PHOENIX – A rainy Valentine’s Day evening in Phoenix, Arizona – what a perfect night for one of the most bizarre acts to come through town. Moriah Rose Pereira, who goes by the name Poppy on the internet, is a multi-talented internet phenomenon. A young veteran in dancing, singing, acting, and creativity, Poppy was able to bring her peculiar act to the desert. Fans and onlookers of all shapes, sizes, and types gathered together at the Crescent Ballroom to see the internet come to life and behold the spectacle that is the Poppy.Computer Tour. It certainly did not disappoint.
What Exactly is Poppy?
Believed to be an android by many, a cult leader by some, and an all-around weirdo by “normies” on the internet, Poppy found massive notoriety over YouTube after releasing her infamous video “I’m Poppy,” which can be viewed here. Produced with the help of Titanic Sinclair, another well-known internet phenomenon, musician, and director, Poppy was quickly able to gain the attention of the modern world, mostly through her series of outlandish videos.
She eventually turned this YouTube sensation into an effective tool in the pursuit of her ultimate dream: becoming a pop star. In fact, Poppy even won a Streamy Award in late 2017 for “Breakthrough Artist.” However, it would likely be more apt to label her an anti-pop star, as her work seems to revolve around calling out the absurdities of contemporary popular culture, pop music, and fame in the modern world.
While Poppy originally claimed not to be in a cult a little over a year ago, with Titanic Sinclair vouching for the accuracy of this claim, the Poppy.Computer Tour seemed to prove otherwise. This humorous take on possibly spinning criticism on its own head and turned it into another powerful tool in their digital and cultural arsenals; Titanic Sinclair and Poppy seem to embrace this cultish mentality, and they certainly took it and ran with it.
This cultish theme led to some fabulously interesting and entertaining moments during the show; from the computer-rendered speech synthesis-style narration, to fans “drinking the Kool-Aid,” this cult-themed joke certainly balances itself on a thin line between satire and reality. Nonetheless, the screaming fans—aka “Poppy Seeds”—and fascinated observers did not seem to mind either way. After all, is this not the essence of modern popular culture? Undying fealty to those famous people all fans have sworn allegiance to.
The Poppy.Computer Tour is Poppy’s first time visiting real people as a musician, and it was originally planned to visit only 20 cities across North America, but likely due to its greater-than-expected success, the tour was expanded to include a stop in London, Tokyo, and 15 other stops in North America. Poppy and Titanic Sinclair planned this epic adventure in order to promote Poppy’s first official album, Poppy.Computer.
The most interesting aspect of this tour is that, with the exception of her Toronto show, there were no opening acts. Instead, Poppy substituted the time slot traditionally reserved for an opener for one of the characters off her YouTube channel – Charlotte the Mannequin. This same character also happens to be the main antagonist from Poppy’s new YouTube Red film, with a potential to become a series, titled I’m Poppy.
Poppy also traveled with two amazingly talented backup dancers, Alec and Jason. These two stole the spotlight during many points, yet they always made sure to give it back to Poppy when the time was right. They were their to support and augment her, after all, with their keytar dance moves, air drums, and even their own take on what looked like a Thousand Arms Dance. Complete with tutus, bleach blonde wigs, and face masks, they offered an unsettling yet oddly charming addition to the stage.
Charlotte the Mannequin
As fans eagerly awaited the unexpected, uncertainty swirled in the air. Would there be an opener? How would they start the show? What, exactly, was this going to be like? Those who knew Poppy from the internet likely had all sorts of wild ideas, and “Africa” by Toto was playing on loop as they contemplated the imminent future. As the song itself has become its own infamous meme, it seemed only fitting to fill the void of time while everyone waited for the show to start.
Charlotte Quin, or Charlotte the Mannequin, sat alone on the stage, aside a MacBook DJ setup and between two massive screens. She opened the show with a pre-selected audio set. While she isn’t the most animated character, she does have her very own YouTube channel where she occasionally copies Poppy’s ideas, makes her own versions of Poppy’s songs, and otherwise wreaks havoc on Poppy’s online presence. She also happens to have a diverse but excellent taste in music, sampling and playing songs of all genres and eras. There was certainly something for just about everyone in her playlist, and her transitions were seamless.
