This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for some time, but it’s actually great that I’ve waited, because this incredible woman has changed so much over time this post can be a much more interesting journey than it would have been initially.
I haven’t talked about other people’s music on here yet, though I used to do that a lot on my original “auryaun” blog. If you aren’t familiar yet with Poppy, grab your favorite beverage and sit back for a bit, because this is going to be a wonderful and strange ride. There will be plenty of video links as well, so buckle-up!
Poppy started out as “That Poppy” when I came to know her online around 2014 on YouTube. Spending hours and hours on YouTube finding various rabbit holes to go down has always been one of my favorite pastimes, and I’d have to say the era between 2010–2015 was the best time to do so, as the algorithm gave the wackiest recommendations back then. Now, it seems to be pretty rigid unless you’re rigorous about deleting your watch history.
Her first video was just Poppy saying her name, over and over again in a video titled, I’m Poppy. She and her creative partner, Titanic Sinclair (we’ll get into him a bit later) hadn’t quite found the right voice for her yet. This one has over 25M views so far. Enjoy, if you can stand to watch the whole thing.
Her original Channel, That Poppy no longer exists. VEVO has ThatPoppyVEVO with a handful of videos, but all of her original videos are on her Poppy Channel. Note the difference between the sweet face you see before you and creepy profile pic above. This post will cover that as well.
Her Channel evolved into a huge series of short videos of her interacting with the camera or the space of the studio, or sometimes a plant, another version of herself, or a mannequin named Charlotte, with Poppy always speaking in a very soft voice (ASMR anyone? No? Just me?) with eerie keyboard music playing in the background. Her costumes tended to Kawaii, which is the Japanese culture of cuteness, which over time became exaggerated regarding her clothing choices, as if to suggest she was more Kawaii than Kawaii itself. The scripts were also satirical in nature when it came to current cultural trends, especially in terms of our obsession with fame and money, or the commercialization of pop artists.
You get the idea. The main conceit behind all of this was to suggest that Poppy wasn’t a real person but rather a being generated out of the internet. In interviews, she would dodge questions that would attempt to get her to answer as if she were “real”.
Her Partner: Titanic Sinclair
Now let’s switch gears for a moment and take a look at Titanic Sinclair. He used to be part of a musical group known as Mars Argo, and had a site/Channel known as GroceryBagDotTV. As of now, it looks like Mars Argo, Sinclair’s former girlfriend whose name they used for the project, has several videos there, but there used to be hundreds of them. GroceryBagDotTVTest exists but there are only three videos left. Not sure if that’s being run by Sinclair himself. Let’s take a peekie at what’s on the latter, shall we?
Delete Your Facebook is a great video, which is probably why they’ve both decided to leave it up. It’s random and inspired and has a kind of innocence to it. I don’t know at what point their relationship was here—as it apparently devolved into a hateful one later—but here it feels easy and relaxed. The fact that they were seeing issues with Facebook as early as 2014 is pretty eye-opening as well.
Unfortunately, on Titanic Sinclair’s Channel, he’s deleted most of his videos and only has around 6 or 7 at this moment in time. Poo. None of them will show you what I was hoping to show, which is how he was posturing himself in counterpoint to what Poppy was doing at the time, but this makes sense since they’re no longer working together either—another pattern, Sir?—at least you’re consistent I guess.
This video comes the closest. He had a lot of videos like this where he was overdubbing his vocals after the fact and giving advice as a “director”. His videos always began with him saying things like, “Hi. I’m Titanic Sinclair. I’m a Director. As a Director, it’s important that [insert whatever].” His body language was generally more confident than what he’s showing here. It’s also odd that he doesn’t finish his thought but cuts it off, then overdubs and leaves the video up. Very strange.
The Former Partner: Mars Argo
Mars Argo put out a video called Everyone Just Wants It All. It’s been officially deleted, but there are still copies of it around YouTube. Hopefully, the link I found will be solid for a while. It seems that this video was the locus of loads of mocking from both Poppy and Sinclair, with various references coming up in both songs and videos they made together.
