Poppy trades pastel YouTube persona for heavy metal maven

The artist played at the Amsterdam Bar & Hall on Thursday night.

Illustrated by Hailee Schievelbein

Illustrated by Hailee Schievelbein

by Meg Bishop

Known first as a mysterious YouTube sensation, Poppy transformed into a dark angel armed with a mix of punk-electronica and sludge metal in downtown St. Paul Thursday. Performing her coming-of-scene album, “I Disagree,” at the Amsterdam Bar and Hall, she brought together a conglomerate of music fans while delivering dynamic messages.

Poppy has set a bold reputation for herself based around her sadistic “down with the patriarchy” attitude. The audience exemplified Poppy’s anti-patriarchal message, with crowd members wearing T-shirts with Pentagrams screaming the lyrics to her song “Fill the Crown”: “Poison the fountain / Empty your mind / Follow the leader / The leader is blind.” 

In January, Poppy released her latest album “I Disagree”  —  a tribute to breaking away from oppression and submitting to others’ ideas enforced upon her. A few weeks before releasing the album, she and her creative partner Titanic Sinclair split from their longterm romantic and musical partnership. On Dec. 28, 2019, Poppy posted a statement to Twitter shining light on their breakup. She ends the message by stating: “I encourage those of you who feel trapped in a situation… to take the first step because that is the most difficult one.” The resulting album, “I Disagree,” is her battle cry.

This album is her first to feature heavy metal. The change in her sound was also reflected by the transformation of her image: her iconic platinum blonde locks were dyed a dark brown shortly after the breakup. The Poppy at Amsterdam was completely reinvented and vastly different from how she looked even three months ago. 

Poppy made her debut in the pop culture scene as a YouTube enigma back in 2014, when she posted videos of herself speaking in a quiet and monotone voice about her views on society and goal to stand out in the world. A 2017 Poppy video titled “I Am An Important Artist” features her criticizing norms and stating that she believes in her importance because of her distinct ideologies. This robot-like version of Poppy can still be found in the way she speaks to the crowd between songs as if there is no difference between the Poppy persona and herself.

When Poppy sang her song BLOODMONEY from “I Disagree,” a stir of bodies and hands in the shape of triangles raised in the air — an ode to a regular accessory of Poppy’s: a triangle-shaped pink ring with the letter P in the center. 

“Fill the Crown” set fans ablaze with blaring pink lights and high pitched screaming. Poppy switched moods to perform “Am I A Girl?,” connecting to fans on a higher level. She ended the night with “Bite Your Teeth” and “I Disagree,” two roaring encores sung to a crowd shouting her name and refusing to leave. 

The Poppy the world once knew ran headfirst into a genre no one saw coming. At the Amsterdam, she radiated femme power and shared a central message of individuality. It made for an empowering performance, allowing fans to release pent up energy by head-banging along to her heavy-metal sound or by simply bathing in the shock waves of her vocals.

Grade: B+