Artists like SOPHIE don’t happen often. She was one of those musicians that never missed — every single she released was magic, and her having a production line on a track meant that it would be the highlight of the album. There was no one who could do it like she did it, which is why her sudden death from an accidental fall moon gazing in Athens, Greece, early morning last Saturday, Jan. 30, hit so hard. She was 34 years old.
Though she was arguably most known for her work producing for Charli XCX, Vince Staples, Kim Petras, Madonna and Nicki Minaj, she worked widely, and some of her best tracks are with lesser known artists (take Quay Dash’s “Queen of This Shit” as an example). She was particularly active in the hyperpop community, of which she herself was a pioneer.
Her self-produced 2015 singles set the tone for current artists like 100 Gecs, Rico Nasty, Slayyyter, Bladee, Dorian Electra and, well, the list goes on. It’s hard to overstate her relevance in the so prevalent metallic hyperkinetic sounds in pop music these days. Just listening to “BIPP” or “LEMONADE” from her early- to mid-2010s work lets you know that she basically invented the sounds of today more than half a decade ago.
“Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides” (also read as “I love every person’s insides”) was her debut album and her only solo album, released in June 2018. At times it is sprawling, lush, vulnerable; at times it is sparse, harsh, industrial. The album is complex, but that shouldn’t be a deterrent. Tracks like “Immaterial,” “Ponyboy” and “Faceshopping” are worth it even if the rest isn’t your thing. And, if you don’t click with it on a first listen, try it one more time. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t love “Ponyboy” the second time around.
Besides being a stellar and totally singular piece of art, “Oil of …” was when SOPHIE stopped working as an anonymous producer and introduced herself to the world, along with coming out as a trans woman in the “It’s Okay to Cry” music video. It’s peak SOPHIE, between the strange cheekbone prosthetics, the fabricated beauty of the sky and the creshedo of an ending. It’s the story of a woman accepting herself, and that sticks with you, you know? The video was emotional at its release the way any joyful coming out is, and now, given her recent passing, “It’s Okay to Cry” is given a whole different context — permission to mourn given to fans from the artist herself.
There’s more I could say about SOPHIE. She was nominated for a Grammy. She worked as a model for several different designers. Her live shows were known for being bizarre. She changed the sound of pop music forever. The rest of the music scene will be trying to catch up with her for years to come. She touched the lives of many, many people.
Her death was too soon. She had more music left to make, more life to live, more of everything. The sad thing about death is that there’s not much to say about it. I’m sorry that she’s gone, but I’m thankful we ever even had her. It’s okay to cry.