Experimental artist and producer SOPHIE passed away in Athens on Saturday at the age of 34. An accidental fall while climbing her roof to look at the full moon took away from us one of the brighter beacons of pop music right on the cusp of superstardom.
The Scottish-born producer began in relative self-imposed anonymity, with releases that were more art projects than albums, like collaborations with AG Cook of PC Music. 2015 had the producer work with Madonna, carving an entry into pop music. Producing tunes for Vince Staples, Kim Petras and a prolonged collaboration with pop auteur Charli XCX stamped her unique sound even further into the zeitgeist. However, it would be her 2018 record, “Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides” that would put a face to the name. The single, “It’s Okay to Cry”, marked the first use of the artist’s real face and voice, a visual metaphor for her coming-out as transgender. The album went on to garner SOPHIE a Grammy nomination for Best Dance/Electronica Album, making her one of the first openly transgender artistes to be nominated.
There was a palpable excitement in the music she made, which created genuine optimism for the future of pop music. The artiste’s controlled aggression, with an emphasis on synthesis versus real instrumentation, left us with music that felt extraterrestrial. Maybe she wasn’t from here either. SOPHIE was a visionary, paving the way forward in real-time and at hyperspeed as she synthesized new sounds for a world in need of it. Pop music has been facing a crisis of plenty, with every corner populated by bloated and unimaginative excess, and SOPHIE had the keys for the way out.