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Review: Poppy, Am I A Girl

D'Arcy Briggs

November 15, 2018

Poppy’s latest album, Am I a Girl?, is a celebration of all that is capitalist alienation, commodity fetishization, and environmental destruction. If 1984 was a musical, this album would surely act as the score. It’s an album which is incredibly self-aware, and the ideas of celebrity in the digital age. It easily serves as a tongue-in-cheek warning to those who question what it means to be an individual and a member of a community under capitalism.

Am I a Girl? is a concept album that takes place in a near-apocalyptic future in which a feminized pop-star android, Poppy, is reprogrammed and subsequently struggles with their own identity, their place in the world, and reaches a musical and thematic climax during the final few tracks. The album generally follows a pretty standard synthpop formula, but with a decidedly strong vaporwave influence. The final tracks go for broke and blend togettheir aggressive heavy metal with saccharine sweet pop. The majority of the album wears it’s contemporary dance music influences on its sleeve (The album being released on Mad Decent records and even contains a song featuring Diplo), but ends sounding like some hellish mix of Carly Rae Jepsen and Slipknot. While musically it’s not a tired album at all, it’s the album’s efficacy in thematic and lyrical content that really delivers.

As started earlier, Am I a Girl? could be seen both a self-aware and self-indulgent play on pop music culture. The album’s opening tracks see our pop star lyrically addressing the audience of their songs in an almost They Live fashion. The track “It’s Fashion After all” opens with “I'm working every angle / My lipstick is a staple / My hair and makeup make you envious and want to die… / My wrists are terrorists / My lips gave you a kiss / My consciousness thinks this is making me feel fabulous.” The tracks “Iconic,” and “Chic Chick” follow the same path, while lyrically emphasizing the importance of consumption in the creation of the individual.

 After Poppy’s reprogramming she seems to be somewhat self-aware of humanity’s destructive nature when she awakens alone in a facility. The chorus to the track “Time is up” sings  “I don't need air to breathe when you kill the bees / And every / river bed is dry as a bone / Oh, I will still survive when the plants have died / And the atmosphere is just a big hole.” While the character is now ‘awake’ to the natures of the system, she still feels outside of the problem. Poppy then starts to acknowledge how she was previously treated and thrown out and questions her identity in “Girls in Bikinis,” as well as the title track, in which the chorus asks “Am I a girl?  / Am I a boy? / What does that even mean? / I'm somewhere in between.” The album ultimately ends with Poppy decided to destroy the system herself, starting with the track “Play Destroy.” In the song, she pledges to “This is how we play destroy… / Burn down the local Wal-Mart / Monsanto, Raytheon.”

While Poppy’s Am I a Girl? could push some away for the artists strange persona and targeted synthpop and metal sound, there is an interesting sci-fi story under the surface for those willing to take the time to listen to the album as a whole experience rather than just the singles. It ultimately serves as an incredibly powerful, if not catchy, soundtrack to a world in which the ideas of social justice and human rights are seen as debatable. This is just as much the soundtrack to the horrors of capitalism as it is a pastiche of celebrity in 2018.

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