On Saturday, the forward-thinking pop producer and musician Sophie died after an accident in Athens. She was 34. “True to her spirituality,” her household wrote in a press release, “she had climbed up to watch the full moon and accidentally slipped and fell.” The story was directly tragic and delightful, stuffed with ache, shock and beneath all of it an virtually otherworldly craving. It was like a Sophie track.
Sophie might not have been a family title, however over her brief profession she had a profound and transformative impact on the best way trendy pop music sounds. Since rising together with her frenetic breakout single “Bipp” in 2013, the Scottish producer, who was based mostly in Los Angeles, went on to work with artists like Madonna, Vince Staples and Charli XCX. As a solo artist, Sophie’s pioneering music was maybe poised for a bigger crossover; her 2018 album “Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides” was nominated for a finest dance/digital album Grammy. Her affect might be heard in each the moment gratification of 100 gecs’ hyperpop and the energetic hooks of the Ok-pop growth.
Sophie’s manufacturing brimmed with concepts. Where others perceived shallow surfaces, she noticed oceanic depths — within the musicality of hyper-feminized speech, within the augmented honesty of artifice, within the plasticky discovered supplies of late-capitalist client tradition. She had a eager, wry ear for the overlap between the language of want and the language of contemporary promoting, and her songs typically gave the impression of industrial jingles from different planets: “If you need that something but don’t know what it is, shake shake shake it up and make it fizz,” went the infectious “Vyzee,” advert infinitum.
When she first arrived, shrouded in anonymity throughout the male-dominated world of digital music, individuals puzzled about Sophie’s gender. In late 2017, she introduced, through interviews and the openhearted synth-ballad “It’s Okay to Cry,” that she was a transgender lady. Her early singles had reveled within the fluidity of femininity and masculinity, in addition to softness and hardness, and immediately it appeared that the aesthetics she’d toyed with in her music had been associated to the personal means of turning into herself. There was magnificence in that, and a palpable liberation when she stepped into the highlight.
“For me, transness is taking control to bring your body more in line with your soul and spirit so the two aren’t fighting against each other and struggling to survive,” she stated in an interview with Paper journal round that point. “On this earth, it’s that you can get closer to how you feel your true essence is without the societal pressures of having to fulfill certain traditional roles based on gender. It means you’re not a mother or a father — you’re an individual who’s looking at the world and feeling the world.”
From her solo materials and her manufacturing work for different artists, listed here are a few of her important tracks.
In June 2013, on the Scottish digital label Numbers, “Bipp” emerged out of nowhere — from a void as clean and alive with risk as its cowl artwork’s white background. The monitor felt as very similar to a membership banger as a mad-scientist’s laboratory experiment. Hyper-processed percussion and cheerleader-chant vocals pinged off one another as if they had been each manufactured from Flubber. “I can make you feel better, if you let me,” intoned a uneven, high-pitched vocal, inviting the listener to succumb to the track’s unusual promise of ecstasy.
A yr later, Sophie launched a monitor as explosively fizzy as a Diet-Coke-and-Mentos cocktail. “Lemonade” dialed up the extra polarizing facets of her aesthetic: The floor sheen was much more artificial, the vocals even higher-pitched and the rhythm — which careened from a lure cadence to a sped-up pop hook — was as erratic because it was exhilarating.
Electronic music typically has a fame for being self-serious, however lots of Sophie’s songs crackled with oddball humor. “Hard,” the kinetic B-side to “Lemonade,” was amongst them. It was directly a slinky, vividly tactile ode to B.D.S.M. — “latex gloves, smack so hard” — and a sly joke on the gender binary, as an ultra-femme, helium-like voice intones, “Hard, hard, I get so hard.”
QT, ‘Hey QT’ (2014)
By 2014, Sophie had develop into carefully associated with PC Music, a buzzy Britain-based collective of digital musicians and producers who mix the cerebral archness of the avant-garde with the earnest, mass-catharsis of pop musical product. QT was a short-lived mission that united Sophie with the PC Music figurehead and producer A.G. Cook, together with Hayden Frances Dunham, who was “playing” a pop star named QT who additionally occurred to be the spokeswoman for an invented power elixir known as DrinkQT.
