Dance

Sophie, Electronic and Experimental Pop Great, Dies at 34

SOPHIE
Burak Cingi/Redferns

SOPHIE performs at Heaven on March 13, 2018 in London.

Sophie, one of the most important figures in the last decade of underground pop and dance music, has died. A statement tweeted by their Future Classic label on Saturday morning (Jan. 30) 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." They were 34.

Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Sophie Xeon inherited an interest in dance and electronic music from their father, and started recording their own music at a young age. In the early '10s, they struck up an association with a few artists on the PC Music label, soon to be at the experimental pop vanguard, and released their debut single "Nothing More to Say" in 2013. It was the 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 them to global attention: the "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 their debut to thrilling effect, but the latter was their 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 release of their sparkling first full-length compilation Product in 2015. They also struck up an artistic partnership with the more mainstream pop star Charli XCX -- resulting in them 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 their career, for their single "It's Okay to Cry." The gorgeous, overwhelmingly empathetic synth-pop ballad marked the first time Sophie had used their 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 they used their own image for the first time, appearing nude from the chest up. Later that year, they would give interviews confirming their transgender identity explaining to Teen Vogue, "I don’t really agree with the term ‘coming out’.… I’m just going with what feels honest.” (A rep has since confirmed to Billboard that Sophie preferred not to use gendered pronouns.)

In 2018, they released their 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, Sophie's influence was unignorable in the rise of the burgeoning hyperpop subgenre, with their 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 Sawayama's tweet and the full Future Classic statement below.