In Memoriam: SOPHIE’s Brief but Cataclysmic Career Redefined Pop Music

SOPHIE © Transgressive Records
SOPHIE © Transgressive Records
The late Scottish pop star and producer’s short legacy is a step towards the mainstream for trans musicians and experimental DJs.

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Note: SOPHIE’s representatives have stated that SOPHIE preferred not to be labeled with any pronouns.

The world was robbed of a sonic revolutionary on January 30th when SOPHIE passed away at only 34 years old, after an accident in Athens, Greece as Sophie ventured to celebrate the first full moon of the year. From production credits with artists like Vince Staples and Madonna, to crafting 2018’s unparalleled, Grammy-nominated debut album OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES, SOPHIE transformed multiple genre landscapes in a short but blindingly bright burst of time on Earth. An artist who continuously ascended to previously unimaginable heights, SOPHIE was a limitless being, a well of unlimited potential. This tragic death is nothing short of infuriating, poetic injustice.


SOPHIE didn’t just revitalize pop music—SOPHIE reinvented it entirely, starting at its very foundation. Blending genres with a flagrant disregard for conventionality, SOPHIE’s brand of experimentation yielded art that revels in the endless possibilities of the synthetic, while remaining grounded in something intensely human and never-before-heard. Shapeshifting and ever-fluid, SOPHIE’s electronic modifications bloomed from a uniquely organic synthesis. Possessing strong tactile sensibilities, SOPHIE quite literally constructed songs from scratch, engineering textures both of the physical world and from the depths of SOPHIE’s soul, via soundwaves. This uninhibited versatility borrowed industrial metal-grinding, throbbing techno beats, and flamboyant autotune melodicism, resulting in violently thrashing rave bangers and glitchy love anthems. SOPHIE put fantasy realms and their components through an explosive, cyber-meat grinder, and churned out flashy gems from another dimension.

SOPHIE used the human voice as a base layer, a starting point to sculpt and completely redesign, which meant that SOPHIE could truly be anyone—a hyperfeminine diva, a menacing himbo dom, a cyborg-gaining-sentience, or a combination. These various simulations and personas express queerness, transness, and gender nonconformity as an enveloping, personal experience of vast fluidity and range. SOPHIE’s discography sounds and feels like gender euphoria; something beyond gender really—the euphoria of Being. While universality within some aspects is possible, there is no singular “trans experience;” rather, each individual’s life is a microcosm of their own. SOPHIE’s ever-shifting, computerized vocals affirmingly encapsulate this fluidity and range of endless possibilities of gender non-conformity. As SOPHIE sings on “It’s Okay to Cry,” “I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but I think your inside is your best side.

SOPHIE ushered in the new guard of queer innovation and set the standard for hyperpop — as some would say, SOPHIE was the blueprint. Echoes of SOPHIE’s influence live on through peers and former collaborators like Arca, Charli XCX, Mykki Blanco, and Rina Sawayama. Regardless of your feelings towards hyperpop, or the intellectualization of pop music at large, it carries potential for liberation; even if created solely for the aesthetics of the sound, it is a subversive act to be trans or queer and indulge in unbridled excess and flash, even if just for one song.

SOPHIE © Transgressive Records
SOPHIE © Transgressive Records

SOPHIE’s music is a defiant expression of joy, pleasure, and vulnerability: A lasting symbol of trans innovation that has already shown so many girls a reason to stay alive.

SOPHIE showed us that electronic music can be sincere, delicate, impenetrably tough, intuitive, and so much more — who knew passion and mechanics could live within each other with such shocking versatility? — and that the future of pop is trans. SOPHIE’s existence was a seismic event, and we will relish every resounding aftershock.

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? © Transgressive Records

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