Love them or hate them, the many music videos released by YouTube star and pop singer Poppy rarely fail to evoke a visceral reaction. The 24-year-old singer-songwriter has released over 400 clips on her channel created with collaborator Titanic Sinclair, ranging from her repeating brand names for an entire video, to visuals where she's vaguely perturbed by a reflection of herself bleeding. Her songs are similarly high concept and meta, whether lamenting the terminal nature of the human condition or puzzling over how her identity is now inextricably tied to the internet. Recently, Poppy has begun processing the sounds and visions of nu-metal, reimagining the typically harsh genre through the lens of bubblegum pop. The song "X" on her last record Am I a Girl?, for instance, shifts between Sixties pop and shredding heavy metal, creating a dizzying dichotomy.
Today (May 29th) she's teamed with Revolver to premiere the latest in her heavier works: "Scary Mask," a collaboration with Los Angeles–Atlanta rap-rock firebrands the Fever 333. It's a pairing that works shockingly well. Together, Poppy and Fever singer Jason Aalon Butler create a compelling push-pull dynamic between her singing and his screams, which come to a head on the joint chants of "M-A-S-K." Meanwhile, Fever guitarist Stevis Harrison busts out some mathy riffage not unlike the Dillinger Escape Plan, spliced with hip-hop 808s and some crazy synth work that sounds like a computer dying, all leading to a mosh-pit–crushing breakdown. The song's commitment to chaos plays out in the video, too, which sees Poppy shifting between various personas, from a princess in a skull dress emblazoned with the phrase "Go to Hell," to a ballerina seemingly losing her mind.
Shortly before the song's premiere, we spoke to Poppy about what she hopes to do with metal, what metal musicians she admires, and what her Slipknotian mask represents to her.
HOW DID YOU GET CONNECTED WITH FEVER 333 TO DO "SCARY MASK"?
POPPY I found out that Stevis [Harrison, Fever 333's guitarist] was a fan of my videos, and he so happened to be in town when I was in the studio. He came to the studio, and he wrote the main guitar riff of the song, and he got Jason [Aalon Butler, Fever 333's singer] involved on the vocals, as well.
DID YOU HAVE ANY SPECIFIC THINGS YOU WANTED OUT OF THEM FOR THE SONG? HOW DID YOU COLLABORATE ON THE TRACK?
I've been in the studio for about a year now working on this project, and when we first started the idea, we wrote "X" — that was the first song I did with Titanic Sinclair, and Zakk [Cervini] and Chris [Greatti] together. From there, we wanted to see if we could expand on the idea, and songs that are kind of like when you're scrolling through the feed on your Instagram, how the music keeps changing.
WHAT DOES THE MASK IN THE VIDEO REPRESENT FOR YOU?
The first lyric in the song is "I wear my scary mask when I'm afraid I don't belong," and the mask it has control over me. I have to do what it says. I wrote the song the day that I walked the carpet at the AMAs when I wore my scary mask.
DO YOU FEEL LIKE THERE'S AN INHERENT CONNECTION BETWEEN ROCK MUSIC AND MASKS? IT'S INTERESTING THAT YOU'RE RELEASING THIS SONG WHEN WE'RE IN THE MIDST OF THE ROLLOUT FOR SLIPKNOT'S NEW ALBUM.
Yeah, I think when I wear a scary mask, or the Icky Babies — my band — wear a mask, they have taken on a different personality. I think people act in a way they normally wouldn't when they have a disguise on. I think it's freeing.
I ALWAYS GOT THE SENSE THAT THE MUSIC AND ART OF POPPY WERE LARGELY A REACTION TO POP MUSIC BECOMING STALE AND BORING, AND THE PROJECT WAS ATTEMPTING TO JOLT THE GENRE WITH HIGH CONCEPTS AND VISCERAL VISUALS. DO YOU FEEL THAT ROCK MUSIC IS SIMILARLY STALE, AND DO YOU HAVE A GOAL TO SIMILARLY SUBVERT IT?
I think that it's a lost art with pop music. Mystery has been lost, and there's this need to overexpose yourself, and in turn the candle burns out faster. I've talked to quite a few different people about this, and they all seem to agree, if you put your best foot forward in a sense and always try to make yourself presentable and bestow the image, not many people take that kind of care with pop music anymore. I really admire Slipknot for being so put together as a band, and they're always pushing their image forward in interesting ways. I think people, from what I've seen in pop music, it seems like they get pretty lazy once they get to a certain point. It's disappointing, because I wish they would keep going. I wish that Lady Gaga continued the way she was on her first and second album. Maybe it's because they get bored of making themselves put together everyday, but I think it's really powerful as an artist, if you start down that path you should fulfill it. Dolly Parton is a great that has always put her best foot forward.
I REMEMBER, A COUPLE MONTHS BACK, SEEING A PHOTO OF YOU, MARILYN MANSON, KORN'S JONATHAN DAVIS AND A BUNCH OF OTHER PEOPLE. DID YOU GET TO HAVE MUCH OF A CREATIVE CONVERSATION WITH MANSON? I FEEL LIKE I SEE A LOT OF THE SAME SUBVERSIVE IMPULSES IN YOUR ART AS IN HIS.
Yeah, I did get to talk to him quite a bit. That picture is from his birthday party, and it was quite the experience. I feel like we have a similar understanding with the arts. I'm not going to speak for him, but I think we both find it more exciting when an artist follows through with they're intended to do from the beginning. He's been able to do that for over 20 years. His career has spanned so long and that's because he's always put his best foot forward and taken great care with how he's presented himself, and I think I did the same.
IS "SCARINESS" A GOAL FOR YOU IN YOUR MUSIC AND VIDEOS?
I don't think we intend to be scary, when Titanic and I create videos. I think we just want the viewer to take an extra second to think about what they're doing and question why they're doing it. Whatever it may be, logging onto Facebook hundreds of times a day, or scrolling through Instagram. I just want people to think a little bit longer, because I think ultimately the AI is going to take over and kill us and if people can think for a couple extra seconds before they're feeding it every day when they wake up, maybe we can hope it can help slow down the process.