The track is a jubilant sugar rush, however some skeptics puzzled if Sophie and Cook had been turning into too slowed down by concepts and irony, and within the course of alienating potential listeners. Sophie confounded her critics much more, although, when “Lemonade” was utilized in a 2015 internet industrial for … McDonald’s lemonade. “People were furious,” Sophie recalled in a Vulture interview a number of years later. “But I don’t think that compromises anything in the music.” She added, “If you can do two things with it, give it meaning for yourself according to the perspectives you want to share and also have it function on the mass market, and therefore expose your message to more people in a less elitist context, then that is an ideal place to be.”
‘Just Like We Never Said Goodbye’ (2015)
When she gave her 2015 singles assortment the cheeky, Warholian title “Product,” Sophie was as soon as once more winking on the perceived chasm between artwork and client tradition. But its closing monitor — the wrenching and glittery millennial-pop heartbreaker “Just Like We Never Said Goodbye” — was a preview of what was to come back from her later solo materials, and proof that as a lot as she indulged in concepts, she was additionally an knowledgeable conjurer of massive, honest feelings.
Madonna that includes Nicki Minaj, ‘Bitch I’m Madonna’ (2015)
In 2015, Sophie’s progressive sound had trickled to this point into the mainstream that even the Material Girl herself wished a chunk. “Bitch I’m Madonna,” the enjoyably brash single from the pop celebrity’s 13th studio album, “Rebel Heart,” stays maybe probably the most high-profile monitor that Sophie labored on. Though she shared a writing credit score with half a dozen different collaborators, and although the refrain’s right here’s-the-drop construction is audibly time-stamped 2010s Diplo, the plastic-affect verses, bouncy pre-chorus and spirited self-referentiality bear the distinct marks of Sophie.
Charli XCX, ‘Vroom Vroom’ (2016)
Charli XCX proved to be an much more simpatico pop collaborator and muse. She and Sophie labored collectively on a handful of bubbly one-off tracks — “No Angel,” “Girls Night Out” — in addition to the whole thing of Charli’s experimental 2016 EP “Vroom Vroom.” This modern and kinetic title monitor is constructed like a customized trip for Charli’s distinct musical character.
Vince Staples that includes Kendrick Lamar, ‘Yeah Right’ (2017)
Though Sophie labored extra continuously with pop artists than rappers, she produced two tracks on the sonically adventurous Compton M.C. Vince Staples’s 2017 album “Big Fish Theory,” together with “Yeah Right” (which additionally featured contributions from the Australian D.J. and producer Flume). After Kendrick Lamar despatched alongside his visitor verse, Sophie told Paper Magazine, “We edited the vocals and tried to overproduce the song. They wanted it a bit more raw, but then they left it anyway and people liked it. Vince was playing it all the time.”
‘It’s Okay to Cry’ (2017)
The poignant first single from Sophie’s “Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides” was one thing of a coming-out occasion. Stepping from the hazy shadows of her early work, Sophie positioned herself and her shock of carrot-red hair on the middle of the mission — singing lead vocal and starring within the track’s music video, which managed to be each weak and vampy on the identical time. “I hope you don’t take this the wrong way,” she sang atop a glimmering synth arpeggio, “but I think your inside is your best side.”
Like the thrilling “Ponyboy,” “Faceshopping” was an “Oil”-era tackle the tougher, extra industrial aspect of Sophie’s sound. The track’s chanted, deadpan vocals are one thing of a callback to “Lemonade,” however right here the language of consumption and promoting blends much more subversively with reflections on id and self-creation: “My face is the front of shop,” she proclaims, “I’m real when I shop my face.” In Vulture, Sophie mused, “That’s a running theme in this music — questioning preconceptions about what’s real and authentic. What’s natural and what’s unnatural and what’s artificial, in terms of music, in terms of gender, in terms of reality, I suppose.”
A deliriously catchy, understanding Madonna nod (“immaterial girls, immaterial boys”) that doubles as a meditation on the connection between physique and soul — what could possibly be extra quintessentially Sophie than that?
‘Bipp (Autechre Remix)’ (2021)
In 2015, Sophie established a private credo about remixes of her work: She wished none, “unless it’s Autechre.” Five years later, the British digital duo despatched again their tackle “Bipp” with the observe, “Sorry this is so late. Hope it’s still of some use.” Just days earlier than Sophie’s demise, it was launched together with a beforehand unreleased B-side of her personal, “Unisil.” Slow and sparse, the remix is a loving homage from two of her musical heroes, and proof that even Sophie’s earliest work nonetheless seems like the longer term.