See Poppy perform on Saturday, January 25, at the Neptune Theatre.
See Poppy perform on Saturday, January 25, at the Neptune Theatre. JESSE DRAXLER

If you seek to understand even a sliver of what the internet has wrought on youth culture, pop music, and celebrity, you’re going to need to spend some time with Poppy. The online world created and nurtured Poppy, helping turn her from a curiosity into a sensation whose YouTube videos have logged more than 450 million views and whose work is debated and analyzed on Reddit by fans and detractors alike. She’s unavoidable, and she’s setting a template for how pop stars create and market their image online. 

But who the hell is Poppy? That’s a question very much up for debate and discussion. At a base level, she’s a genre-fluid artist who is currently touring in support of a forthcoming album, I Disagree, that touches on kawaii metal (the cutesy heavy rock sound from Japan that gave us Babymetal), as well as industrial and dance pop. Beyond that... all bets are off.

Some internet sleuths have figured out that Poppy is really Moriah Pereira, a woman in her early 20s from Nashville, who made some stabs at radio-friendly pop before connecting with marketing-savvy Svengali Titanic Sinclair (real name: Corey Mixter). Building off a series of YouTube videos that have only gotten weirder and more unsettling over time, the pair have built a brand that has reached a cultlike fervor. 

Poppy’s in-person appearances—either on a concert stage or being interviewed on camera—have only muddied the waters further, as she responds to everything with a strange high-pitched voice and an almost robotic cadence. But what caps it all off is the knowing smile she wears through it all. Poppy knows she’s getting away with something; it’s up to us to decide if we’re rubes, accomplices, or some combination of both. 

The next stage of Poppy’s career is when things should get truly interesting: She’s severed her creative relationship with Sinclair and now we may get a chance to see the real Poppy… whoever or whatever that may be. Buckle up, Poppy Seeds, it’s going to be a wild ride.

Poppy performs with Vowws on Saturday, January 25, at the Neptune Theatre.