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As comfortable taking inspiration from Autechre as collaborating with Madonna, SOPHIE bridged the mainstream and the avant-garde like few other artists. The producer first made a huge, fizzy splash on the 2010s underground dance-pop scene with a series of singles (later collected as 2015's Product) that contorted elements of giddy Euro-dance, Japanese and Korean pop, and experimental sound design into blindingly neon-colored pop-art gems into a sound that helped invent the hyperpop style. Like the PC Music label, SOPHIE's early productions featured high-pitched vocals, sugary synthesizer textures, and beats drawing from underground dance music styles such as U.K. garage as well as mainstream pop and hip-hop. Instead of using samples, SOPHIE constructed inventive sounds from waveforms, creating bizarre noises that resembled bubbling water, inflating balloons, and elastic bands that added to the music's surrealist, blatantly artificial quality. The producer's immediately recognizable approach made SOPHIE an in-demand collaborator for artists seeking an edge to their work, with clients including Nicki Minaj, Charli XCX, and Vince Staples. SOPHIE's growing prominence in the late 2010s only encouraged the producer to break more boundaries, and 2018's Grammy nominated debut album, Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides, questioned authenticity, identity, and image with even more experimental sounds. By the time of the producer's death in 2021, SOPHIE was known as a fearless trailblazer in electronic music and in the representation of trans artists. Originally hailing from Scotland, Sophie Xeon moved to London and played in a band called Motherland, which included artists Matthew Lutz-Kinoy and Marcella Dvsi. Xeon scored a Dutch short film titled Dear Mr/Mrs in 2011. After producing tracks for a couple years and building a buzz among underground dance music DJs, SOPHIE's debut single, "Nothing More to Say," was released by the U.K. house label Huntleys & Palmers in early 2013. Second single "Bipp" (backed with B-side "Elle") quickly followed on the Glasgow-based Numbers label, and the bouncy, catchy song was an immediate critical success, appearing on numerous end-of-year single polls. The notoriously media-shy producer began making live appearances, often wearing a mask to conceal their identity. Xeon collaborated with Japanese pop sensation Kyary Pamyu Pamyu in 2014. The third SOPHIE single, "Lemonade"/"Hard," appeared on Numbers in August of that year; both songs flitted between bubblegum pop hooks and more aggressive elements, and both became huge critical successes. That same month, "Hey QT," the debut single by QT (American dance-pop artist Hayden Dunham) appeared on XL; the track was co-produced by SOPHIE and PC Music founder A.G. Cook. More accessible and straightforward than the majority of PC Music's esoteric pop mutations, "Hey QT" was another success, although as with all of the material associated with the label, reactions were mixed, as some listeners thought the song was excessively saccharine. SOPHIE spent much of 2015 collaborating with other artists, including Charli XCX, Le1f, and Namie Amuro. Along with Diplo, SOPHIE co-produced Madonna's single "Bitch I'm Madonna," which also featured rapper Nicki Minaj. The following November, the four tracks from SOPHIE's previous singles for Numbers were compiled onto the artist's debut album, Product, along with four new songs that were also released as double A-sides. Early in 2016, the first fruits of the producer's collaboration with Charli XCX appeared with the Vroom Vroom EP. Later that year, SOPHIE produced XCX's single "After the Afterparty" and also worked on her mixtape Number 1 Angel. The producer then teamed up with Cashmere Cat on a pair of 2017 singles that appeared on his album 9: "Love Incredible," which featured Camila Cabello, and "9 (After Coachella)," a collaboration with MØ. In October 2017, SOPHIE returned with the single "It's Okay to Cry," the first music to feature the producer's voice and image. Live dates followed, and two more singles -- that December's "Ponyboy" and February 2018's "Faceshopping" -- arrived before the release of SOPHIE's debut album, Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides, which found the producer exploring questions of identity with longer, more open-ended tracks as well as avant-pop. The album's widespread acclaim included a Grammy Award nomination for Best Dance/Electronic Album, making SOPHIE one of the first openly transgender artists to be nominated for a Grammy. The remix collection Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides Non-Stop Remix Album first appeared in a limited edition set in 2019 and was later released online. The following September, SOPHIE teamed up with Jimmy Edgar on the standalone track "Metal" and resurfaced in January 2021 with the Product-era track "Unisil." SOPHIE died on January 30, 2021, from an accidental fall at age 34.
© Heather Phares & Paul Simpson /TiVo


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