The cryptic YouTuber’s new album is the first to fully embrace the upsetting qualities of her video works, folding elements of nu-metal and grindcore into her seasick melange.
Since the very beginning, there has been a darkness buried in Poppy’s heart. It’s there in the earliest videos uploaded to her mysterious YouTube channel back in 2014, in which the character—portrayed by an actress and musician named Moriah Pereira—performed simple tasks against a white background, occasionally delivering surrealist monologues. Her very first video featured her eating cotton candy in a way that might feel familiar to fans of ASMR videos: Her lips smack, her throat rumbles, she makes satisfied “ahhs,” but something’s off about the whole thing. Audio and image are out of sync; nothing sounds quite like you expect it to.
It was an unsettling beginning, and in the ensuing years, she’s only plunged further into uncomfortable territory. One of her early popular videos, for example, features her staring into the camera as she teaches the viewer how to load a handgun. In another, she makes explicit reference to one of 4chan’s most notoriously noxious message boards. Unlike a lot of people who have set about parodying the strangeness of influencer culture, she and her collaborators—chief among them the director and producer Titanic Sinclair—have seemed uniquely attuned to the surreal perversity that lurks in the shadowy underbelly of YouTube culture. It’s no surprise, perhaps, that some of the platform’s more unsavory figures have been outspoken fans of hers. She’s fluent in the lingua franca of the internet’s darkest parts.