For those of you who haven’t followed my past obsession with pop-star, Poppy; they’re a blossoming musical project that originally started as a popular, heavily-memed Youtube channel. Starting in 2016, they began releasing music, and now have two pop albums, two ambient albums, and two EPs. For any extra background information on Poppy, and/or my thoughts on them, I would recommend you read my past posts, which you will find here and here.
They recently released a new EP, Choke, which I didn’t review as a whole, but I did review two of the tracks on it: one that I thought was fantastic, and another that I wasn’t a huge fan of. I will say, I became excited for the darker twist they were taking at first, but then retracted this excitement when I stopped enjoying a lot of the singles they were releasing. However, I have since changed my mind about those songs once again. For example, I no longer think “Scary Mask” is that bad; I’m actually a decent fan of the song. So all in all, I’ve regained my interest and enjoyment of Poppy’s new music.
The cover of their new EP, Choke
Then of course, Poppy continues their exploration into dark, pop-metal (or whatever you call this collaboration) with their newest single, “Concrete.” No one would really expect anything different at this point. Beginning with some chilling sirens and whispered vocals, they hit you with the edge right off the bat; immediately following it with an abrupt and abrasive instrumental section. As soon as the verse starts; however; things get much different. The always-present, bubble-gum pop comes right out; but still backed by a fast and heavy rhythm section. The combination of the sugary-sweet vocals and the hard rock instrumental almost creates and old, power-pop feel, which I’ll get to later.
The song continues to switch back and forth between these two main aesthetics, before finally switching to a pure pop-ballad by the last thirty to sixty seconds. This pattern has been seen in a couple of previous Poppy songs; both “X” and “Scary Mask” coming to mind; but neither have had this exact stylistic mashup. Jumping back and forth between a bright and sunny plain, to a pitch-black void is something Poppy has shown an ability to do for a while, but I don’t think they’ve been able to mix the two into one single, all-encompassing mass like they do here.
As I said before, half or maybe more of the song sounds very similar to a heavy power-pop, or arena-rock song from the late seventies or early to mid eighties. The smooth, harmonizing vocals accompanied by the typical sounds of any early hard-rock or heavy-metal group is something that isn’t necessarily new to music, but it isn’t often heard anymore. The reason this song reminds me so much of “X” is not only the pattern, but the choice to follow (or reference) one single musical trend and visual. Previously, it was that of the late sixties and early seventies, with the flowery, peaceful, hippie-esque music video. Now it has shifted a decade later, to the loud but silky sounds of the days when rock went mainstream; even having a large section of the music video filmed on a stage, featuring a break for audience applause.
Your new musical overlord, Poppy
Past the music itself, the lyricism is actually incredibly clever, and maybe my favorite part. I never really came into the song, actively thinking about what “Concrete” meant, but I suppose I should’ve. The darkest parts are filled with a disturbing request to “Bury me six feet deep/Cover me in concrete/Turn me into a street,” which is a very harsh wish for self-harm. But of course, the typical juxtaposition comes when Poppy begins talking about sweet, chewy candy (well, while also talking about needing blood in their teeth, but let’s skip that for now). Now, they never directly mention the word “concrete” in terms of the sweets, but I imagine they were going for the parallel of concrete as the mixture vs. concrete as the ice cream; which is really funny to me for whatever reason.
As a whole, this is honestly one of my favorite songs Poppy has ever released; as well as music videos. It’s certainly my favorite of their new line of songs, past “Am I a Girl?,” and it makes me incredibly excited for any new music they release. The mashing of two opposite styles has worked for Poppy before, but I don’t think it has ever run this smooth. The smart usage of the double-meaning of “concrete” is also very fun and slightly hidden, which I find enjoyable. I would recommend a listen and hope you enjoy it.