What’s the best way to commemorate Sophie in song?

In 2021, producer Sophie passed away at the age of 34 due to an accidental fall, which felt like an extraordinary loss and the end of a nascent era in electronic music. The innovative Scottish artist, who has collaborated with Charli XCX, Vince Staples and Madonna, was a key figure in the British experimental scene in the 2010s, advocating for radically reshaping the way creators and listeners viewed music. “The language of electronic music should not still refer to outdated instruments like bass drums or claps. No one kicks or claps,” she said in 2014. “It makes more sense to me to abandon the idea of ​​those polyphonic and traditional instrumental roles.

Sophie provided a new language and immense inspiration to a generation of followers, but the relatively small scale of her own work and the fact that she rarely gave interviews to the press make it difficult to imagine one of pop-futurism’s leaders. Might have gone somewhere next. While many artists, such as avant-pop duo 100 gecs and German experimental musician Lyra Pramuk, have drawn obvious inspiration from Sophie, few have captured the dangerous, cutting-edge novelty of her work, her The work reinterprets pop music codes in confusing ways.

On early title card “Lemonade,” she seemed to create a melody out of the sounds of bubbles popping and gas canisters hissing; “Face Changing” turns the idea of ​​constructing a digital identity into something that sounds like a construction site, accompanied by The sound of tearing metal and heavy machinery. Sophie believes music should be a tactile, unpredictable experience – she once said a song should feel like a roller coaster ride, ending with the listener buying a keychain – but many people try to quote Fey’s Sounds,” such as Kim Petras’ 2023 song “Brrr,” simplified the producer’s philosophy to an aesthetic of bally bass and scratchy synths while still conforming to traditional pop forms.

Four recent songs by Charli XCX, AG Cook, Caroline Polachek and St. Vincent seem to suggest that the best way to pay homage to a modern giant isn’t to imitate her at all, but to reinterpret strands of her DNA in hopes of hinting at a bigger picture. The tracks embody Sophie’s legacy in an emotional rather than technical way, acknowledging the humanity of a figure who is often remembered in flat, counterintuitive, rigid portraits.

The most poignant of these songs is “So I,” the wounded centerpiece of Charli’s erratic, clubby new record, “Brat.” Over trembling laser-beam synths—a nod to her past collaborations with Sophie on records like “Vroom Vroom” and “Number 1 Angel”—Charlie sings about her regrets about having a relationship with Sophie. Fei regrets keeping her distance, and Sophie’s talent amazed her while she was alive. The song is nakedly vulnerable, almost power ballad-like in structure, and is similar to one of Sophie’s most famous songs: “It’s Okay to Cry,” in which she came out as transgender to the public Showed his face. Charli makes this connection explicit in the song’s chorus: “I know you always say ‘it’s okay to cry’/So I know I can cry.”

Like Charlie, Cook was one of Sophie’s closest collaborators. He describes in detail the influence her production and technical ideas had on his artistry and musicianship, and the two are often positioned as dominant forces in what is now called hyper-pop music. “Without” is a tribute to Sophie from his last three records, Britpop, and it sounds nothing like anything the two have written together – it’s a raw electric guitar and vocal vocal song that recalls the quiet intensity of Midwestern moods (“I’m tired of never letting go,” he sings, “I’m living / without your wisdom / in emptiness”). At the end of the song, he inserts Sophie’s breakthrough single “Bipp,” focuses on the anthemic anthem at its core: “I can make you feel better/If you let me.” ” Cook uses it as a pure expression of emotion and desire, conveying a deep warmth in much of Sophie’s work.

Both songs paint a picture of Sophie as not only a super producer, but also a person with a clear emotional side – something that was evident on her only album, Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides (2017). year) has been most fully reflected. Polachek, another of Sophie’s friends and collaborators, focuses on another aspect of her music: she is the embodiment of a twisted pop star, refracting elements of diva worship and spectacle into something strange and attractive s things.

The song “I Believe” from Polachek’s 2023 album Desire, I Want to Turn Into You is implicitly addressed to Sophie (“I believe we’ll be together one day”) and explicitly addresses the circumstances of her death . It fuses the hallmarks of ’80s and ’90s pop music—cheap, euphoric synths; hypnotic two-step beats—and uses them as foils for Polachek’s soaring vocals. While Polachek is a typically restrained singer, she unleashes an unrestricted, ornamental sound on “I Believe”; her twists and cries feel like a nod to Sophie’s penchant for adding vocals to her voice. A tribute cut and expanded into fragments that can serve as the backbone of an entire track.

While “I Believe” was a hit, it also drew the ire of some fans for its opening line – “Over the edge, but not too far” – which referenced Sophie’s death (producers slipped while observing the full moon ). St. Vincent takes this further in her recent tribute to Sophie, “The Sweetest Fruit,” which opens with a verse imagining Sophie’s final moments: “A wrong staircase / took her to the depths / But for a minute, what a beautiful view.

St. Vincent also sang the lyrics to “My Sophie,” claiming it was from an artist she didn’t know personally; the backlash was swift. But Clark’s prayer also expressed her admiration for an artist whose music is fearless, takes risks and understands that “the sweetest fruit is right around the corner.” (It also fits into a growing canon of St. Vincent songs about queer people seeking ways to live outside traditional structures.)

The song itself is a sweet piece of art rock that sounds nothing like anything Sophie has ever written. But a shallow imitation of the producer’s “sound” feels more like a trap than simply sticking to her own lane and trying to capture the startling human appeal of her music and star. Like all of these songs, “Sweetest Fruit” innately understands that it’s Sophie’s attitude that’s most powerful – not the tinkling of her synth’s pots and pans, but the thought rather than continuing to tumble into retro of black holes.

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