It’s now been over a year since the loss of one of popular music’s most important figures, SOPHIE. Those unfamiliar with the scope of SOPHIE’s influence need look no further than all of SOPHIE’s collaborators, ranging from Kendrick Lamar to Hatsune Miku. There are few musicians with the same level of influence on the music community, and it’s arguable that there are none with influence in so many different scenes.
Debuting in the early 2010’s with singles like “Nothing More To Say” and “BIPP,” fans of pop, electronic and dance music were immediately captivated by SOPHIE. Speaking from personal experience, the release of the PRODUCT compilation made me a fan at a time when I knew very little about electronic music. Songs like “HARD” and “LEMONADE” were so different from anything else I’d heard, and that remains true. Buzz from the music scene even led to an appearance at Houston’s own Day For Night festival, where I will always regret not staying late enough to see the only SOPHIE set I had the chance to see.
Though SOPHIE’s music inspired an entire generation of artists, it still had a quality that was instantly recognizable as SOPHIE, which was in part due to the crafting of every sound through the manipulation of the waveforms themselves.
What was remarkable about SOPHIE’s musical style was that it didn’t make collaboration impossible with other artists, but rather it pushed other artists to catch up with the uncompromising sound. Frequent collaborations with Charli XCX made this apparent, as the release of her SOPHIE-produced Vroom Vroom EP marked a clear turning point in her career towards a more futuristic sound.
SOPHIE would only get to release one official studio album, the acclaimed 2018 OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES. The album showcased an artistic range not matched by anyone else, with hard-hitting cuts like “Faceshopping,” beautiful soundscapes like “Is It Cold In The Water?” and a genuine pop anthem in “Immaterial.” Also featured on the album is “It’s Okay To Cry,” which was seen as SOPHIE’s coming out as trans and has retroactively become a sad hug from beyond. Praise for the album was instant, even garnering a Grammy nomination.
SOPHIE would remain in the spotlight for the years to come through the lasting impact of the album, as well as through work with other artists. One of the clearest examples of SOPHIE’s direct influence is in the advent of what would semi-recently become known as hyperpop. Pushing music to its most maximalist, futuristic limits would become a defining quality of the genre, and it’s undeniable that SOPHIE’s ethos was a prime inspiration to these artists.
SOPHIE’s unmatched creative streak would be tragically cut short when on January 30, 2021, an accidental fall in Greece took the artist’s life.
Looking at SOPHIE’s impact on hyperpop alone, one can’t help but be filled with immense sadness over what this loss means for the future of music. I can’t begin to imagine what we as music listeners will miss by not having such an innovative artist around anymore. I’ve come to view SOPHIE’s passing as the musical burning of the library of Alexandria, where all the unearthed ideas that won’t ever be realized could have advanced music by leaps and bounds. We can at least find comfort in the fact that we were lucky enough to have experienced SOPHIE at all. We thank you for giving us a peek into your genius mind, wherever you are.