In light of the second anniversary of her death, we remember the life and legacy of SOPHIE, the extraordinary DJ and producer who tragically passed away in January 2021 and whose output profoundly impacted (and arguably defined) the world of hyperpop.
It seems disingenuous to relegate SOPHIE’s vast body of work to hyperpop. This experimental genre continues to explore, discover, and demarcate its boundaries within the broader world of electronic music. Nevertheless, the Scottish producer remains one of hyperpop’s most influential and ubiquitous artists. Inextricably linked with PC Music—the British avant-garde production collective whose artists include EASYFUN, Namasenda, HYD, Caroline Polachek, and Hannah Diamond, and at the helm of which are musical masterminds AG Cook and Danny L Harle—SOPHIE nevertheless had her own, unique, easily-recognizable, and entirely inimitable sound.
The child of a British orange juice tycoon, SOPHIE developed a fascination with a musical production at the age of nine, toying with borrowed synthesizers and various pieces of vintage production technology. Soon after, she began DJing weddings and other family events before eventually moving from her hometown of Glasgow to London.
The rising popularity of Soundcloud and the significant new role of the internet in music distribution were instrumental in developing SOPHIE’s artistic voice and growing reach. The artist’s earliest singles and remixes, as well as the release of the Product EP—her coyly subversive debut from 2015 featuring the singles Lemonade, Hard, and BIPP and released under the London-based Glaswegian label Huntleys & Palmers—were entirely facilitated via the internet and were further increased by the EDM nerds and hyperpop misfits who gathered in these liminal digital spaces to share and discuss SOPHIE’s newest track.
An avid collaborator and equally interested in uplifting marginalized musical voices as she was in producing for industry legends, SOPHIE collaborated with the likes of Kim Petras, Vince Staples, Quay Dash, LIZ, and Madonna. In addition, SOPHIE notably maintained an active personal and professional relationship with Charli XCX, with whom she produced the groundbreaking Vroom Vroom EP as well as several tracks off Number 1 Angel and Pop 2; these three records significantly contributed to the solidification of Charli XCX as a powerful voice in the world of experimental pop music.
In 2018, SOPHIE released her long-awaited follow-up to Product in the form of Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides, a boundary-shattering record that has gone on to be viewed as the artist’s magnum opus. Inspired in its production, cleverly toeing the line between traditional electropop and something new, wholly original, and entirely belonging to SOPHIE, Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides went on to garner a nomination for Best Pop/Electronic Album at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards. A ninety-minute remixed version followed the album in 2019, Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides Non-Stop Remix Album, which would serve as the producer’s last release before her death in 2021, the result of a fall while visiting Athens.
SOPHIE viewed traditional elements of music—rhythm, melody, harmony, pitch—not as limitations but as suggestions, parameters which she navigated with breathtaking grace and ingenuity. Who else could find a melody in the sound of a stretching rubber band, in the squeaking of latex or the dripping of water, in the grinding of metal? What artist, contemporary or otherwise, could recognize the potential for a pop hit in the roaring of an engine or the hyper-pitching of a vocal track?
SOPHIE’s legacy goes further than her catalog, extending to a way of viewing the world, of recognizing something not for what it is but for what it could be, of valuation based on potential. For this artist, anything was readily available to be synthesized, played with and altered, transduced and transformed into something surprising, confusing, mystical, subversive, and original—the latest addition to SOPHIE’s whole new world.