8 apr 2021

Interview with Poppy, a chameleon queen

At just 26, the American singer-songwriter was the first woman to be nominated for the Best Metal Performance award at the Grammys – a consecration for a star who first launched her career on social media. A queen of metamorphosis, Poppy will once again be the centre of attention this year when she marries the rapper Ghostemane. Exclusively for Numéro, she slipped into the guise of a new persona.

At the beginning, Poppy took her perfect doll-like beauty and made an artistic project out of it, appear- ing on social media in 2014 in enigmatic performance videos in which she played the role of a strange virtual creature. She then began to develop her talent as a musician, slowly evolving her style and universe, until, in 2017, she pushed the artificial hedonism of the digital world as far it would go on the album Poppy.Computer (using sounds not unlike those of the Canadian singer Grimes, with whom she would later collaborate). By 2020, it was all over with the acid-Pop living-doll look, her album I Disagree making her the new queen of metal – even if her visual and musical sophistication are a far cry from the dodgy makeup and bad-hair days that usually characterize the genre. In the video for the title track, she appears as a majes- tic dark princess, dominating, in vinyl and spikes, a board meeting of square music execs. Naturally iconic in her most spectacular out- fits, Poppy found, in Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren, the perfect alter egos. To announce her forthcoming marriage to the rapper Ghostemane, the Dutch designers starred with the tenebrous princess in an advert for their perfume Flowerbomb, in which it was announced that they would design her wedding dress. Always trail-blazing and avant- garde, Poppy this year went where no woman has ever gone before when she was nominated in the metal category at the Grammy Awards. Numéro met up with a star who never ceases to surprise.



Numéro: People say all sorts of things about you, for example that you’re a member of the Illuminati and your fan-club has become a sort of sect… Is there any truth to these rumours?

Poppy: I think people love to project and place me in a sort of parallel reality that has nothing to do with the one I live in most of the time. But I’m happy to let them think that if they wish. My fans have often con- sidered me as a “leader,” which is a role I accept and take very much to heart. It’s not so difficult – on the contrary it’s a lot of fun.



As a YouTube and social-media star, what would you say to someone whose dream was to become an influencer?

Firstly I’d tell them it’s not a very good idea. It’s a dangerous and de- manding path that will reward you with a lot of disappointment. I would advise them to take a different route that would be more about skills and knowhow rather than the simple de- sire to “influence” others – why not become a director, film editor or sound engineer, for example? Obviously that might sound a bit odd coming from me… Influencer is a dream job for politicians, attorneys or performing artists.

Robe en coton et tulle, PASKAL. Coiffure : Maranda chez The Wall Group. Maquillage : Jessica Monzalvo. Manucure : Sayaka. Set design : James Dean chez Walter Schupfer Management. Production : Peter McClafferty. Talent agency : Florent Farinelli Lab.

Have you been hurt by digital platforms and social media?
In the past, yes. I’ve felt upset by opinions published on social media. At the time, I wasn’t yet using those platforms to promote my music. A lot of people think that simply having an opinion is enough to allow them to share it with the whole world. I think you’ll agree it’s pretty frightening to see the consequences a simple Tweet can have. I’m not really sure if I trust my generation. As for the cultural industry, I’m not sure we can really talk about trust. Let’s look on the bright side: today we’re moving towards greater acceptance of otherness. Before, people were quickly put in boxes.



Are you frightened of ageing?

For a long time I was, yes. But I think those fears were related to an anxiety, that of not managing to be more fully what I really am. They’ve faded a bit with time, particularly when I realized that I was working hard every day to become what I really wanted to be.



Are there mistakes you’ve made since starting your music career? 

Of course! Everyone makes mistakes. Mine include working with people who weren’t able to point me in the right direction, particularly when I was in the wrong and incapable of seeing it. But the word “mistake” is too strong, particularly in our business, because it’s very negative and doesn’t take into account the idea of experience. Paradoxically, keeping the wrong company can sometimes trigger a reaction that allows you to emancipate yourself. I don’t make decisions the way I used to anymore.

What’s the most unlikely situation you’ve found yourself in?
Being nominated for the Grammy Awards in the metal category – that’s a pretty good one! I was driving when my manager told me the news. It took a few minutes for it to sink in – this nomination is really one of the most important things that’s ever happened to me. And no, I didn’t cry if that’s what you want to know. [Laughs.]



Journalists often class your music as “nu metal,” but I don’t think you agree with that categorization…

No, nu metal isn’t a genre I’d like to be assimilated with. [Laughs.] What’s more I never felt my music could be classed in any one category or another. Contemporary music has emancipated itself from the old classifications. Let’s say “contemporary metal” instead.



Rumour has it that metal fans are nicer and more open-minded, and yet it wasn’t until 2021 that a woman was nominated in the category at the Grammy Awards… 

Metal fans are open-minded? No, I wouldn’t say that. [Laughs.] I think that those who make metal music are often very open-minded, adorable and extremely inspiring. They’ve given me a lot of advice and shown me a lot of love. But metal fans are the guardians of the creative temple, which they defend jealously, and they can sometimes be rather conservative. They’re definitely not as conciliatory as those they adulate! There are many women in the world of metal, so clearly it’s wonderful that I was nominated in that category.



On that subject, why did you call your third album, which came out in 2018, Am I a Girl?
I wanted to question a lot of things in that album, such as sudden popularity for example… Did I have answers to my questions? Yes – I know I’m a woman. [Laughs.] Then in between there was I Disagree last year, while my next album will soon be released. It’s already been mixed and is now at the mastering stage. The approach is radically different from my other projects. It offers a new sound, a new energy.



Why did you agree to be the new ambassador for Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb Mariage Limited Edition?

I really like their work and their runway shows, so the collaboration happened very naturally and I’m very honoured to be part of their campaign. I like the way they’re always pushing each other, the way their garments can be at once wild, sober and completely destructured. I think our visions are well matched where that’s concerned, wouldn’t you say?