Hear Sophie’s 12 Essential Songs

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On Saturday, the forward-thinking pop producer and musician Sophie died after an accident in Athens. She was 34. “True to her spirituality,” her family wrote in a statement, “she had climbed up to watch the full moon and accidentally slipped and fell.” The story was at once tragic and beautiful, full of pain, shock and underneath it all an almost otherworldly yearning. It was like a Sophie song.

Sophie may not have been a household name, but over her short career she had a profound and transformative effect on the way modern pop music sounds. Since emerging with her frenetic breakout single “Bipp” in 2013, the Scottish producer, who was based 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 perhaps poised for a larger crossover; her 2018 album “Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides” was nominated for a best dance/electronic album Grammy. Her influence can be heard in both the instant gratification of 100 gecs’ hyperpop and the energetic hooks of the K-pop boom.

Sophie’s production brimmed with ideas. Where others perceived shallow surfaces, she saw oceanic depths — in the musicality of hyper-feminized speech, in the augmented honesty of artifice, in the plasticky found materials of late-capitalist consumer culture. She had a keen, wry ear for the overlap between the language of desire and the language of modern advertising, and her songs sometimes sounded like commercial jingles from other 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,” ad infinitum.

When she first arrived, shrouded in anonymity within the male-dominated world of electronic music, people wondered about Sophie’s gender. In late 2017, she announced, via interviews and the openhearted synth-ballad “It’s Okay to Cry,” that she was a transgender woman. Her early singles had reveled in the fluidity of femininity and masculinity, as well as softness and hardness, and suddenly it seemed that the aesthetics she’d toyed with in her music were related to the private process of becoming herself. There was beauty in that, and a palpable liberation when she stepped into the spotlight.

In June 2013, on the Scottish electronic label Numbers, “Bipp” emerged out of nowhere — from a void as blank and alive with possibility as its cover art’s white background. The track felt as much like a club banger as a mad-scientist’s laboratory experiment. Hyper-processed percussion and cheerleader-chant vocals pinged off each other as though they were both made of Flubber. “I can make you feel better, if you let me,” intoned a choppy, high-pitched vocal, inviting the listener to succumb to the song’s strange promise of ecstasy.

A year later, Sophie released a track as explosively fizzy as a Diet-Coke-and-Mentos cocktail. “Lemonade” dialed up the more polarizing aspects of her aesthetic: The surface sheen was even more synthetic, the vocals even higher-pitched and the rhythm — which careened from a trap cadence to a sped-up pop hook — was as erratic as it was exhilarating.

Electronic music sometimes has a reputation for being self-serious, but many of Sophie’s songs crackled with oddball humor. “Hard,” the kinetic B-side to “Lemonade,” was among them. It was at once 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.”

Charli XCX proved to be an even more simpatico pop collaborator and muse. She and Sophie worked together on a handful of bubbly one-off tracks — “No Angel,” “Girls Night Out” — as well as the entirety of Charli’s experimental 2016 EP “Vroom Vroom.” This sleek and kinetic title track is built like a custom ride for Charli’s distinct musical personality.

The poignant first single from Sophie’s “Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides” was something of a coming-out party. Stepping from the hazy shadows of her early work, Sophie placed herself and her shock of carrot-red hair at the center of the project — singing lead vocal and starring in the song’s music video, which managed to be both vulnerable and vampy at the same 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.”

A deliriously catchy, knowing Madonna nod (“immaterial girls, immaterial boys”) that doubles as a meditation on the connection between body and soul — what could be more quintessentially Sophie than that?

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Sahred From Source link Arts