Mars Argo opened a lawsuit against both Sinclair and Poppy, stating that they had stolen her image and creative work. Things got ugly quickly. What’s most surprising to me is how long it took Argo to file suit in the first place. There appeared to be deliberate references to Mars Argo in Poppy videos and deliberate references to things Mars Argo said in her videos in Poppy videos. This post isn’t going to be about that lawsuit, as that would be a whole post in itself—I want to focus on Poppy’s creative evolution, but in order to do so I do need to at least introduce this as a topic.
Going back a bit to Sinclair, we have Enough is Enough, which perhaps is his call to the press and former fans and especially Poppy fans that were spewing hate at him, as Poppy had accused him of being an abuser, just as Mars Argo had. There’s no way to know if these allegations are true or if Poppy just used this as a device to distance herself of much of the blame for the problems of the lawsuit. It was during this time that the partnership between Poppy and Sinclair ended.
Oh, and Sinclair also put out a pretty rad video at one point called Trust Fund. I love the unbridled video effects, as if someone just learned how to use [app name] and couldn’t resist using every effect available. The song makes me laugh as well. I think it gives pretty good insight into the inner workings of Sinclair’s mind—along with his choice of name, of course. Plus, he shows his songwriting chops, which you can clearly hear in Poppy’s music as she evolves.
Add to that this compilation of Computer Show videos and you get a fuller picture of Titanic Sinclair and Mars Argo and what they created in the past, and why Mars Argo felt she had a right to file suit against Sinclair and Poppy in the first place.
I’ll leave this here and let you be the judge.The Computer Show was way before its time and sadly ended too soon, apparently due to relationship and money tensions.
Anyway, the suit was settled out of court and all parties agreed to no-contact/no-harassment. Titanic Sinclair was required to delete any incriminating or personal photos he had of Mars Argo, and Poppy had to make sure she wasn’t doing anything that was a mimic of Argo’s identity.
The First Album
Poppy’s first album release was in 2016, with 3:36 Music To Sleep To. The 3:36 references one of her videos called 3:36, where she notices the time on her watch and appears worried about it. However, that video is problematic, because Mars Argo’s video (shown above) was 3:36 minutes long in the original posting. In the lawsuit, Argo felt this was part of the harassment she felt was being put upon her.
Poppy’s first pop song started with Interweb, a decent track. It got enough traction to gain her more fans and generate interest to move her away from being a weird YouTube artist to being an actual artist with a greater voice and vision, which I think they’d intended all along. As it has come out in more recent news, Poppy has had multiple recording contracts over the years, but the talent reps hadn’t quite known how to develop her, which caused her a lot of frustration.
From here, she continued to make lots of videos on her Channel, getting weirder by the day. There was a cultish tone to them, which felt intentional and somewhat mocking in tone (more on that in a bit). As far as the next musical release goes, it didn’t come out for months and when it did, we got: Bleach Blonde Baby. Note the similar tone in the lighting. Not sure what they were going for there or why. Again, pretty tame pop fare, but it continued to grow her fan base.
I have to point out that her standard Channel videos by this point had her in outrageous costumes. This one is called Liberty.
All of this was in the Kawaii style that she was owning full-on. I mean, she was owning it.
Right around this time though, the lawsuit hit and accusations were very public and flying. Twitter was full of it. YouTube was full of it. Everyone seemed to be taking a side. I saw many a video trying to suggest a special angle on the whole mess. And it was a huge mess. I saw people saying that Titanic was an abuser. I saw tweets saying he had threatened to kill himself if Poppy didn’t do what he wanted. I saw YouTube comments saying he had made that threat one time before a show. I mean, really nasty stuff.
Her next music video took on a distinctly different tone, and I can’t help but think it was due to the lawsuit. Her team must have been thinking: “How do we rebrand Poppy in such a way that it’s still Poppy while specifically not referencing Mars Argo in any way whatsoever that’s not going to alienate her fan base?”
Well, this is the direction they chose (and note that this is an audio only video). Metal was only ever released as a single.
Wow, that’s a lot of Latex! Definitely not Kawaii, and yet still cute with the Mickey Mouse-ish ears headwear and oversized, bulbous shoulder pads. A very carefully curated look. This track was never developed into an official music video.
