resonates (with me in particular) is in the world of music. There is so much diversity in music that finding a niche can be hard to do at first. When you finally find something you do like, the question that eventually creeps up is “what next”? It becomes a very slippery slope. Eventually, when you find something that is avant-garde or unfamiliar, first opinion usually dictates looking at the material with an alien mindset. This is most likely to be the case with I Disagree, the third studio album from American singer-songwriter Poppy. With this collection of songs, the artist actively asks you to question what variety is, and wants to know if you are up to the challenge of appreciating it.
Poppy has a knack for meshing musical genres as much as smacking an electronic device really hard makes it work again. It should not make things better, but it does. The sheer amount of weaving between technical metal, airy Top 40 pop, and Merseybeat alternative rock (think The Beatles) is exhausting, to say the least. Despite the rollercoaster of stylistic changes that take place across the entirety of the album (and in most cases, throughout the course of one song), Poppy and her contributing songwriters are able to combine every single element they threw into the melting pot and come away with one of the most sonically abundant efforts I have ever listened to. Album opener and lead single “Concrete” is a microcosm of the record as a whole; Poppy transitions from a looming sense of dread in her opening remarks (“bury me six feet deep / cover me in concrete / turn me into a street”) to a jarring dichotomy of messages (“sugar in my teeth / demons in my dreams”) over an instrumental that starts with a brutal riff and instantaneously flips to a K-pop beat reminiscent to a sing-along on family television programs. Keep in mind that all of this is less than two minutes into the album, and it does not let up anytime soon.
The album moves from the anthemic ending of “Concrete” into “I Disagree”, beginning with a riff that sounds like a current-era Bring Me the Horizon rip-off and redeeming its lackluster verses with an undeniably catchy chorus. The underlying instrumentals behind “I Disagree” are groovy and don’t really stray down an unconventional path, but that’s a nice “breathing room” song. “BLOODMONEY” follows up as track three with a dubstep-laced, synth-driven background, an almost-constant drum being pounded into oblivion by way of a 4/4-time signature, and a form of shouting and rapping combination that is far from the album’s title track in terms of urgency.
“Anything Like Me” was one of the highlights of the record simply for the amount of times it provided unexpected twists and turns. A soft acoustic guitar covers the back third of the song with delicate singing from the entertainer, only to return with a punishing metalcore-esque outro. “Fill the Crown”, the fifth track on the album, has more of a pop feeling to it and does not rely on too much genre contrast, outside of the male vocals (from an unidentified vocalist) and the glitchy electronic instrumental provided. This song felt like the most cohesive on the album in terms of listenability and being able to keep up with the onslaught of different influences Poppy has provided for the listener in the first half of this album.
The back half of the album begins with “Nothing I Need”, which is a soft pop song that is more Top 40-influenced and stays that way throughout the entire song. Poppy indirectly references the listening experiences of I Disagree by stating in the chorus to “take the ride”. Track seven is titled “Sit / Stay”, and some of the faster Top 40 and electronic influences that we have seen in the first half of the album are present here once again. At this point in the album, Poppy has started to drift away from the more metal aspects of tracks 1-5 and has embraced the electronic aspect that has been employed.
“Bite Your Teeth” just threw everything that I said about embracing the electronic aspect of the music out of the window and returns to a metalcore instrumental where Poppy cries out to the audience to “don’t cry / keep on trying / just bite your own teeth”. These are the only lyrics of the song in some format, and she ends the song with a deathcore breakdown and some distorted screaming. This was my least favorite song on the record due to the complete lack of lyrical innovation. I am not typically a nitpicker, but there should be more than thirty unique words in a song. She does have a sick “BLEGH” though, so you better watch out (looking at you, Sam Carter).
The penultimate track “Sick of the Sun” strips away the metal persona once again in favor of a slow-burn pop song; this happens to be my favorite song on the album. It was a simple progression; some guitars in the back added a flair of authenticity to separate this specific song from radio-friendly counterparts, and overall was very fitting as it led into the closing track “Don’t Go Outside”. Keeping the previous track’s pop image, adding in some more electronic elements, and some short but well-placed riffing guitars in the epic conclusion, this song really solidifies Poppy as an artist (and a genre of herself) as she croons to the listener that “everything will be okay”.
Overall, after the thirty-five-minute runtime of I Disagree, there were twists and turns, and then there were completely unexpected moments which makes twists and turns look like they are commonplace nowadays. Needless to say, if you made it through all ten tracks, you know that this album was quite literally a melting pot for alternative metal and pop music. The constant shifting between genres really gives Poppy a position as an artist that is unparalleled in today’s music scene. While the lyrical content of the album left more to be desired, the moments where Poppy had her time to shine in front of an acoustic guitar or pop instrumental were the bright spots of the album. The moments where she brought forth this weird amalgamation of rapping, shouting, and yelling (that in all honesty, sounds like a whining girl) were the opposite. While I Disagree may end up being the musical definition of “variety is the spice of the life”, this album may be seasoned a bit too much for listeners looking for something specific. Do not let that deter you from giving it a shot though; most everybody likes trying something new.
I give I Disagree by Poppy a 7.0 out of 10.
If you do not want to listen to the whole album but still want a feel for what the record sounds like, check out “I Disagree”, “Fill the Crown”, and “Sick of the Sun”.
Poppy kicks off her 36-date I Disagree world tour in San Francisco, California on January 22nd, 2020 and closes in Madrid, Spain on March 30th, 2020. You can purchase tickets at impoppy.com.
I Disagree is available on streaming services and at local retailers now via Sumerian Records.
- “I Disagree”
- “Anything Like Me”
- “Fill the Crown”
- “Nothing I Need”
- “Sit / Stay”
- “Bite Your Teeth”
- “Sick of the Sun”
- “Don’t Go Outside”