By Alex Rigotti
“I think all pop music should be about who can make the loudest, brightest thing”, declared SOPHIE in a 2015 Rolling Stone interview. SOPHIE was actually rather soft-spoken in real life, even if her own music suggested otherwise. Bold, playful and unashamed, SOPHIE’s distinct sound and vision would inspire and alter pop for years to come. After slipping from a rooftop on January 30, we look back onto ten essential SOPHIE tracks that defined the career that others would soon come to envy. May SOPHIE live on as the loudest, brightest voice in pop.
‘I can make you feel better’, chants SOPHIE amidst whizzing synths. This was what put SOPHIE’s name on the map, and it’s not hard to see why. ‘BIPP’ was crammed with so many new sounds and ideas that it was almost overwhelming. From the alien vocals to the unabashedly obnoxious chords, ‘BIPP’ established SOPHIE’s career with charm and crazy.
Much of SOPHIE’s earlier work was characterised by a direct relationship with texture, on full display in ‘Lemonade’. The song pops, bubbles and sours like a lemon, as SOPHIE’s sense of playfulness and minimalism create this ultra-catchy tune. SOPHIE was famous for making sounds from scratch, instead of traditionally sampling them, and ‘Lemonade’ proves SOPHIE’s flair for innovative sound design.
No one’s quite sure what MSMSMSM exactly means – some say SOPHIE just liked the sound of it – but no one could’ve predicted the kind of track that it would produce. It’s since become the name of her label and social media handles, and obliterates every boring EDM drop by exaggerating break-neck beats with disturbing ambient passages to create a wild, wacky song.
This song is so sugary sweet, it literally manifested itself into a drink. ‘Hey QT’ is the bubbly concoction between SOPHIE, A.G. Cook and Hayden Frances Dunham, the latter of whom portrayed the physical embodiment of DrinkQT. Although it confused much of the internet, it literally fizzed and sparkled with SOPHIE’s talent, and further sparked a long time collaboration between SOPHIE and the PC Music world.
B*TCH I’M MADONNA
Do you remember when Madonna made that crazy video that had Kanye, Beyonce, Miley Cyrus and about every other celebrity on the planet? Y’know, the one that got 330 million views on YouTube? That was produced by SOPHIE, who was responsible for one of the weirdest Madonna tracks ever released. SOPHIE handles the twinkling verses in the background as Madonna professes: ‘I just wanna go out tonight’. Me too, Madge.
‘Vroom Vroom’, simply put, sounds exactly like a car. It’s probably SOPHIE’s most iconic track outside of SOPHIE’s discography, and it’s easy to see why. SOPHIE’s principles of earnest silliness and textural interest play well to Charli XCX’s blazing confidence and passion for cars, resulting in one of the most energetic, fun collaborations of the decade.
ITS OKAY TO CRY
Released as the lead single from Grammy-nominated OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UNINSIDES (a reconfiguration of ‘I love every person’s insides’), ‘It’s Okay To Cry’ shows a more tender side to SOPHIE. Unlike previous tracks, ‘It’s Okay To Cry’ features SOPHIE’s unedited voice, which purrs and whispers throughout. Soundtracked by gorgeous sparkling synths, SOPHIE’s sincerity emboldens this heartwarmingly honest track.
This utterly deviant track is SOPHIE at SOPHIE’s kinkiest: latex, whips, and bondage all dominate ‘Ponyboy’. Contrasting the thunderous rhythm section with a demonic master’s voice, SOPHIE demonstrates how SOPHIE is willing to take concepts and sounds to its furthest logical endpoint. Capped off with sing-moaning at the end, ‘Ponyboy’ is possibly SOPHIE’s darkest, crunchiest track.
‘My face is the front of shop / My face is the real shop front / My shop is the face I front / I’m real when I shop my face’. With these four simple lines, SOPHIE blurs the lines between authenticity and commercialism in this face-melting hurricane of shrieking drums and childlike ‘na na na na na na na na’s. It’ll obliterate your eardrums, but it’ll also be worth it.
‘Without my legs or my hair / Without my genes or my blood / With no name and with no type of story… tell me, where do I exist?’ ‘Immaterial’ is SOPHIE’s manifesto on music and life. Fun, fantastical and futuristic, sections of choral dystopia are interspersed with blindingly bright verses that question what it means to be an embodied being on earth. Delivered by a girlishly innocent voice, ‘Immaterial’ is like a conversation with your younger self, when you still believed the world to be a simple place.
Throughout these ten tracks, SOPHIE straddled the fence of the underground and the mainstream, the sweet and the sour, and the artificial and the real. Although she is gone now, SOPHIE will forever be remembered not only as a game-changer, but someone who was unafraid to be themselves.
Image Credit: Renata Raksha