Arts & Entertainment

ARTIST REVIEW: Poppy breaks free and creates her own identity

Alternative rock, electronica and metal singer Poppy shatters her own chains of abuse and paves a concrete path towards her own success.

Midterms are over, and the quarter’s close to ending. It always feels like time passes in the blink of an eye. But I’ve decided to take some time researching an artist whose music I quite enjoy, yet carries some controversy with her. This artist is Poppy, previously known as That Poppy.  

Moriah Rose Pereira, known by her stage name Poppy, is a singer and songwriter from Boston Massachusetts. As a child, Poppy dreamed of being a Rockette. This led her to pursue dancing for over 11 years of her life, but she later realized her true passions lay in songwriting and singing. She quit dancing and decided to pursue being a musician. 

In 2011, Poppy created her own YouTube channel titled “ThatPoppyTV,” with another channel titled “Moriah Poppy.” Poppy started her YouTube career here; where she initially only posted vlogs and song covers. But in 2014, all videos were deleted, along with the “Moriah Poppy” channel. After a few months, a new video was posted titled “Poppy Eats Cotton Candy,” which was directed by Titanic Sinclair, an L.A based creative director and producer.  

The channel went on to produce hundreds of videos with similar titles. These often showed Poppy as an uncanny valley-like figure, with no expression and a monotone voice that stayed constant throughout every video. There was a very loose plot enveloping Poppy and some characters that appeared in the show, all seemingly inanimate objects that Poppy designated as “friends.” 

In 2015, about two years after the release of that first video, Poppy released her first single, “Everybody Wants to be Poppy.” She later released her first EP with three additional songs a year later, in 2016. In October of that same year, Poppy released her first album titled “3:36 (Music to Sleep To).” This album was composed by Titanic, herself and a group of polysomnographists (scientists who study sleep) from the Washington University of Medicine. Despite this being her first album, it was a fully ambient sound. This album encapsulated a bit of that empty and hollow tonality that was prominent in Poppy’s YouTube channel videos, which consisted of a plain white background and little to no noises other than Poppy’s voice and other characters.  

“Poppy.Computer,” Poppy’s second album, was released in 2017. This album started Poppy’s artpop music career and a tour was announced almost immediately after the album’s release. It was during this time that Poppy began making public appearances in character alongside Titanic. She stayed in character even during a red carpet where she was inside a glass box. There she was not allowed to speak to anyone, or anyone to her. She simply waved inside her box and shared the same monotone expression she always wore during her YouTube videos. 

Poppy’s skyrocketing popularity mostly came from the hidden message behind her bizarre videos and demeanor. Titanic Sinclair, the self-branded “mastermind” behind Poppy’s story, explained in an interview that Poppy was meant to represent the hollow and unfeeling celebrities of pop music. She was meant to be a direct critique of modern pop culture and the disconnect from reality that they exhibit.  

Though the explanation intrigued many, others began to question the odd dynamic between Poppy and Titanic. It was later found out that Poppy and Titanic had been in a relationship throughout the entirety of Poppy’s initial YouTube and music career. This made the situation all the more concerning, as most people thought the way Poppy was silenced and restricted was alarming to say the least.  

In 2018, Poppy released her third album titled “Am I a Girl?” She explores the blurred lines between gender identity with this titular song. This album promoted a more individualistic belief that Poppy herself believes, and led fans to believe that a rupture between Titanic and Poppy had happened. This was later confirmed with leaked rumors about a lawsuit that the duo was facing from Titanic’s ex-partner, Mars Argo. 

Poppy playing Hell and Heaven festival in 2023. Photo by Diego Vigueras via Creative Commons.

Mars starred in a project that was nearly identical to Poppy’s, excluding the aesthetic. But the Mars Argo project was buried deeply within the trenches of the internet until fans discovered a YouTube music channel titled “Mars Argo,” which included two music videos and an interview with Mars and Titanic. Fans noticed the similarities between Mars and Poppy’s behavior. After realizing the music videos were directed by Titanic, the suspicions were confirmed. It was only in 2019 that Poppy made a post on Instagram addressing the rumors and making a definitive statement on the matter.  

During the previous two years, Poppy had denied any mistreatment from Titanic after Mars began publicly proclaiming that the duo had stolen her persona. Furthermore, Mars talked about the neglect she experienced at the hands of Titanic, who was also in a romantic relationship with Mars during the entire duration of the project. Poppy breaking character to defend Titanic enraged Mars further, leading her to sue both Poppy and Titanic.  

In 2019, Poppy confessed to experiencing the near exact experiences that Margo had during her partnership and relationship with Titanic. This included intense psychological manipulation and gaslighting that often had her doubting her sanity and kept her in a quiet state of obedience for many years. Just like Mars, Titanic approached Poppy at a very young age. She felt she was susceptible to Titanic’s lies and believed most things he claimed, including the fall out Titanic had with Mars, in which he painted himself as the victim.  

She also made it clear that she was not an accomplice, but a victim just like every other partner Titanic had in the past. She closed things off by saying that she had lost friends in the process that were actively being manipulated by Titanic, and he moved on to his next projects. Poppy then announced her new solo career, which marked her separation from the “That Poppy” character. She mononomously referred to herself as Poppy from that point on. 

Poppy released her fourth album in January of 2019, titled “I Disagree.” This album became a huge turning point for her, as she drastically changed her style and music genre to encapsulate her true self. The album was predominantly metal, and Poppy shocked fans with her hidden death growl skill. This album reached acclaim in the rock and metal communities. “Bloodmoney,” one of the songs featured on this album, was nominated for Best Metal Performance in that year’s Grammys. Poppy became the first ever female solo artist to be nominated for this category. 

Since then, Poppy has released two more albums titled “Flux” and “Zig.” Sticking relatively loyal to the metal genre, Poppy still decided to experiment with other genres such as industrial, electronic and alternative rock. Poppy became a well-loved figure in the metal scene as of late, and fans often praise her inventive genre-bending while still keeping things relatively gritty and rebellious.  

Alongside Poppy, Mars Argo has also released music as recently as last year after a near 11-year hiatus. This brought Poppy fans to listen and support the singer’s endeavors, despite the fact that she has not shown any deeper interest in continuing to make music. Going off the songs’ contents, “Angry” and “I Can Only Be,” it is evident that both songs were intended to show Mars’s healing journey through the abuse she had to endure at the hands of Titanic. 

Similarly, Poppy has created many songs that discuss patterns of abuse, manipulation, anger and grief. Her death growl is cathartic, and she has never been more authentic than now, as she has also stated. Recently, Poppy collaborated with one of the most popular emerging nu-metal bands of the past year, Bad Omens. Together, they released the dark electronica and metal single “V.A.N” (or “Violence Against Nature”). She is also currently touring with the band and performing the single live.  

To close things off, I have been a long time Poppy fan. I was there during “Bubble Bath” and the Mars Argo allegations. I’ve supported both singers in their climbing success after cutting ties with their abusers, and I wish to highlight that fact. Poppy was able to reach a new peak of success after breaking her own cycle of abuse, and that should be admired. It takes incredible courage to do so.  

Poppy’s entire discography can be found on all music streaming platforms.  

Bad Omens and Poppy’s video for V.A.N