Poppy’s Subversive Ideological Critique by Joseph Hammett

Posted in 2022 The Gnovis Blog  |  Tagged , , , , , ,

Pop artists employ many different techniques in order to convey a message, market themselves, and create a brand towards building an audience. One such artist, known simply as Poppy, developed a unique tactic in order to jumpstart her musical career.

With over a million followers on Instagram, close to 2 million monthly listeners on Spotify, countless think pieces written about her performance art, and collaborations with other famous cultural figures (such as Elon Musk’s past romantic partner and fellow musician, Grimes), Poppy’s cultural influence and impact are undeniable. Poppy rebels against expectations set by genre distinctions for artists by refusing to conform to just one genre in her music. This is a subversive and unexpected tactic, since artists are normatively required to restrict their music into one category to be seen as more marketable. Poppy also pushes back against expectations regarding artist image through her utilization of bio-technological themes when playing the role of a human cyborg.

Instead of generating an audience through appealing to her humanity, as many artists do, Poppy markets herself as an artificially intelligent being. In doing so, she creates a cultural critique of capitalism’s interaction with technology. Finally, Poppy subverts the pop star image that has become standardized in American popular culture. She does this by parodying celebrity status as a form of religion or cult. This blog will discuss how Poppy has used all of these tactics, not only to build a career for herself, but also to form a greater critique of American society.

“Poppy subverts the pop star image that has become standardized in American popular culture. She does this by parodying celebrity status as a form of religion or cult.”

Poppy was born Moriah Rose Pereira in 1995 (King). She rose to fame as a YouTuber and an enigmatic pop performer in 2016 (King). Poppy was home-schooled and spent much of her time on the Internet before achieving her goal of becoming famous. She was bullied and a self-described “loner” for most of her early life (Raining). She created YouTube videos and, although she was always vocally talented, her initial aspirations were to become a dancer. In 2015, Poppy was signed to major record label Island Records. She had moved to Los Angeles, where she met producer and eventual romantic partner Titanic Sinclair. Titanic Sinclair had a history of abusive and aggressive behavior in past relationships. However, it is likely that Poppy was unaware of this at the time of their meeting.

Poppy, Feb. 28 2017, I Am Not In A Cult, [Video],
Poppy, Feb. 28 2017, I Am Not In A Cult, [Video], YouTube.

As Poppy and Titanic Sinclair began to work together on a variety of projects, they used Poppy’s music to “criticize American culture and media” (Raining). Their relationship, as well as Poppy’s career, reached a turning point when the Poppy Project was initiated. The concept of the Poppy project was described as “the parody of a pop star,” involving Illuminati and cult-like religious imagery, and Poppy being depicted as a robotic artificially intelligent entity (Raining). Featured below is a screen cap from one of Poppy’s YouTube videos, ironically titled, “I Am Not in a Cult,” which came in response to accusations and fears from fans that Poppy was being mind controlled by Titanic Sinclair and others. These suspicions were further stoked by Poppy when she would mention a higher power called “They” in interviews, who were in charge of her every move.

READ ALSO: The End of an Era: The Death of the Album and Its Unintended Effects

All written evidence of Poppy’s life before fame, including her previous YouTube video blogs and other photo and video evidence, were essentially wiped from the Internet by Titanic Sinclair at this point. Poppy’s vocal tonality was changed to a “robotic, soft-spoken, ASMR-like” tone to assimilate her to this new image (Raining). Videos of Poppy completing eerily mundane activities, such as repeating, “I’m Poppy” over and over for 10 minutes, eating various foods close to a microphone in an ASMR style, and reading from various Bible passages began to go viral. Poppy’s “I’m Poppy” video currently has over 27 million views and counting on YouTube.

Titanic Sinclair, Poppy’s producer and then romantic partner, was seen as Poppy’s “puppet master,” while Poppy was portrayed as an exotic “android” pet who needed to be kept in captivity (Raining). During interviews, Titanic Sinclair spoke in Poppy’s ear through headphones and told her what to say. Critics and fans, alike, were left guessing as to what Poppy’s authentic origins were. This dynamic and performance art piece began to fall apart, however, when Poppy and Titanic Sinclair were sued by his ex-girlfriend, another artist named Mars Argo. Mars Argo was suing Poppy and Titanic Sinclair for intellectual property infringement, as well as solely Titanic Sinclair for abusive behavior. One of the pieces of evidence, regarding abusive behavior, was a video of Titanic Sinclair intentionally destroying objects and smashing glasses in Mars Argo’s home, while she recorded him. Evidence of the intellectual property infringement, in the form of two examples of similar photo shoot ideas between the artists, is shown below:

Did YouTube Phenomenon Poppy Steal Her Style From Another Star?
Matsakis, L. (2018, May 9). Did YouTube Phenomenon Poppy Steal Her Style From Another Star? Wired. Retrieved
March 15, 2022.
YouTuber Mars Argo is suing Poppy's creator for 'severe' abuse, ripping off her
Farokhmanesh, M. (2018, April 18). YouTuber Mars Argo is suing Poppy’s creator for ‘severe’ abuse, ripping off her
persona. The Verge. Retrieved March 15, 2022.

