Poppy: The Right Way to Be Billie Eilish

It’s nearing the end of 2019, so of course, I had to come out with at least one more Poppy-related post before it was over. This, however, is unlike any other Poppy post I’ve done, because I had a pretty recent thought regarding her, and another artist you probably know: Billie Eilish. That, and I felt I’d praised her singles enough for one year already.

For anyone who isn’t aware of who Billie Eilish is, she’s a very new, award-winning, previously-indie-pop artist, who came out with an incredibly popular sophomore-LP this year, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (2019). She’s about to turn 18 in a couple of weeks, and she’s quickly becoming a fashion icon, and pop-idol throughout the globe; mainly because of her “unique” and “edgy” aesthetic. This all reminded me of someone else you probably know of by now: Poppy. While Poppy isn’t quite as popular, young, or technically new, both artists have been making music for about the same amount of time, both artists had very similar stylistic transitions, both are sort-of open about being “industry-plants,” and they have even more in common past that (I can’t spoil the whole thing, can I?).

For anyone who needs a refresher on Poppy, and who she is, you can read all of my old stuff on her here, here, and here.

Once I noticed these similarities, I began to reflect on why I love Poppy so much, when I dislike Billie Eilish (these aren’t personal attacks, I swear), and found many things I had not really noticed before. Firstly, Billie is acting as herself, as a person; or who she wants herself to be seen as; whereas Poppy is completely and totally in character/persona, all the time. While this may be a personal, or business decision, it makes her come off as disingenuous. Everything begins to be framed as pure, and real, which doesn’t actively recognize her status as an industry-plant, or that her brother supposedly writes half of her songs, and as a result, it turns me off completely from her music. Conversely, Poppy never breaks character. Through interviews, her music, and her YouTube videos, Poppy is Poppy, and not trying to be anyone else. Her music acts as a vehicle for speaking out, for sure, but mainly to create lore around her character. Poppy even recently came out with a graphic novel about her backstory, called Genesis I. This all means I’m not at all bothered by her industry-plant state; as that’s literally part of the role she is playing.

Watch Poppy’s pretty hilarious interview with BUILD here.

Another pet peeve I have with Billie is everyone’s constant assertion that she’s completely new and innovative, when in my mind, most of these things have been done before. The only semi-groundbreaking track on her sophomore album to me, is also her most popular: “bad guy,” but even then, most of what’s new is in the production and overall packaging of it. The album itself is pretty dynamic in its range of styles, but never did I listen to one of the other songs and think it distinguished itself that heavily from most other indie-pop. I do also appreciate the strong, female character she portrays but I feel like other artists like Ariana Grande do it so much better. So we’re really just left with a nice beat and a dorky personality at the beginning.

Meanwhile, Poppy is doing something I haven’t really seen done before, especially when you add on the character of Poppy herself. Her first few releases were certainly bland – although weird – and didn’t get truly interesting until the end of her album Am I a Girl?, but since then, she’s been cutting her way through old trends and into new territory. Many people have classified her new genre as “nu metal,” and have compared her to other pop-metal like the band Baby Metal, but her fusions are much more special than this. For a quick example, her song “Concrete” has a section toward the end that reminds me of a Phil Collins song, along with also having silky smooth bubblegum pop, and harsh metal chords. That trifecta is something I haven’t encountered elsewhere. But of course, that’s somehow much less interesting than traditional, quiet indie-pop like Billie Eilish’s “wish you were gay.”

The last thing I want to touch on that’s a similarity, but a difference maker, is the way that their musical transitions occurred; because both started off as indie-pop artists, and then evolved into their huge personalities and different styles. For Billie, as a friend of mine described it – she sounded like “any other banany and avocady singer,” referencing the famous vine making fun of Lana Del Rey-esque artists. And I completely agree. I was actually unaware “Ocean Eyes” was by Billie Eilish, but once I found out it was, I got very confused. The track isn’t very old either, and there was really no linear transition from that old Billie to the new one. I don’t know if it was a marketing decision, or a personality change, but it went from 0 to 100 real quickly.

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Poppy before her metal explosion.

The stylistic change of Poppy can be traced similarly, but more fluidly throughout all of her releases. After an EP and full-length LP showing off all the synths and pop-music you could ever want, Am I a Girl? proved to be a game-changing record. I touched on this a bit before, but it ends up being a linear dissent into the chaos that Poppy has become. It starts off sounding more like KE$HA, after the first or second interlude continues the same music style while inserting more darkness into the lyricism, and finally transitions to a borderline-metal sound by the final two tracks. But even before she made her full transition over to her unique heavy metal, she maintained the electronic aesthetic with songs like “Voicemail,” while adding in the more deviant subtexts and images along with it. And of course, each track aligns with something important in her backstory. She actually directly references the musical transition and the track that started it in the previously-linked interview. I found it interesting.

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Poppy after said explosion – she looks too calm.

This opinion may stick out as unpopular or unfair, but I think Poppy is the more interesting, better version of the new and rising star that is Billie Eilish. Their musical styles are very different, but the messages and influences they’re making are very similar – and I find Poppy’s to be more ambitious, consistent, and pleasing. Not all music is genuine. Not all music needs to have a deeper meaning. And not all musical changes need to be linear. But when your parents are in the music industry, so is your brother, and whether or not you earned your spot is into question, I can’t help but be frustrated by the seemingly-engineered image that Billie Eilish has taken over. Poppy is fake, Poppy doesn’t deviate from that, and everything she does plays into that. And of course, I love having a new way to enjoy nu metal that isn’t bad. Stay tuned every Wednesday and Friday for more weird, unnecessary, and maybe unpopular opinions (I’m holding myself to this).

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