SOPHIE, one of the most influential musicians of the 2010s and a figurehead of contemporary queer culture, has died at the age of 34 following an accident in Athens, Greece.
The artist first introduced to the world as Sophie Xeon was born in Glasgow in 1986. SOPHIE burned briefly but incandescently from 2013 to 2021, across a string of fêted singles, a handful of high-profile collaborations and one full-length solo album. In that truncated period of time, SOPHIE upended conventional notions of taste, stretched the limits of sound and bridged the realms of avant-garde, dance and pop like few others.
Unlike numerous visionaries across the sweep of musical history, distance is not needed to assess SOPHIE’s impact. SOPHIE’s anything-goes, everything-works approach to art was instrumental in forging one of the few truly new genres of the 21st century: a giddy, dayglo fantasia we have come to know as hyperpop.
Alongside artists such as Charli XCX, Oneohtrix Point Never, A.G. Cook and Caroline Polachek, SOPHIE’s embrace of mass commercialism, recycling of reviled aesthetics and playful winking at the absurd generated profound ripple effects through fashion and pop culture. It also confused the hell out of people. In this Internet-age empire, think of SOPHIE as Helen of Troy: the face that launched 1,000 think pieces.
In SOPHIE’s world, nothing could remain static; everything demanded to be pitch-shifted, modulated, turned inside-out or bounced off a potential contrasting element. SOPHIE’s fetishistic attraction to synthetic textures resulted in records that sound how everyday objects like slides, balloons, leather and latex feel: smooth, squeaky and wet. Fittingly for an artist who once conducted an interview with Sophia, the first humanoid to gain citizenship, SOPHIE assembled beats à la an architect using a 3D printer.
SOPHIE’s death not only robs the avant-garde of a true original, but robs the world of a highly visible transgender icon. Just like past boundary-breakers Sylvester and Arthur Russell, SOPHIE harnessed the future and used it to enliven the present. Here are five defining moments of SOPHIE’s career.
“Just Like We Never Said Goodbye”