Sophie, the Scottish-born producer whose jagged, insatiably imaginative electronic music demolished the boundaries between pop and experimental music, has died. She was 34 years old.
The entertainer, whose full name was Sophie Xeon, fell from an apartment balcony in Athens early Saturday morning, according to a local police spokesperson who spoke to The Associated Press. Sophie’s label, Transgressive, confirmed her death in a statement.
“Tragically our beautiful Sophie passed away this morning after a terrible accident. True to her spirituality, she had climbed up to watch the full moon and accidentally slipped and fell.
In less than a decade, Sophie has gone from a sly and intentionally cryptic project on the border of noise and dance music to a commercially powerful figure who co-wrote Madonna’s 2015 hit “Bitch I’m Madonna” and earned a Grammy nomination in 2018 for her LP “Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides”. She was a favorite collaborator of like-minded progressive pop actors like Lady Gaga and Charli XCX, and rappers like Vince Staples and Nicki Minaj saw a kindred spirit in her witty, sometimes harsh but exultant productions.
“The loss of Sophie is huge,” super-producer Jack Antonoff wrote on Twitter on Saturday. “She’s been at the forefront for a long time and we see her influence in every corner of music. If you are unaware of what she has been up to, then today is the day to listen to all of her brilliant work. You will hear an artist who arrived before everyone else.
Sophie was one of the most prominent transgender musicians working today, although for much of her early career she kept her identity in the background.
Born in Glasgow on September 17, 1986, she credits her father with introducing her to dance music.
“He had brilliant instincts, taking me to raves when I was really young. He bought me the rave tapes before I went to events and played them in the car and said, ‘This is going to be important for you,'” she told Lenny Letter in 2018.
She released her first track as Sophie in 2013. The music was sui generis – nodding to house music, synth pop and mainstream pop, but often ferociously heavy and rippling with tension. She was at the forefront of a loose movement of “hyperpop” acts, often orbiting the artist collective PC Music, which treated the fringes of noise and club music as if it were was Top 40 radio.
In a review of an early show at the Teragram Ballroom, The Times said, “Sophie’s songs cannot count on the promise of gossip or confession; they don’t deepen our understanding of a semi-realistic character we think we know from interviews and social media. What the music covers instead is pure sensation.
This move was intentional: Sophie’s music was meant to be heard on its own terms, which were often difficult but always grabbed a listener’s attention. Songs like “Just Like We Never Said Goodbye” and “Bipp” used distorted vocal hooks and harsh synthesizer pivots to toy with the idea of a triumphant, yet still overthrown club moment.
“Without a doubt some of the most interesting sounds I’ve heard came from her,” the LA Flying Lotus producer wrote on Saturday after his death.
Sophie enjoyed the interplay between artifice and authenticity – her 2015 debut album ‘Product’ was packaged as a silicone object that strongly resembled a sex toy. She licensed a standout debut song, “Lemonade,” to McDonald’s for publicity, a move that would sound hopeless to most rising acts, but felt conceptually transgressive on her part (she naturally included the track on “Product “). In 2015, she moved to Los Angeles to better immerse herself in the pop firmament.
“I think about [L.A.] like that because it’s too perfect to be true,” she told New York magazine in 2017. “I think you feel more liberated in a foreign country. You are more open. You understand less of the social constructs that exist in a certain place, so you take people more at face value, and you’re also taken more at face value, which makes you more capable of being yourself.
Though early tours concealed Sophie’s presence with drag-club-style lip-syncing or hazy stage setups, tracks like 2017’s “It’s Okay to Cry” began to put her face and unaltered voice at the forefront. plan, with a powerful emotional effect. But other singles like “Ponyboy” and “Faceshopping” pushed his sound in even wackier, wackier directions. Fame seemed to make her more eager to explode pop conventions rather than submit to them.
The release of Sophie in 2018, coinciding with the release of ‘Oil’, was a milestone for LGBTQ fans and peers, who saw one of the most talented and ambitious producers of their generation reveal more herself and her life. While experimental electronic music has long attracted trans and genre-disrupting artists like Wendy Carlos and Genesis P-Orridge, Sophie had her sights set on pop success, even as her music remained uncompromising.
“My music is political, but talking about politics is boring,” she told Out magazine in 2018. “I would rather have a more emotional conversation through music. You can say something more multi-dimensional. Music pop is the most relevant format we have to discuss anything in. A song can make sense to people anywhere, without any context.
Cross-border artists like Kim Petras and 100 gecs and queer pop artists like Christine and the Queens drew inspiration from her aesthetic model and took her ideas in new directions. For young LGBTQ fans looking for music that felt like discovering or inventing a new self, Sophie was perhaps the most important artist working today.
“Transit takes control to align your body with your soul and spirit so the two aren’t fighting each other and struggling to survive,” she told Paper magazine in 2018. “On this earth is that you can get closer to how you feel, your true essence is without the societal pressures of having to fulfill certain traditional gender-based roles.
Generations of songwriters, from ’70s disco veterans to cutting-edge Gen Z producers, have found plenty to admire.
“Rest in power SOPHIE! You were one of the most innovative, dynamic and warm people I have ever had the pleasure of working with,” wrote Nile Rodgers, the founder of Chic and one of Sophie’s ancestors in conceptual dance music.
“Rest in peace to SOPHIE. I’ve found myself so constantly inspired by her and in awe of her production. I’m heartbroken to hear that,” said Finneas, Billie Eilish’s brother and producer.
His label’s statement did not name any survivors, and representatives did not immediately return inquiries.