Songs and artists featured during this most interesting of opening DJ acts include: Daft Punk, Baha Men, Missy Elliot, N.W.A., Vanessa Carlton, TLC, Cake, Abba, Ke$ha, The B-52s, Of Montreal, Talking Heads, Madonna, Rihanna, LMFAO, Justin Bieber, Billy Joel, Britney Spears, Lou Bega’s Mambo No. 5, Jimmy Eat World, Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), Dr. Dre, Cyndi Lauper, Ed Sheeran, Nena’s (Original German) “99 Red Balloons”, and Miley Cyrus.
Throughout this playlist, symbols resembling every meme about the Illuminati played, mixed in with some of the visuals from Poppy’s videos—most notably, “This Birdcage” and “Where is Poppy?”, a video made in collaboration with entertainment company and internet phenomenon Super Deluxe. Strung throughout the set were also sound clips from various Poppy videos, most notably increasingly-frequent statements of “I’m Poppy.” Charlotte’s own statements of “Hello Internet“ and how she is going to be the “Queen of YouTube.” It also featured some sound clips of Poppy and Charlotte discussing the Bible, internet meme sensation Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That, and an old Blockbuster commercial.
Towards the end of Charlotte’s set, there was some banter between her and Poppy, ending with Poppy stating she was “Uncomfortable,” with Charlotte replying, “Uncomfortable? I’ll show you uncomfortable!” Poppy called for “Security!” As the final two songs played, the unusual opening act ended with the question, “Are you ready for Poppy?” playing over and over. They then played just about every ending theme ever, and random noises or themes, from things such as: The Simpsons, Castle Rock Entertainment, Windows ME, Viacom, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, and so on. It was hard to keep track of since they were only samples given in rapid succession, but the result was immensely entertaining.
To capitalize on this hype, Titanic Sinclair came out on stage just before the show began. He presented what was most likely a delicious Poppy beverage (Kool-Aid) prior to sampling some himself. He then set down the pitcher and prepared the crowd for initiation. Warning messages popped up on the screens, and then fans were inducted into the Cult of Poppy over three different Programming Sequences, complete with all the necessary digital and broadcast noises to make it just weird enough. Titanic Sinclair proceeded to pour cups of the delicious Poppy beverage during this time.
With all the grace granted to an android, Poppy slowly and quietly proceeded on stage with her two gender-ambiguous backup dancers, taking her place center stage with her back facing the audience. Her fans were ravenous, but Poppy is the master of timing and patience. Once the appropriate time came, she began to perform her iconic song and first single from her new album, “I’m Poppy“. She followed this up with “Computer Boy,” the second single from her new album.
Once “Computer Boy” concluded, Poppy played her video “Doritos Monster Energy Drink,” because when else is a perfect time?
She continued the weirdness by asking the audience, “Do you love me?” She then proceeded to hand out her delicious Poppy beverage, passing out Kool-Aid to a few people in the front row. Titanic Sinclair and the backup dancers also helped with cup distribution. It was a beautiful, if not strange, moment.
Later on, Poppy also brought up the LOVE METER on the large screens, and her backup dancers hyped the audience up – everyone screamed, cheered, and clapped as loud as they could in order to fill the meter up. It turns out that the crowd does, in fact, love Poppy, as they were able to fill the meter up completely. What a way to spend Valentine’s Day!
Poppy performed many of her popular songs from the new album, including “Let’s Make a Video,” “Moshi Moshi,” “Interweb,” and “Bleach Blonde Baby.” The music videos, styles, and live performances are all uniquely performed and designed, and they are all quite reminiscent of Japanese Pop Music (J-Pop).
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (KPP) especially comes to mind when exploring Poppy’s musical styles and approaches – especially her songs “PONPONPON,” “CANDY CANDY,” and “Invader Invader.” The latter two of these are especially reminiscent of Poppy’s live performance, particularly regarding her backup dancers; CANDY CANDY features what is likely a male impersonator of KPP, dancing behind her with a wig in her same hairstyle and a mask that is an anime version of her face. In Invader Invader, she has many gender-ambiguous backup dancers as well. There certainly seems to be a lot of inspiration here from J-Pop, making Poppy’s performance a great mix of American and Japanese pop music styles.
