With Am I a Girl?, Poppy takes her music's questioning and blurring of reality to another level. Poppy.Computer's witty electropop was a logical extension of the videos that made her a viral celebrity; on her second album, Poppy focuses on this fame with songs that reflect what pop music sounds like outside of that self-contained world. As skilled as she is at meta social commentary, the way she satirizes -- or conforms to -- mainstream standards of stardom, beauty, and pop music isn't always as distinctive as her debut was. Poppy's sense of humor is still evident when she sings about getting her nails done in one breath and reforming the state in another on "In a Minute" or coos "my hair and makeup make you envious and wanna die" on "Fashion After All," but "Aristocrat," one of several collaborations with Lady Gaga producer Garibay, is more interesting for its echoes of "Alejandro" than its own merits. Of course, smudging the line between derivative and subversive into oblivion is probably Poppy's goal on Am I a Girl? For every overly familiar song like "Iconic," there's an unexpected twist like her wish to see boys in bikinis ("they'd look good on you") on the L.A. snapshot "Girls in Bikinis," a shout-out to gender fluidity that's emphasized on the album's title track. Elsewhere, Poppy proves there's still some virtual life left in the project's original concept of technology versus humanity. On the standout "Time Is Up," Diplo's sleek, aloof production and Poppy's lyrics about humankind's growing obsolescence provide the album's best mix of mainstream pop trappings and high-concept lyrics. Likewise, the replicant lament "Hard Feelings" introduces Am I a Girl?'s fascination with heavy guitars, which evokes Babymetal as much as it does Limp Bizkit. It also recalls the work of Grimes, who appears on the Art Angels-esque "Play Destroy" and manages to sound more inhuman than Poppy with her helium coos and gremlin growls. Poppy takes this juxtaposition of sweet and apocalyptic to extremes on "X," a jumble of syrupy verses and gory choruses that tries too hard to be edgy. Even risky moments like this add to the impression that Poppy's body of work is like a neural network's approximation of pop music; this time, she's added more sources and delivered more unpredictable results. While it's not as cohesive as Poppy.Computer, Am I a Girl? definitely isn't stale, and it succeeds at expanding Poppy's sound and identity enough to keep fans listening and guessing.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
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