After this lawsuit, it is likely that Poppy’s eyes were opened to Titanic Sinclair’s toxic actions towards her and others because they soon broke up and parted ways creatively. Poppy also drastically changed her sound and image during this time, to incorporate steampunk, metal, and screamo influences. This was a major departure from her previous bubblegum pop image. Poppy’s album covers, which give a visual representation of the transition in her sound, are shown below:

In this way Poppy, and Titanic Sinclair to an extent, subverted the boundaries of pop music itself (through Poppy’s redefinition of her original sound), redefined normative interactions between humans and technology (by asserting the notion that Poppy was a non-human machine), and finally turned the standardized pop star image on its head (by creating the aforementioned pop culture parody with “the Poppy Project”).

Poppy appropriated the pop music genre in her early work. Her first two albums focused on electronic, synth pop, vaporwave, and europop genres. However, after the lawsuit with Mars Argo, a transformational period began where she subverted pop music to incorporate elements of heavy metal. Poppy’s albums went from the “Pop” categorization on iTunes’s distribution site, to “Alternative,” and eventually “Rock” and “Metal,” all within a span of two years. On one of her most recent albums, titled I Disagree, Poppy explores leaving behind her generic pop music sound and Titanic Sinclair. In the first track on the album, titled “Concrete,” Poppy recollects, “I tried to eat ice cream. I tried to drink tea, but I need the taste of young blood in my teeth.” “Ice cream” and “tea,” represent the artificial sweetness of Poppy’s previous pop songs, while “blood in [her] teeth” refers to her new metal influenced compositions that are more authentic and vulnerable for her. Poppy, who was once seen as controlled by Titanic Sinclair and meeker, more submissive, was now accepting a contrasting role where she was able to seek power from feeding off others. Metaphorically, these lyrics represent that she would no longer let others around her take advantage of her, pushing back against the idea that an artist is supposed to serve, cater to, and entertain their fans. Instead, Poppy maintains the position of power.

In her second track on the album, titled “I Disagree,” Poppy once again alludes to the destruction and reconstruction of her old and new identities after the lawsuit with Mars Argo and her breakup with Titanic Sinclair. She sings in the chorus, “Down, let it all burn down. Burn it to the ground. We’ll be safe and sound when it all burns down.” Incorporating rock and metal influences does not necessarily mean that Poppy has completely abandoned her previous pop sound, however. A writer for Paper Magazine warns, “Like many young women artists, Poppy struggled with being boxed into one idea and sound by others with preconceived ideas of what kind of artist she should be” (Michael). Poppy describes her new sound as adamantly “post-genre,” or a subversion of styles (Michelle). Poppy tells Alternative Press, “I’m not really considering any of the new music to be metal just because of the juxtaposition to pop music. I’m leaving it for the listener to decide what genre it is” (Owens).

“Life can be like a dream if you let me be your queen. You know where to find me, on your telephone screen. Please electrify me. Power my battery. I need your energy to store all your memory.”

Poppy, in “I’m Poppy”, Poppy.Computer

As previously stated, Poppy’s early albums derived from a fascination with computer technology. In her first released song, titled “I’m Poppy,” on her first album Poppy.Computer, Poppy sings, “Welcome to the new world, I’m your Internet girl. Open up and you’ll see, everyone is happy. I like your technology; can you put it on me? The future is so pretty, we’re living in harmony.” Poppy paints a utopian picture of a technology centric society in these lyrics. However, harsh sounding melodies in the minor key, that are played during these lines, hint to listeners that perhaps everything is not as positive and happy as it seems in the optimistic facade that she is putting forth. In the second verse, Poppy continues, “Life can be like a dream if you let me be your queen. You know where to find me, on your telephone screen. Please electrify me. Power my battery. I need your energy to store all your memory.” In the lyrics, “power my battery,” Poppy compares herself to an electronic device. She needs “energy” from her fans in order to live on through their memories. Poppy’s music exemplifies technology as an extension of the human body.

In another track, titled “Computer Boy,” Poppy professes her love for a titular “computer boy,” singing, “I’ve got a thing for my laptop computer. I’m so in love with a man of the future. The only one that brings me joy is my computer boy.” It is unclear, from these lyrics, whether she is really talking about her computer or rather a human being. However, it can be assumed that Poppy’s fascination with computer-human interaction and biotech may have stemmed from her own ascension to fame and public notoriety through the Internet. Her biographical interactions with technology are reflected through this obsession and fascination with the distinction between humans and computers in her music.

Finally, in a song titled “Interweb,” Poppy claims, “I feel the technology beat deep inside of me.” She compares her heartbeat to a computer’s function, continuing, “My breathing code is b-binary and my lunch is still processing. I feel like I know everything.” Computers, through artificial intelligence and machine learning, have virtually no limits to the problems that they are able to solve and knowledge that they are able to obtain (Palca). Poppy, therefore, once again compares herself to a computer by saying that she “know[s] everything.”

