Poppy’s ‘Flux’ meditates on anger, independence, heartache

Photo of Poppy album
Sumerian Records/Courtesy

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Grade: 3.5/5.0

 With two simple words and a robotic delivery, Poppy took the internet by storm. A one of a kind YouTube personality, colored by her high-quality video production, childlike intonation and eerily random video topics, Poppy was undoubtedly manufactured to grab viewers’ attention in an unusual way. Through the application of the uncanny rather than the relatable, mixed with a strange sense of discomfort, the channel pulled in millions of observers from around the globe, marking the birth of a never-before-seen influencer.

Poppy’s debut, the heavily pop-inspired EP Bubblebath, bubblegum production with on-the-nose lyricism, pointing out the vapidness of the pop music industry while still managing to release incredibly catchy tunes. However, in the six years since, she’s undergone a fair amount of creative changes. From her induction into the punk and metal scenes to her split from the infamous creative director and songwriter Titanic Sinclair, Poppy has somehow experienced extreme shifts in her art all while holding onto the same, otherworldly ethos.

On her newly released album Flux, these creative changes are on full display. Poppy embraces her own emotional turmoil, all while celebrating her newfound independence from the toxic relationship between herself and Sinclair. Filled with grunge influence, impressive lyricism and an overarching sense of escape, Poppy’s new album is more personal than any of her prior works and makes for an enticing listen.

The songs that shine the brightest commit entirely to the grunge and punk bases that the album was built upon. On “So Mean,” Poppy combines entirely mumbled verses with melodic choruses, creating an aura of both anger and acceptance surrounding her own personal turmoil. Poppy whispers, “Operating freely from another/ My head and my heart hate each other,” presenting listeners with an unbridled account of her callous mindset. Backed by Nirvana-esque instrumentation and a heavy emphasis on bass and drums, the song is genuine in its representation of the unpleasant feelings one experiences after getting up and pushed down again and again.

Similarly, “As Strange As It Seems” engulfs its listeners into the emotional landscape that Poppy resided in while recording. Undoubtedly influenced by shoegaze, the vocal tracks are drowned in reverb and the distorted backings swallow the audience in a sorrowful wave of sound. At first singing, “I was a passenger in a speeding car/ You showed no regard for me,” Poppy introduces the listener to the lack of care her past lover held for her. Building in both volume and hurt, she later admits, “I’m hanging on the steering wheel of a speeding car/ I’ve got no regard for me, for me,” alluding to the lack of care she showed herself by staying in such a destructive environment. The track tugs at the heartstrings — making use of heartbreaking lyricism and genius instrumentation — leaving one to bask in all the sorrow and hurt brought along by a failed relationship.

Although the majority of the album is incredibly well written, a few tracks don’t quite live up to the grandeur of the others. The album’s title track starts off promising with a guitar-solo reminiscent of Jack White and alluring verses that mix near-whisper vocals with distorted bass guitar. However, the choruses lack any sort of melodic interest and Poppy’s vocals undersupply the energy necessitated by the buildup into them. Similarly, on “Hysteria,” Poppy’s voice sparkles and the mild instrumental grants the album some well-needed dynamic contrast, yet the track seems to be missing such variation in itself, leading to a somewhat bland listen.

Flux is an unapologetically introspective album. Diving deeper into the realm of the personal than ever before, Poppy drops one of the many veils that serve to distract her observers from knowing her true self. While the vague, robotic allure of Poppy still remains a cornerstone of her character, the album offers its listeners a more personal look into the brain behind such an unusual persona. Although imperfect, Flux is certainly worth the listen and serves as a necessary stepping stone into the new era of Poppy.

Ian Fredrickson covers music. Contact him at [email protected].