SOPHIE shaped a generation. From the release of debut single “NOTHING MORE TO SAY / EEEHHH” on Huntleys and Palmers 9-odd years ago through to last year’s glamorous, glorious HEAV3N SUSPENDED quarantine livestream, the Scottish-born producer never stopped creating sounds and feelings that were powerful enough to change people. SOPHIE’s music was sometimes a portal into another world, but more often provided a clearer look into our world. Songs like “Immaterial” and “HARD” allow us to arbitrate the immovable things that define the world around us — to turn the texturally hard and cold into something inviting and alive, the body into a canvas, life into a work of art and empathy, as opposed to just a negotiation between mind and body.
From the time I first heard “BIPP” as a strange, annoying teenager, I was fundamentally changed by SOPHIE’s music, entirely challenged by this four-minute pop song that contained thousands of new ideas about sound. I obviously wasn’t the only one: without SOPHIE, we wouldn’t have so-called hyperpop as we now know it, or even regular pop as we now know it, so impactful was SOPHIE’s near-decade in the public eye.
It often felt like SOPHIE was operating at some level removed from our stratosphere, and for good reason: who else was that good that often, that fast? SOPHIE was well-documented as not really believing in the album as a format, and yet made two unbelievably great ones, in the form of the triumphant, indelible debut OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES and its companion remix album, itself basically an entirely new record. Few producers could jump between scenes and styles like SOPHIE, and fewer could retain their identity and aesthetic trademarks regardless of who they were working with. There was nobody like SOPHIE, and never will be anybody like SOPHIE. SOPHIE’s death is indescribable, literally: all the words — insurmountable, incalculable, unbelievable, immeasurable — feel laughably arbitrary when trying to describe an artist whose music was always trying to get as close to a feeling or image as possible without mediation or excess.
Instead, as always, SOPHIE’s music will speak for itself. These 12 productions by the late artist showcase the dizzying scope of SOPHIE’s work, as well as its complexity and depth. From “BIPP” to the production on “Vroom Vroom” and “Yeah Right,” no two SOPHIE songs were the same, the result of a vision and philosophy of music-making that was extraordinarily specific, well-defined, and, most likely, never to be matched. — Shaad D’Souza
Note: SOPHIE’s label has asked publications to, where possible, remove third-person pronouns when writing about SOPHIE, hence their absence in this piece and others following SOPHIE's passing.