One of the more interesting pop artists out there; who I have written about quite a lot, actually; is none other than the Youtube star, Poppy. I did an artist spotlight on them a while back, and even wrote a review on their single before this one, “Voicemail,” for Wildcat 91.9’s website as well. Their unique character and sound both bring forth a weird aesthetic that just keeps evolving with time; once being a super bright and smooth synth-pop, to now, what is a really rough and chaotic, dark-side. And this evolution is what keeps making me come back; as they don’t really stay in one place very often, so I’m not yet bored of them.
So the next step in the evolutionary process it seems, is the music video they have been teasing for a while, “Scary Mask.” I didn’t quite know what to think about the teases. They were incredibly creepy, visually, but musically there wasn’t much disclosed, so there wasn’t much information to gleam off of. Still though, I put it on my calendar so I would remember to watch it, and I indeed did.
“Scary Mask;” in every way possible; is a discomforting roller coaster, and obviously continues Poppy’s new tendency toward horror. Beginning with an eerie, slow, descending melody of “I wear my scary mask when I’m afraid;” the track soon devolves into fast, and heavy guitar riffs, accompanied by shrieking vocals. Then, alternating between those two conflicting styles for just about the entirety of the song.
This formula is one that’s been used in several of their most recent songs. The last two on their previous full-length album, Am I A Girl?, “Play Destroy,” and “X,” both use similar juxtaposition. However, this one’s smoother and sweeter moments are less happy, and upbeat. Instead, it’s consistent with the themes presented throughout the whole song. Which both makes the mood-creation more consistent and effective, as well as turns this song into honestly, a hardcore/metal song, as opposed to simply a darker and edgier synth-pop jam.
As far as all of the heavier, screaming, and metal aspects are concerned, I’m not incredibly impressed with them? Poppy is obviously not historically a metal artist, but has occasionally slipped some variables in there. This takes more of a leap, in my opinion, and their featured artist, FEVER 333, doesn’t do enough for me. It’s pretty simplistic, and the vocals are very representative of some mediocre, early nu metal.
That being said, the places where they’ve obviously practiced are much higher quality. The very weird, and “bloopy” synth solo toward the end is I think a weirdly-pleasing instrumental, although non-complex. The vocals from their end are pretty good; mostly in the chorus, and a few disheveled moans.
The main disappointment for me, is the lyrical/thematic change from a lot of what she had before. The last album she released was full of storytelling, building off of itself, and creating a nice narrative for their character. This made the dissent into darkness easy to follow and understand, and not just a simple stylistic change. Following up on that, “Voicemail” continued this narrative, having specific relations and call-backs to tracks within the album preceding it. Here, there’s not much of that, as far as I’m concerned. Why yes, there’s a much darker tone that is similar to her most recent projects, and some of the formulas she uses are the same; the “Scary Mask” ordeal isn’t really related to anything their persona has been going through recently. Maybe in the context of an album, it’ll make more sense, and make me view it higher than I do now, but currently, that’s what’s lacking the most for me.
Overall, this track shows that Poppy has no sign of stopping their current track into heavier songwriting; but their complete jump into the metal, or hardcore genre was a bit early, and shows they’re not experienced in making great versions of that musical subsection. I do think there are qualities of this song that are good. It certainly does a good job at making you feel something, its synths are still really well-done, and the production is overall pretty good. I still like the direction Poppy keeps going in, and although this song falls a bit flat for me, I am still interested in what comes next for the artist. I’m thinking about a 4/10 on this one.