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19th February 2021

SOPHIE – The striking sounds of a pioneer producer

Culture Editor Georgina Davidson takes a dive into the concepts and emergence of avant-pop producer SOPHIE, remembered for her future-facing sound and style
SOPHIE – The striking sounds of a pioneer producer
Photo: Georgina Davidson @ The Mancunion

Culture Editor, Georgina Davidson, discusses the genius of SOPHIE, following her tragic and sudden passing.

There are a multitude of ways we experience the world. Sometimes we see, often we hear, and almost always we feel. But to have a distinct realisation about any and all of these senses, and to artistically convey your experiences in a way that deeply impacts others, is a special and rare thing.

In some people, this realisation might grow much deeper and evolve throughout life. Worldly understanding sharpens perception and invokes reflection on how we react to- and interact with the world around us. When such creativity is found and then quite suddenly lost – such as the with the death of the creative force that was SOPHIE – for many people, the impact of this creativity comes most distinctly to life.

To be able to notice and communicate intricate sound is a gift which many saw in the late producer Sophie Xeon. Known artistically as SOPHIE, the Glasgow born pop artist’s work had expanded into a strongly felt presence in underground and experimental pop. Despite her name being unfamiliar in the wider public sphere, her talent and musical ability is surely felt throughout the scene.

Working with the likes of A. G. Cook (of PC Music), Madonna, and many more, Sophie asserted her sound and style by developing a unique electronic genre, which enriches and infiltrates the latest modern pop music sound of this decade.

In the build up to the release of 2018’s Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides, it was tangible and beautiful to see her identity shine. Never shying from her productive presence, she seemed to have a duty to perform and a mission to bring to light. Among her work she showed the world its brutal injustices, its beauty, and a fresh perspective. Her regard, or rather disregard, for gender is playful and powerful in her musings on transness:

“It means you’re not a mother or a father – you’re an individual who’s looking at the world and feeling the world.” PAPER Magazine, 2018 

Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides formed the point of seismic shift for her own sound. Commentators seemed in awe of the “disorienting, latex-pop feel of her fascinating production technique.” The album grows with a soft whirr and rise among a backdrop of stylised synths in opening track ‘It’s Okay To Cry’.

This moment is only an early snapshot of what has been built within new pop. From such gentle, heartfelt sounds to an emboldened character, found in her distinctive personality and acutely energetic noise, her music not only rang out, but also helped piece together some of the most unique progressions of the modern pop era. SOPHIE defined what was once considered disposable into a well established and esteemed art form.

The creative processes of her nearest peers and artistic collaborators suddenly seem obvious, and to anyone who had seen her perform live, it feels magical that such innovation came together for one individual in this way. Through her performances, she certainly had the presence to captivate the senses in unusual collective experiences. She was graced with a strange and certain style that oozed a knowing, but not obnoxious, confidence.

Her recent passing shocked the world and wider artistic community, with many well known figures taking to social media to express their grief, to guild her with gratitude, and talk of their experiences with her. To name just one such immediate response, Christine and the Queens lauded her as a rebel to “narrow, normative society”, who triumphed and surpassed expectation in her “visionary” responses, through music, and in her exploration of identity as a woman.

To others, and among many music writers, she was quite emotively regarded: “She knew something the rest of us didn’t… a musical and queer legacy far greater than her peers”, critic Douglas Greenwood wrote, adding that she had “the audacity of an artist who intelligently bent the boundaries of pop and electronic music.”

To hear of her passing at the pinnacle of her pioneering career is truly a shock – one that will be felt and remembered, due to her tangible, electrostatic presence. To her fans and friends she will be remembered for her iconic character; but as a creative, she has shown just how influential and unfiltered one person’s power as a performer can be on the music scene.

In her musical attempts to feel everything, SOPHIE has provided a legacy which values artistic integrity, both inside and out; a legacy that looks towards altruistic understandings of gender, fashion, new music and most vividly, unabashed fun.

To find out more about SOPHIE and her label peers, view the Transgressive Records website here.

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