Her next official music video would be a work featuring Diplo, of all people. It turns out, he signed her to his record label. Who knew he had a record label? Time Is Up was released on her album Am I A Girl? I have to admit this album is a real mishmash of styles. The production values are superb, and her singing is great, but she’s an artist being given tracks to sing, and that can’t be much fun. There’s a hollowness to the album, and it must have been hard to tour it. It’s funny because sometimes there are these pounding drums and screaming guitar licks, but then other tracks have heavy techno beats. There’s one track that feels like a Spanish love song. Super weird.
The video furthers the idea that Poppy is a computer creation, and also that she holds some sort of high priestess-cult position. All the while, her non-music videos—one example below is called, Pray With Me have also been furthering this idea.
Then there are a series of odd Channel videos, and I went back-and-forth as to whether I should include them, as this post if already long. If you want to check them out, they’re there for you to see. I want to try and focus on the music as much as I can, and I’m adding these extra videos for context.
Her next music releases are audio-only. I think she was trying to drum up some A&R interest and it just didn’t pan out. Oh, and I heard that Diplo’s “record label” wasn’t a label at all. Poppy got no support, and no promotion. She just got to make that one music video with his help and that was it. Hoo-rah. What a nice guy.
Here’s where she went next, image and style-wise, with Immature Couture. This was only released as a single.
Bubblegum Pop. Not at all to my liking, but an improvement in production values and melody to what she was doing previously. There’s a lot more complexity to the track and you can hear her talent developing.
Next we have X (Audio Only Version) which did get made into a video, found lower in this post. It’s interesting to see how different the imagery in this is compared to how they approached it later. The heavy guitars are shocking to hear as well as the screamo vocals, (not to mention the lyrics!) because when you look at the content on her Channel there are four videos between the video above and this one.
WTF Poppy?! What happened in between? Apparently, Poppy and Titanic Sinclair parted ways is what happened in between. Or perhaps this is when she started dating her current fiancé, Ghostemane. Gone are the overly pop tunes and the tightly controlled image. Poppy finally had a chance to do her own writing, and in interviews she described herself as “post genre”. It sounds cool when she says it, but if I, as cool as I actually am, at the tender age of 54, were to tell someone like…oh, I dunno, Joe Rogan maybe, that I’m “post genre, baby” I would sound pretentious as fuck.
But back to our regular programming.
Breaking Out and Breaking Through
Maybe I should title this part, “Breaking Bad”.
Poppy started breaking out of her pop persona and shell, and began doing more of her own thing. According to her in one of her interviews, she was listening to a lot of screamo and metal going to and from rehearsals and other events, and became inspired by it and wanted to incorporate it into her own sound. She still managed to incorporate her pop sensibilities, and the blend was an interesting sound of sweet melodic vocals—usually Kawaii-style vocals—coupled with dark and heavy metal guitars. Baby Metal comes to mind.
Here’s a track called Play Destroy she worked on with Grimes, though there was apparently some bad blood between them afterward. Each of them have conflicting stories about how working together went, with Poppy complaining about NDAs and Grimes complaining about Poppy being whiny and full of herself. It’s a solid track any way you slice it, but I think the ongoing lawsuit sullied the waters for both of them, which is too bad.
A Quick Break in The Timeline
Poppy’s original logo used to be a triangle with the letter “P” in the center, which no longer exists, and I suspect it was a Titanic Sinclair invention, as was the poppy.church website. The whole thing was a cute and cynical take on the music industry being part of the Illuminati, and you can see that imagery in much of her early videos.
At this point I have to quickly circle back in time to show you Lowlife, which she’s deleted from her own Channel, but is on VEVO’s. You can see all of the Illuminati symbolism they were using in her early work, as well as how much her style has changed and evolved. I have to add a few videos here where you can see how they were pushing Poppy as a religious figure to be worshiped.
Back to The Regular Timeline
Here’s the Official Video version for X, and it gives us these sweet, hippy visuals to complement the psychedelic tone and shockingly dark imagery for the heavy screamo in the mix. It also references some of those visuals from when the Poppy team was trying to make a Poppy “cult”. This track gives a little insight for what’s to come in the future, but it’s rough around the edges. It’s not as solid as what her future work would be, but the kernel of her idea is definitely there.
I can’t stand the profile pic, which I’m sure is meant to detach herself from her bubblegum pop image of the past, and to shock people—and the thumbnail is intentionally hideous.