Another marriage between pop styles can be seen with French pop artist Yelle, who is also famous for her interesting approaches to music, live performances, and music videos. While the connections aren’t as clear as between Poppy and KPP, Yelle’s upbeat and interesting approaches to pop culture certainly are sights to behold. Yelle’s hit song “Ba$$in” is particularly apt, as well as “Comme Un Enfant,” “Safari Disco Club,” “Complètement fou,” and “Ici & Maintenant.” If anything, her unique dancing styles are certainly comparable to Poppy’s own take on dance, which was Poppy’s first love.
In the middle of Poppy’s performance, she played her video “3:36“ and followed it up with some live additions: “Should we end the show early?” The audience, of course, said no, and she replied, “Okay.” However, it would not have been much of a surprise if she had ended it early.
Throughout the show, Poppy made excellent eye contact with just about everyone in the crowd. She was excellent at engaging people in that way while still maintaining her android-like, robotic façade. At one point, she did go through the front row and gave high fives or held hands, briefly, with as many fans as she could. Her backup dancers also, at one point, took 2 phones from fans in the crowd and took some photos of Poppy from their perspectives on the stage. It is clear that Poppy and company are trying their best to maintain their fans’ loyalty and love.
As the end approached, Poppy asked, “Can I be your Valentine?” The crowd, of course, agreed with great enthusiasm. However, all was not perfect, as Charlotte had to make her final attempt of the night at overthrowing Poppy – her voice popped up over the speakers, as she had just been sitting there, quietly, on stage throughout Poppy’s performance.
“Can I sing a song?” Charlotte asked. “You’ve already had your turn,” Poppy replied. She then requested for the crowd to join her in chanting, “Bye bye, Charlotte!” Apparently, at some point, Charlotte’s head was removed, so it is clear the crowd was quite serious about quieting her pleas for fame and recognition.
Poppy’s penultimate song for the show was her song, “Where’s My Microphone?” The audience, backup dancers, Titanic Sinclair, and Poppy all joined in on worrying about where Poppy’s microphone was, but everyone was quite relieved when she realized it was in her hands the whole time! “Oh, there it is!”
Finally, the time came for Poppy’s last song, “Software Upgrade.” She gave it her all, and her energy was quite infectious. Most in the crowd were having such a great time singing and dancing along, with a few wallflowers hanging around and enjoying their interesting Valentine’s Day adventure. Poppy finished the song by assuring everyone that she loved them prior to departing the stage as mysteriously as she had appeared, and the crowd chanted and screamed for an encore.
Unfortunately, that encore never came, and it ended up being an early evening for Poppy fans and Crescent Ballroom guests. Charlotte the Mannequin had played her set from about 8pm to 8:40pm, and Poppy performed from that point until 9:30pm. It was a short show, but it can be said this was certainly not the most traditional concert or musical experience anyway. While it would have been nice to see Poppy perform a couple of her original songs prior to the Poppy.Computer album, such as “Money“ or “Lowlife,” it was still an immensely surrealistic and enjoyable experience to see such an internet phenomenon in real life.
Overall, Valentine’s Day with Poppy at the Crescent Ballroom was an interesting yet amusing way to spend an evening, and it is clear Poppy will be going places. Her partnership with Titanic Sinclair has, so far, been wildly successful, and it will be interesting to see where they go and what they do next. If they do choose to come back to Phoenix, however, it might be best to visit another venue – Crescent Ballroom was a bit too small for her sold out show, and the stage is too low for everyone in the audience to see the screens fully. At times, it was even difficult to see the backup dancers or Poppy herself, which was disappointing during certain moments. This was a show one did not want to miss a moment of – so many small details were hidden throughout.
One thing is for certain, though – the lack of encore and the resuming of “Africa” by Toto at the end of the show was the greatest troll moment of all. Disappointing and unexpected, yes, but one cannot help to smile after such a thoroughly bizarre experience.