My first introduction to Poppy
was not her music nor one of her many Youtube videos, but a conspiracy video that a friend sent to me. Seeing as most pop artists aren't introduced through conspiracy theories, I was definitely intrigued. Her first music video, "Lowlife," is maybe a bit strange, but far from the most unsettling content she's put out. The song is a pretty typical pop song - catchy, highly produced, with repetitive and memorable lyrics. Sure, the imagery is obvious fodder for those Illuminati conspiracies - the devil even makes an appearance - but overall the song and video seem to make sense for an aspiring pop star.
But if you explore a little more, you'll find an abundance of videos on her Youtube channel, all utilizing the same washed out pastel color palette. Every video is similarly sparse and unnerving. Usually when I show Poppy to my friends who have yet to come across her videos, the response is intense. They're either into it and feel strangely compelled to keep watching, or are very, very not into it. I think this is a result of Poppy somehow being able to position herself right in the Uncanny Valley, seeming almost human, but off in some way. Take for example this video of Poppy saying "I'm Poppy" - for ten minutes straight.
If you're not already a Poppy fan, at this point you're probably wondering, who is she? Why is she doing this? And is she OK? I can tell you right off the bat that Poppy is fine; she's actually kind of a character in what seems to be an ongoing, pretty complex art project. The other questions are a bit harder to answer clearly - but that's what makes Poppy so fun.
On one hand, Poppy is in many ways like a normal pop star; she's signed to Island Records, has an official Vevo
channel, and even has an EP, Bubblebath
, on all the usual platforms. Her music has played in the show Scream Queens
, and was featured on Now That's What I Call Music! 58
. She's worked on ad campaigns for Sanrio and Steve Madden, and even made content for Comedy Central's Snapchat. These facts seem strange when compared to all the videos she's made where she speaks in a soft, childlike voice, repeating simple phrases or proclaiming her love for the internet.
Look a little farther and you'll find that the person behind the whole Poppy character seems to be the director, Titanic Sinclair. Sinclair first started to gain some attention on the internet in the mid-2000s, making videos and music with a girl who went by Mars Argo. The two were dating, and in 2012 they moved to L.A. together to continue making their vlogs and original music. After a couple years, they broke up, and almost all the Mars Argo content vanished from the internet. Only three of the original videos are still up on the channel today, videos which are, interestingly, similar in style to the videos Titanic Sinclair now makes with Poppy.
Soon after the break up, Titanic Sinclair started working with Poppy, releasing their first video together in 2014. Sinclair has said that the two projects are unrelated, but the similarities between them have caused fans to assume that Poppy is in some way a continuation of the Mars Argo project.
After watching a lot of Poppy's videos - which is very easy to do in one sitting, as they're short, weird, and always leaving you feeling vaguely unsettled and unsatisfied - you start to see common themes appearing. There's a lot of commentary on the ideas of celebrity, materialism, internet culture, and an obsession with followers and likes. The Illuminati symbolism definitely plays into these themes, since there are always conspiracy theorists out there eager to jump on any potential sign of Illuminati involvement among the biggest stars. There are also questions raised about our interaction with technology, and what it means to be a human in a time when we're so connected to our various devices.
At this point, there's so much to explore and question about Poppy and Titanic Sinclair, and what their whole project is really getting at. Poppy's past is purposely kept very mysterious, although with some digging around the internet, you can find details that hardcore fans have managed to uncover. Even knowing these details, like her age, real name, and what she was doing before she met Sinclair and fully became Poppy, does little to clear up the overwhelming feeling of mystery and intrigue around the project. Everything they've done so far seems to only be the beginning; Poppy's first full length album is now finished and set to be released on October 6, and they're planning on announcing their first long-form video project, The Poppy Show
, soon. Within the past couple of days, Poppy and Titanic Sinclair have released a music video for Poppy's song "Let's Make a Video," announced another song release on Monday, and raised $15,000 in less than 10 hours that will go toward making yet another music video.
If, after reading this, you're now like me and unable to resist the urge to click on another video...and another, and another, then all of this is super exciting news. In a recent interview with WIRED
, Titanic Sinclair said that "the Poppy project is like a long meal, and we're only at the hors d'oeuvres." That's good to know, since I'm definitely hungry for more.