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Saturday June 15th

Almost three years after her death, SOPHIE’s lasting impact on pop music is still felt

<p><em>SOPHIE’s death at the age of 34 was announced to the public on Jan. 30, 2021. (Photo courtesy of </em><a href="" target=""><em>Apple Music</em></a><em>)</em></p>

SOPHIE’s death at the age of 34 was announced to the public on Jan. 30, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Apple Music)

By Derek Cabrera

Bubbly bass, floaty synths, rough industrial beats and percussive bangs resembling musical instruments. Chances are that you may not have heard of SOPHIE or her music, but you might have heard her signature sounds and production.

SOPHIE, whose real name was Sophie Xeon, was a Grammy-nominated DJ, producer, songwriter and transgender activist who brought her bubbly and quirky sound to the mainstream by producing for artists ranging from Madonna, Charli XCX and Rihanna, to Vince Staples and Arca.

Her sheer talent and diversity through music production was crucial in bringing her flavor of “hyperkinetic” pop, more commonly known also as “hyperpop,” into the huge cultural phenomena that it became throughout the 2010s, bringing her music to the mainstage and the center of pop culture.

During this explosion of fame, some of her music was featured in popular forms of media, ranging anywhere from a 2015 McDonald’s ad campaignfeaturing her song “LEMONADE,” to a curated Louis Vuitton Spring-Summer 2020 exclusive acoustic version of her song “It’s Okay to Cry,” the first track on her 2018 Grammy-nominated album, “Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides.” These and many other examples helped solidify her presence within the electronic music scene and an inspiration to Queer and Transgender people around the world.

SOPHIE’s death at the age of 34 was announced to the public on Jan. 30, 2021. A statement by Transgressive Records read, “True to her spirituality, she had climbed up to watch the full moon and had slipped and fell. She will always be here for us.” 

As the sudden news of her death became more publicized, publications like the New York Times memorialized the artist and honored her “distilled speed, noise, melody and clarity, working simultaneously at the experimental fringes of dance music and the center of pop.”

In the wake of her death, support from around the LGBTQ+ community and the music world alike poured in through heartfelt messages, tributes, and support from her collaborators and longtime fans. 

“She changed my life, y’know, and she changed all our lives. Not just because of her music, which is so incredible, but because of the person she was­—she championed us—I’ve never met anyone like her, and I don’t think I ever will,” said Charli XCX, one of her closest friends and most frequent collaborators, in an interview podcast with Apple Music in 2022.

Since her death, her sound has become a trend on social media, where her songs and her avant-garde take on pop are becoming more and more recognized through apps like TikTok. 

“I saw her songs being used in TikTok posts all over my ‘For You’ page, which led me to finding her music. I love her music, it's so unique to her,” said Emma Giancristoforo, a first-year psychology and women, gender and sexuality studies double major at the College. “Seeing people use her songs on TikTok and Twitter helped me realize and ask myself, ‘Where has this music been all my life?’”

Her sound is also still alive throughout the music scene, with Avant-Garde takes on traditional pop music still being influential within the realm of producers who looked up to her as a role model or an inspiration. Many different sample packs for digital audio workspaces and synthesizers used by SOPHIE allow for artists to mimic and replicate her iconic bubbly synths, industrial “pots-and-pans” percussion and her soulful, yet vibrant lyricism.

As pop culture and music evolve throughout the years, both pop and electronic music alike will always feel both the lasting impact of her legacy and the emptiness of a music legend taken too soon.


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