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Sophie, one of the most important figures in the last decade of underground pop and dance music, has died.
A statement tweeted by her Future Classic label on Saturday morning confirms the artist’s passing, explaining “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.” She was 34.
Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Sophie Xeon inherited an interest in dance and electronic music from her father, and started recording her own music at a young age. In the early ’10s, she struck up an association with a few artists on the PC Music label, soon to be at the experimental pop vanguard, and released her debut single “Nothing More to Say” in 2013. It was her follow-up single, the double-sided “Bipp”/”Elle,” that first drew wide notice for its alternately jarring and alluring combination of elastic, abrasive beats, irresistible pop melodies and pitched-up vocals.
In 2014, Sophie appeared on two singles that brought her to global attention: Her own “Lemonade” / “Hard” two-side, and “Hey QT,” a collaboration with PC Music artist A.G. Cook and vocalist Hayden Dunham. The former doubled-down on the scraping sonics and bubblegummy hooks of her debut to thrilling effect, but the latter was her poppiest work yet, still sounding alien in its chirping vocals and sparse production, but with an absolute knockout chorus that felt both satirical of, and too good for, top 40 radio. The singles drew critical raves, and cemented Sophie as one of the most exciting names in progressive pop and dance music.
Sophie released several more singles over the next year, including the beatless electro-pop gem “Just Like We Never Said Goodbye,” leading up to the released of her sparkling first full-length compilation Product in 2015. She also struck up an artistic partnership with the more mainstream pop star Charli XCX — resulting in her serving as the primary producer on Charli’s more forward-looking 2016 EP Vroom Vroom, as well as contributing to future albums — and even worked on pop icon Madonna’s 2015 single “Bitch, I’m Madonna” as a writer.
In 2017, Sophie drew perhaps the most attention of her career, for her single “It’s Okay to Cry.” The gorgeous, overwhelmingly empathetic synth-pop ballad marked the first time Sophie had used her own vocals, and was rapturously received — ultimately named by Billboard as one of the best songs of 2017 — as was its strikingly intimate music video, in which she used her own image for the first time, appearing nude from the chest up. Later that year, she would give interviews confirming her identity as a transgender woman, explaining to Teen Vogue, “I don’t really agree with the term ‘coming out’.… I’m just going with what feels honest.”
In 2018, she released her acclaimed official debut album Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides, making a wide variety of publications’ year-end lists and even receiving a nomination for best dance/electronic album at the 2019 Grammys. At the turn of the decade, her influence was unignorable in the rise of the burgeoning hyperpop subgenre, with her hard-hitting mix of pitch-shifted vocals, crashing beats and pure pop instincts proving formative for an entire generation of bedroom producers and cutting-edge pop artists like 100 Gecs, Glaive and That Kid.
Pop cult favorite Rina Sawayama also tweeted Saturday morning about Sophie’s meaning to her, both artistically and personally. “RIP SOPHIE u were the sweetest – an icon and a visionary,” she wrote. “the world and our community has lost a beautiful soul.” See her tweet and the full Future Classic statement below.
— Future Classic (@futureclassic) January 30, 2021
This article first appeared on Billboard.com.
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