Poppy parodies the idea of organized religion in her music. It is unclear if Poppy’s upbringing was focused on religion, mostly due to the fact that much of this information was wiped from the internet at the start of her career. However, fear and paranoia surrounding the idea of the Illuminati, and organized religion in general, have become more culturally prominent in recent years. NPR argues that these anxieties and discussions are “centered around [acquisition of] power” (Madden). Poppy copies elements from Illuminati conspiracy theories and combines them with the ideas of safety and reassurance that are normatively associated with organized religion, in order to construct her public image and entertain her audience. In her music video for the track “Bleach Blonde Baby,” Poppy is depicted singing for a congregation in front of an altar and pastel colored stained glass in the shape of a triangle. This image is shown below:

Poppy in praying pose.
Poppy, Dec. 13 2017, Bleach Blonde Baby (Official Video).

Triangles are stereotypically associated with the Illuminati in pop culture. Poppy’s symbol, for the first couple years of her career, was actually the letter “P” inside of a triangle. This logo is shown below, as well as a book called “The Gospel of Poppy,” which Poppy briefly sold as merchandise on her website.

FANDOM, Gospel of Poppy.
FANDOM. (2018, May 12). Gospel of Poppy PDF?: Fandom. Poppy Wiki. Retrieved March 15, 2022.

In the lyrics for a song called “My Style,” Poppy instructs, “Google me, follow me, pray for me.” The contrast in subject matter between “Google me” and “Pray for me” implies that Poppy is parodying reliance on blind faith regarding religion, and comparing it to society’s increasing reliance on technology. She continues, coupling imagery of religious cultism with technological functions, in her song “Interweb,” singing, “Now that I’ve got you on my screen, when you’re down and you’re alone I’ll be there watching you.” In Catholic religion, God is believed to be omnipresent and always watching. Poppy parodies this notion by claiming that she is always watching her followers via their computer screen.

“Poppy’s music encompasses a variety of important themes and ideas, including technology as a metaphor for and extension of the human body, technology’s effects on humans and culture, and music as a communicative tool for humans’ experiences.”

As shown through these many examples, Poppy uses technology to expose the overlapping aspects of pop culture, religion, and humans’ relationships to technology. Poppy’s subversive style often involves a paradoxical symbiosis between opposing forces, such as pop music and heavy metal genres, technology and humans, and religious faith with skepticism and paranoia. Poppy’s music encompasses a variety of important themes and ideas, including technology as a metaphor for and extension of the human body, technology’s effects on humans and culture, and music as a communicative tool for humans’ experiences. It is unclear if Poppy uses the tactics solely for publicity, notoriety, and monetary gain, or if she actually wishes to inspire a greater social criticism of major themes that are plaguing artists, such as herself, and everyday consumers. However, whether it is her goal or not, her music and image undoubtedly force one to think critically about the dynamics that are at play in her artistry. In this way, Poppy gives her listeners the tools to question their place in the greater ideological structures of society.

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King, Darryn. “Poppy Is Dead; Long Live Poppy.” Vanity Fair, Condé Nast, 5 Nov. 2020,


Madden, Sidney, and Rodney Carmichael. “Power, Protest And Paranoia.” NPR, NPR, 8 Oct.

2020, www.npr.org/2020/10/08/921160580/hip-hop-shines-a-light-through-the-cracks-in-american-justice.

Michael, Michael Love. “Poppy Wants to Burn Everything Down.” PAPER, ENTtech Media Group,

LLC, 21 Feb. 2020, www.papermag.com/poppy-i-disagree-interview-


Michelle, Helana. “A Look into Poppy’s Post-Genre Deluxe Album, ‘I Disagree (More)”.”

Glasse Factory, Glasse Factory, 14 Sept. 2020, glassefactory.com/poppy-idisagree-more/.

Owens, Paige. “Poppy Promotes Empowerment, Explores Developed Sound on ‘I Disagree’.”

Alternative Press, Alternative Press, 6 Jan. 2020, www.altpress.com/features/poppy-i-disagree-track-by-track-interview/.

Palca, Joe. “Can Computers Learn Like Humans?” NPR, NPR, 5 Feb. 2018,


Poppy. “Bleach Blonde Baby.” Youtube, 13 Dec. 2017,

Poppy. “Concrete.” I Disagree, Sumerian Records, 2020.

Poppy. “Computer Boy.” Poppy.Computer, Mad Decent, 2017.

Poppy. “I Disagree.” I Disagree, Sumerian Records, 2020.

Poppy. “I’m Poppy.” Poppy.Computer, Mad Decent, 2017.

Poppy. “Interweb.” Poppy.Computer, Mad Decent, 2017.

Poppy. “My Style.” Poppy.Computer, Mad Decent, 2017.

Raining. “The Dark Truth of Poppy.” Youtube, 24 Jan. 2020,