SOPHIE: The legacy of the pop pioneer

On the 30th of January, the world lit up in tributes for the pop producer known mononymously as SOPHIE, who died after a tragic fall from a balcony while staying up to watch the full moon in Athens. 

The artist is hailed as a visionary in pop music, famously playing an intrinsic role in the musical trajectory of the likes of Charli XCX, Madonna and Lady Gaga amongst many others. In 2018, the artist released the debut studio album Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides to universal acclaim. It was described as the Album of the Year by Stereogum and Crack Magazine, and subsequently went on to be nominated for a Grammy award for Best Dance/Electronic album. This would be the only studio album to be released during the artist’s lifetime. 

SOPHIE’s surrealist, avant-pop musical stylings made her a prominent figure in the underground scene, and her single ‘BIPP’ released in 2013 brought with it increased mainstream attention. SOPHIE used software and synthesisers to musically conjoin sounds that resembled latex, sparks and elastic, and layered this with minimal lyricism which drew attention to societal artifice. Her 2014 single “Lemonade” went on to appear in a commercial for McDonalds. 

SOPHIE chose not to use gendered pronouns and, at this time, did not appear publicly. Her interviews became infamous for their unconventionality; in a phone interview for BBC Radio 1, the artist used a voice modifier to sound like a child to the radio listeners. SOPHIE’s first public appearance came in August 2014 with the P.C. music collective for their single “Hey QT”, co-produced by A.G. Cook. After the success of this song, SOPHIE collaborated with Madonna and Nicki Minaj on the track “Bitch, I’m Madonna” in 2015. The song now has more than 330,000,000 views on YouTube. 

In 2016, SOPHIE produced the Vroom Vroom EP for Charli XCX, which marked the first in a long line of collaborations for the pair. This also marked the time at which P.C. Music moved to the foreground of Charli XCX’s work, which has had a significant influence on much of her subsequent music. SOPHIE also cameoed in the video for Vroom Vroom, which Charli XCX credits as one of her career favourite videos. 

In 2017, SOPHIE released a video as a solo artist for the song “It’s Okay to Cry,” which marked the first time that the artist’s own voice and image were used in a release. This was also taken as a reveal of Sophie’s gender identity as a transgender woman. 

In 2018, her debut album Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides was released. Amongst the critics who praised the work was Peter Boulos who, in a statement for Exclaim!, stated that ‘For all the praise that could be heaped on the bulk of SOPHIE’s output, the best that comes to mind is that it sounds like no one else could have made Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides. This is the kind of music that, in twenty years, we may look back on as a pivotal point in changing the trajectory of the pop music sound.’

A petition on to have a planet named after the late avant-pop star has received over 90,000 signatures.

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Jake Walker-Charles

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December 2021
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