Pioneering musician and producer SOPHIE has died in an accident at her home in Athens, Greece. The 34-year-old artist, credited for her avant-garde reshaping of contemporary pop music, and her collaborative work with numerous high-profile artists, passed away on 30th January 2021.
Born in Glasgow in 1986, the young Sophie Xeon was inspired to pursue music after developing a fascination for her parents’ rave cassette tapes and the gender-fluid identities explored by artists like Nan Goldin and Matthew Barney. She developed her musical skills as a keyboardist for the band Motherland, before becoming acquainted with provocative, underground electronic label PC Music in the 2010s.
While never technically signed to the label, SOPHIE’s hyperkinetic, experimental work embodied the same vision and spirit as the much-lauded PC Music in the early 2010s. Early singles like ‘Bipp’ and ‘Lemonade’, released via Glasgow label Numbers, bordered somewhere between bubblegum pop and happy hardcore. It was dubbed “hyperpop” by publications like Pitchfork, who sought to chart the emergence of what they tipped as a vibrant new subgenre. These unabashedly unconventional electronic pop songs would end up on numerous critics’ end-of-year lists accordingly.
As the enigmatic producer of a confrontational new brand of “outsider” dance music, SOPHIE soon found fans in the mainstream. In 2014, she co-wrote provocative single ‘Bitch, I’m Madonna’ for Madonna, while the following year she produced Charlie XCX’s divisive avant-pop EP ‘Vroom Vroom’. Further collaborations with Kanye West, Lady Gaga and Vince Staples would mark a prolific period in the mid-to-late 2010s.
With the release of debut album ‘Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides’ via Transgressive in 2018, SOPHIE became the first openly transgender musician to be nominated for Best Dance/Electronic Album at the Grammys. The record was an emphatic statement for the artist, who brought her own vocals and personality to the fore as she combined industrial electronic music, dream pop, EDM, house and techno, in what remains a hugely innovative and singular piece of work.