Meanwhile, on Her YouTube Channel
Just a quick jump back to her regular programming on her Channel for a bit to show what she was putting out while these releases were taking place. Her content continued to be stranger and stranger, and her costumes became more confounding somehow. Don’t let my language make you think I don’t like it—I love every minute of this wild ride.
And Her Music Kept Evolving
Here’s a sweet little ditty titled Voicemail that you’ll want to avoid listening to alone at night in a dark house. It’s compelling. It’s entirely different from anything else I’ve heard from her so far. It was released on the EP Choke, which is mostly techno, though iTunes lists it as alternative. The whole Choke EP is fascinating to me since it’s such a complete departure from her earlier work, and she doesn’t stay in this genre at all. It’s as if after this album she’s gotten whatever she was trying to explore out of her system and just leaves it behind.
I’ve decided to skip Scary Mask, as I don’t think it adds anything as far as style evolution, but you are free to check it out and decide for yourself, of course. Some of the fans might object, as it was hyped a lot and has tons of views, but I don’t care for the track and I stick to my guns as far as adding to her musical evolution.
And the Evolution Continues
Moving on from there, she evolves again into entirely new territory. This has to be my favorite so far: Concrete. I was in the hospital during one of my bouts of having my stomach pumped due to the small bowel obstruction. This video had just come out, and I was obsessed. Like, to the the point where I’m sure the person in the other bed was disturbed by how many times I played the video over and over in the middle of the night (I was also struggling with intractable insomnia). Since I’d come in via the Emergency Room and via an ambulance, I didn’t have my headphones. I tried to play it as quietly as I could, but I noticed my roommate started to play her own music to drown me out. Fair enough, my sick friend. Fair enough.
To me, this song is a masterpiece, and the video is perfection. I’ve watched so many reaction videos to this, and I love seeing the shocked and surprised looks on people’s faces when they get to the changes in the music. I never tire of that. I also delight in sending this video to unsuspecting friends and acquaintances as a sort of litmus test—of what exactly, I’m not sure, but I can’t seem to help myself. I feel like there’s some key, something to fathom here, that I just haven’t gotten yet, but if I keep listening I’ll eventually understand. Concrete was released on the album I Disagree.
And then of course, we have the track, I Disagree, which was a continuation of her sound after Concrete. At this point, it’s starting to feel like she’s really found her sound; her footing. There’s a solidity to what she’s doing, and less of a point-and-shoot. If you listen to the whole album (and I think you should) there’s a cohesiveness that hasn’t quite been there on past releases.
I Disagree is clearly a taunt to her former handlers, failed A&R reps, and record contracts that went nowhere. She shows just how willing she is to destroy her past and move on, doing whatever is necessary to carve her own path and make her story, her music, her life in her own way, regardless of the consequences. This is her power move.
Oh, and also? Who is her costume designer?! SERIOUSLY. That person kicks ASS.
I love this song too. BLOODMONEY is also on I Disagree. The video makes me cringe a bit, only because the violence in it feels a bit too real to me and I get sympathetic pains when I watch it. But I totally get the point and I have to say I agree (no pun intended). I’d love to know how they got her to float—that part is rad.
Fill The Crown, also released on I Disagree, is Poppy’s Swan Song to her former android self, telling the world that she’s no longer going to pretend that she’s some kind of computer being and all the accouterments that go along with maintaining that image. It’s also at this point that she introduces the new man in her life, Ghostemane, who appears on this track (and I think in the video, but don’t quote me on either as I’m not certain.)
Anything Like Me seems to be clearly talking about the issues with the Mars Argo lawsuit, as well as showing the world that she’s shed entirely her former android look, with the blonde wig she’d worn for years so she wouldn’t be constantly frying her hair with bleach. [Side note: if you look at her Channel videos, you can see where that inflection point was.]
I think these are her best lyrics so far, and her delivery is flawless. It looks like they didn’t have much budget for the video, but that doesn’t bother me or detract from the song. Strike that. All of her videos have been produced on pretty lean budgets (perhaps Concrete having the largest one, what with the grave-digging part needing the most, but I think what she’s been able to do with that is awesome.
I like the creepy, dance-like moves she does. I have to admit that at this point, Mars Argo is nothing like Poppy. Poppy has surpassed Mars Argo, and certainly surpassed Kawaii by a well-trod mile, while still including that Kawaii feel at times when she wants to. Perhaps not in this track, but in others. Well done.
