Poppy Jean Crawford Makes A Better Pop Icon Than Taylor Swift In 2023

Poppy Jean Crawford Makes A Better Pop Icon Than Taylor Swift In 2023

Crawford's recent string of singles proves her worth as a more fitting candidate than Swift for pop idolatry during uncertain times. 

DISCLAIMER: Everything we do at Pop War is presented in the context of a battle between two artists or works of art. We even joke that 'art is not subjective.' We don't mean this literally. This is all just meant to be a unique lens we use in order to analyze music, and should never be used to assume we don't value both artists we compare and contrast.


If we’re all doomed to live through the current, fucked up version of reality in which we find ourselves, we should demand artists that do a better job of voicing our collective tension than, say, Taylor Swift as our cultural and musical icon du jour. While T-Swift is deservingly in the spotlight, the fanfare given to plasticine pop stars of her ilk could and should be rationed, at least, in order to make room for artists like Poppy Jean Crawford to be celebrated as a more apt voice for a generation living through these slow burn end times.


PJC’s music reflects our unease not lyrically, and not even wholly on a stylistic level. The hurt and the fragility of now is seemingly baked into her voice. Her music, even at its brightest and most carefree, carries a little dark cloud of uncertainty and longing for something fading from reach. It’s a deliciously addictive cocktail that relies on shoegaze, DIY punk and garage, probably David Lynch movies, and a serious ability to craft a lasting hook. And, while Crawford’s creative output never quite feels definitively fitted to a specific genre or direction, I’d argue that’s a characteristic that only furthers my instincts regarding her artistic capabilities.


While her first EP - 2016’s The Hallucinatory and Addictive 4 Week Love - merely shows promise of a teenager’s ability to self-produce some wildly interesting goth-tinged bedroom pop, it’s her more recent string of singles that proves her ability to be more than the cool kid lurking in the shadows of relative obscurity. And I’m obviously not the only one “in the know” with Poppy’s talent - she and her band recently served as support for Placebo’s entire US tour, and has done the same for The Black Lips.


“Pink Cheeks,” though, should have by now elevated Crawford’s status as an opening act for bands a lot of people have still never heard of, to a ‘dark pop’ icon in the making. Its simple reveal that “my cheeks are pink ‘cause I love you,” is bubblegum sentiment confessed sheepishly over an achingly lovesick backdrop that damn near anyone can identify with on some level. It’s easy to imagine legions of sad, confused teens draped in black and greys claiming this song as their summer anthem. And once they’ve come down from their heartbreak high, “Hands Up” is there to greet them with a full on club banger. But PJC’s crowning achievement so far is the devastatingly perfect pop of “The Takeover” - haunted with fevered and romanticized visions of a could-be future with someone once thought to be a “Mr. Right.” It so perfectly captures the trauma in coming to terms with your unshakable faith in a lasting and calm relationship being suddenly upended without explanation. The effortlessly catchy choruses are dripping in desire, while the delivery in the verses seems to instill some confidence in the listener that Poppy’s gonna be just fine without the guy in this particular tale.


In fact, that juxtaposition is the very thing that makes artists like Poppy Jean Crawford so special. Pay attention to her demeanor - on display in her music and in her social media portrayal of her life - for strong evidence of a self-reliant and commanding presence, not too bothered by anything anyone else could possibly say or do. One minute, she’s celebrating the fucked up bedroom recluse she may very well be, but the next minute, she’s gone all 1920’s Hollywood glamour goddess. That unique ability to harness both so well shows up in spades on tracks like “Superkiss.” The musical language of this entry in PJC’s small catalog is one that I hope she continues to explore, with its distorted cello and distant floor tom laying a foundation for some seriously eerie and atmospheric electric guitar noise - excursions into territory not explored by many bands utilizing cello as a primary instrument. That same vibe continues, although in a more conventional direction, on 2021’s “One Time Hunny.” And it’s this track in particular that might best showcase Poppy’s ability to appeal to a wide audience. 



So, what exactly is keeping Poppy Jean Crawford from becoming the dark pop princess poised to break the mainstream music landscape? It could very well just be the same injustice and bad luck that’s plagued the music industry for decades. It could be that Crawford hasn’t surrounded herself with the agents and publicists and management team needed to propel her career to those heights. It could be that she’s one viral TikTok away from it all. I could be wrong, even - maybe I’m merely one of a few thousand listeners that most resonates with PJC (but that would honestly be shocking to me.)


Whatever the reason may be that’s keeping her hidden from large swaths of rabid fans, it should beg you to reflect on how ineffective the music industry is in feeding us what we need (or are asking for,) instead opting to package and serve to us what they need us to need. And while that may seem a little conspiratorial, it really just all boils down to business. But that doesn’t excuse the fact that the music industry operates without giving a lot of legitimate artists a fair shake at being presented to the public. While I am under no delusions that this blog entry will go any distance toward remedying the way in which the music industry at large operates, the goal with Pop War is to at least try to do some damage over the long haul, offering up some challengers to the wearers of the crown - not to knock any artist down, but to suggest worthy alternatives to what is so often spoon-fed to us. While I’m far from failing to see the value in the Taylor Swifts of the musical landscape, artists like her are just too ‘neat’ for many of us to adore in the way we’d like to adore an artist that more appropriately aligns with our tastes. And I can’t see a more worthy alternative to Taylor’s pristinely-crafted brand of stadium-washed pop than the smeary lip-sticked, messy-haired, weed-smoking troublemaker vibe of Poppy Jean Crawford.


Check out our favorite picks from PJC here:

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