“Cool” Girls and the Male Gaze: Sarah Johnsone’s “Sofia” Is a Seductive Critique

Sarah Johnson © 2023
Sarah Johnson © 2023
Sarah Johnsone’s “Sofia” is a seduction in more ways than one, with an indie rock swagger and biting lyrics that force us to reflect on our own experiences of “love” and “lust” – all while somehow falling for this mysterious “cool” girl who has it all, and wants absolutely none of it.
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Stream: “Sofia” – Sarah Johnsone




Sofia,” an impassioned voice calls out, “Don’t let me go!

Guitars pulse and drums churn around Sarah Johnsone as she sings a soulful, searing plea. She starts with just a name, but soon a full image comes into view. “Your eyes are dark like a cold black night.” There’s a sense of foreboding, but it’s the kind of danger we’d gladly welcome into our lives. “Sofia, give me a try. I want your inky soul and your coarse cheekbones to be mine.” Okay, so it’s a love song?

Not quite; at least, not entirely. There’s more than meets the eye in “Sofia,” and the deeper she goes down the rabbit hole, the more Sarah Johnsone reveals a striking critique of “modern” romance, social structures, and the male gaze. It’s a seduction in more ways than one, with an indie rock swagger and biting lyrics that force us to reflect on our own experiences of “love” and “lust” – all while somehow falling for this mysterious “cool” girl who has it all, and wants absolutely none of it.

Sofia - Sarah Johnsone
Sofia – Sarah Johnsone
Sofia, don’t let me go
Your eyes are dark
like a cold black night, and I know

Sofia, give me a try
I want your inky soul
and your coarse cheekbones to be mine
When you see me you look right through
It burns a hole in my chest, no it just won’t do
Sat behind you for years and liked your photo twice
Could a girl like you want someone nice?

Released August 2, 2023 via Henry Carden’s UK-based indie label Quiet Crown, “Sofia” is Sarah Johnsone’s first release of 2023 and her fourth overall single. Since debuting in 2021, the Stockton-born, Newcastle-based artist has slowly introduced herself as a poetic singer/songwriter with a penchant for the catchy and hard-hitting – both from musical and from a lyrical perspective.

Whereas last year’s singles “Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl” and “Hurricane” remain powerful, provocative songs in their own right and deserve listeners’ time and attention, “Sofia” feels like an ascension to that “next level”: The feverish track serves not only as a reintroduction to Johnsone herself, but also as the first single off her forthcoming debut EP, Same Reflection But I’m Changed (out November 10, 2023).

Sarah Johnsone © 2023
Sarah Johnsone © 2023



And what a statement! Johnsone channels the ire of a disenchanted young woman and the passion of her suitors into one rapturous, cinematic enterprise, loading heaps of North East attitude on top to give “Sofia” a stunning, special edge.

“‘Sofia’ is my indie rock, party track; she’s fun, she’s exciting, she’s unpredictable,” Johnsone tells Atwood Magazine. “Sofia represents many who are misunderstood by the male social structures around them, frequently feeling bored and dismayed in pursuit of romance.”

“This track was one of the first I’ve written from a third person, storytelling perspective. It bore a story of the misunderstood and perennially addictive ‘cool’ girl, and the cookie-cutter male chasers that can’t seem to get enough. The song flicks between a ‘beammeupsoftboi’ style account of the male fumbling attempt of seduction, and Sofia’s contempt for them.”

Sofia, boys call my name
They think they’re charming and ‘so my type’
I think they’re tame
It might seem cruel but am I to blame
If I date them twice but they’re all the same
It’s like tryna date me is a sad little game
Oh if I didn’t win would I feel this way?
Sarah Johnsone © 2023
Sarah Johnsone © 2023



We’re rooting for Sofia to find her spark and shake off the disillusionment, but we can’t blame her for feeling that way.

Johnsone’s titular character has lost her interest in romance, in large part because of the way she’s seen and treated by the lusting men around her. Do they see her for who she is, or merely what she looks like? They twist themselves in knots just to fit a mold and appeal to her likes, rather than offering something fresh, bold, and exciting. They’re neither challenging, nor stimulating – and while we’re certainly extrapolating here, this framework fits many a dating profile. It’s vanilla – staid, generic, and lacking.

Sarah Johnsone's 'Same Reflection But I'm Changed' EP is out November 2023
Sarah Johnsone’s ‘Same Reflection But I’m Changed’ EP is out November 2023

Of course, the same can’t be said of this song. Johnsone’s fourth single is outright spicy: The English indie rocker keeps us on our toes throughout “Sofia,” guiding her band through a series of twists and turns that keep listeners on our toes, only guessing where she’ll go next. A mid-section guitar solo rips through the air and keeps our spirits high and the tension hot, eventually leading to a final series of pleas: “Sofia, Sofia, I’m calling your name,” we hear.

By now, we know both sides of the story. Whether Sofia answers the call is anyone’s guess – but that’s not the point. What matters most is that Johnsone has held a mirror up to the world she’s seen and the one she knows, forcing us to confront the not-so-glamorous facets of youth and romance. Society perpetuates a system that tolerates and enables the male gaze, but what if we shut it down early?

Johnsone recently followed “Sofia” with “Selfish Mind,” an intoxicating two-minute groove full of moody warmth and smoldering soul. Stay tuned for more to come from this promising North East artist as she continues to roll out her debut EP!

Same Reflection But I’m Changed is out November 10 via Quiet Crown.

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:: stream/purchase Same Reflection But I’m Changed here ::
:: connect with Sarah Johnsone here ::
Stream: “Sofia” – Sarah Johnsone



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Sofia - Sarah Johnsone

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