Sit/Stay is haunting and seems to be talking about her experiences with the music industry as a whole. There are several videos about her on YouTube (this one is particularly good) that talk about her life and how she got into the industry and how she’s paid her dues over the years. She’s paid more than her fair share of dues, too. In this track she lays it all down. The costume is both eerie and compelling, and she seems to have quite a talent for acting, at least when it comes to her own videos.
All The Things She Said is radio-friendly alternative with Poppy getting into her upper register and belting out some gratifying high notes, which we haven’t heard in a long while. I can’t figure out if this an apology song to Mars Argo or not—perhaps it is. Or perhaps to someone else. In any case, it’s got a great hook, solid instrumentation and production values, and can easily fit in with several radio formats. It fits in well on her album too, and I love it. You can see her new logo clearly on her necklace, and it suggests the type of thing a person might do to themselves if they were into cutting, which I don’t appreciate. Perhaps that’s the target demo she’s going for now. Oh, Poppy.
KHAOS X4 is not my cup of tea. At all. I think the imagery is deliberately “spooky”—though it’s miles better than her profile pic, which I still need to talk about. This hasn’t been made into a video yet. It’s still a fairly recent release, and Sumerian Records might find some money for her to do it at some point.
If It Bleeds is a very cool track. I hope this gets made into a video. Great melody, great use of her soft voice, great guitar hooks, great synths, solid drumming. I love it to pieces. She consistently has a positive message in her songs, even if she saying things like “get me bloody”, or “chaos, chaos, chaos”. She’s always asking for peace in the world, or questioning why people have to hurt each other.
I think as an artist, she’s finally gotten to a place where she can have what she wants, which are a solid and devoted fan base that will enjoy whatever she chooses to put out, and that’s priceless, and a record company that believes in her work, which is even more priceless. As for her profile pic, this is a larger version of it:
This is a photo of her that was clearly manipulated in some photo editor to give her all those creepy lines all over her face as if she had some amazing tattoo or paint work done. It looks cheesy to me, as if she had to go out of her way to make herself look ugly. However, I know there are a lot of people who are into body modification that would disagree with me. The more recent artwork of her (see below) is better, in that this was an actual costume look she had, and there was minor manipulation done to it.
But what do I know? I’m just a sometimes blogger and vlogger, barely able to find vocal melodies to the songs I’m writing right now, dealing with chronic pain that keeps me from being out there, doing stuff, plus there’s my sometimes crippling social anxiety (yay). Who am I to judge anyone else’s hard work? I’m hardly her target demo. When it comes to her music, I think it’s taken an amazing turn for the better. As you can hear for yourself, it was a sudden turn at the beginning that’s become more sophisticated as it’s gone along. I haven’t included any live performance videos here (of which there are dozens), but she’s grown in that department as well.
This post wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t include her graphic novels, even though I really just wanted to focus on her music.
In October of 2019, she released her first one titled, Genesis 1:: A Graphic Novel by Poppy. It comes in hardback and audiobook. Apparently, if you buy the graphic hardcover, you automatically get a digital download of her album, I Disagree.
She also has a pre-order for another graphic novel titled, Poppy’s Inferno (Landmarks), scheduled for release on October 20, 2020. Here’s a blurb from the description:
In Poppy’s Inferno our hero must fight against all that try to change her, not allowing anyone to determine how she thinks, feels or hurts, all the while trying to outwit the demons that surround her every step of the way.Taken from Poppy’s Inferno (Landmarks) Hardcover – Audiobook, October 20, 2020 Pre-Order Description
As for what she’s doing on her YouTube Channel these days, you’ll mostly find makeup tutorials of all things. For example, we have Mint Eye Look With Poppy.
There are about 20 of them so far. I’m not sure what the point is, except to make sure the algorithm knows her Channel isn’t dead, since she doesn’t have any new music releases at this time. She’s clearly discarded the old android-alone-in-a-large-space style videos, so I guess she has to have something there to keep it going. I don’t mean to sound critical of these. They just feel like throwaways to me.
P.S. I didn’t include her Music To Read To album, as I totally forgot about it but it’s great and I’ve added it to my library for just this purpose.
This woman is a wonder, and I am totally here for it.