Although many were devastated by the recent passing of avant-garde pop artist SOPHIE, her contributions to the world of art continue to live on through the many lives she inspired. Throughout her career, SOPHIE took inspiration from all genres of music, incorporating all kinds of sounds, textures, and effects, many of which consistently challenged the notion of music in itself.
In the future, I believe that many will view this artist’s short-lived yet impactful journey as a turning point in music, as many musicians continue to cultivate her “Whole New World.” In honor of her life and legacy, I will be counting down my top five SOPHIE songs.
5. “Vroom Vroom”
Producing this song for Charli XCX’s EP of the same title, SOPHIE succeeds at sending the listener from one world to the next. With its catchy rap lyrics, rapid percussion, and heavy bass in the verses matched with the melodic vocals and new age synths in the hook, “Vroom Vroom” is a masterpiece in both production and experience, as I never stop finding new details that I’d never noticed before. I say with confidence that a drive truly never goes by without listening to this song.
4. “It’s Okay to Cry”
This song is the perfect blend of somber and whimsical–a journey into the wonder that is sadness and why we can’t have joy without it. While being the opener to SOPHIE’s second studio album Oil of Every Pearl’s Un – Insides, this song was also the initiation of her public career, being the first to openly display her face and her identity as a transgender woman.
Leaving her low-range vocals unedited, SOPHIE set forth on a quite courageous path that not very many musicians have taken before. This song was a pivotal moment both in her career and in the world of music, frontlining an advanced perspective on gender into mainstream art.
3. “Is It Cold in the Water?”
This song details the progression from one stage of life to another, more specifically the “cocoon” phase of the metamorphosis, plagued with isolation and uncertainty. SOPHIE uses the metaphor of taking a plunge into a cold ocean to represent this transformation, taking advantage of instrumental production to create a world of aquified arpeggios and melodies that seemingly echo underwater.
The title, also the hook that repeats itself for a large portion of the song, echoes the cover art for Oil of Every Pearl’s Un – Insides by showing SOPHIE sitting on the surface of a desolate sea lit up by pink skies in a style that can best be described as the futuristic version of Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus.”
Before hearing this track, I’d heard nothing like it before: whether it’s her chipmunk-style vocals, ambient electronic patterns, or ironic lack of percussion, this song never ceases to amaze me. The main instrumental is fairly simple, consisting of a reverberated synth, bass notes, and a sampled vocal, among other sounds spread out across the piece; however, tension rises as the song progresses, culminating in a crescendo of electronic melodies and vocal harmonies.
Furthermore, “Infatuation” illuminates a crucial aspect of SOPHIE’s musicianship. While modern music production usually revolves around leaving space for the recording artist’s vocals, SOPHIE approaches production as any classical composer would, putting the emphasis on dynamics and experience—instead of pattern and listenability.
1. “Just Like We Never Said Goodbye”
Detailing a story of a reunited love, SOPHIE takes us on an emotional roller coaster that travels through nostalgia, excitement, fear, and tranquility. The emotion I’d like to stress is nostalgia, one of the hardest things to capture in music, especially for first-time listeners. SOPHIE does so by composing a melody with a bass and a bright synth that is very characteristic of the early 2000s, the generation in which many of her fans grew up. She also re-pitches her voice in a way that almost makes her sound like a child, which is perfect for a song that reminisces many of her adolescent memories.
What I truly love about this song is the contrast between its extremely simple—almost corny—melodies and its incredibly complex emotions. I’ll never forget how I began singing along to this tune upon my first time hearing it and, moreover, the sense of warmth it brought me. While this song showcases less of the artist’s experimental capabilities, the simultaneous presence of simplicity and profound emotion truly demonstrates the universality of music, a theme essential to each and every one of SOPHIE’s inspiring songs.
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