SOPHIE: A celebration of her life and impact on the pop industry

Niamh Brannan, staff writer

SOPHIE Xeon, more commonly known as SOPHIE: a Scottish musician, singer, DJ, and producer, transcended societal expectations of gender, sexuality, and pop through her explorative and overproduced vocals, metallic and dream-like beats, and swarms of synths that engulf the listener in SOPHIE’s undeniable presence. 

Her work with artists such as Kim Petras, Charli XCX, and Madonna set her up as one of the most sought after producers in the industry. With such acclaim she would go on throughout her career to drastically change the direction of the pop industry and pave the way for other transgender artists in music.

Identity is something that most struggle with, and this was no different for SOPHIE, as growth takes time, her acceptance of her transness did also.  Her music became an outlet for the discovery of her gender as well as the expression of such with tracks from The Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides, “Faceshopping,” and “Immaterial” known for exploring notions of gender from a trans perspective offering an unfiltered glimmer into the thoughts of transgender individuals. 

SOPHIE further opened the world into her mind through an interview with Paper Magazine by first conveying the effect of transness on her life, “An embrace of the essential idea of transness changes everything because it means there’s no longer an expectation based on the body you were born into, or how your life should play out and how it should end. Traditional family models and structures of control disappear.” She goes on to talk about her experiences within transness, For me, transness is taking control to bring your body more in line with your soul and spirit so the two aren’t fighting against each other and struggling to survive.” She continues, “You’re an individual who’s looking at the world and feeling the world. And it’s somehow more human and universal, I feel.” These statements opened up a vital dialogue for the understanding of the transgender experience and in such a profound and beautiful way. 

Though the artist’s talents had been recognized throughout her whole career by magazines, awards, and the ability to work with top artists, none could compare to the recognition and reward the nomination for a Grammy can offer, and the transgender community felt this too. 

Meeting great praise, her album, The Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides received a Grammy nomination for Best Dance/Electronic Album of 2018. Though she had not won the Grammy, the transgender community experienced a symbolic victory that day as SOPHIE was inducted as the first openly transgender woman to be nominated for a Grammy in this category, and one of the only trans individuals to be nominated overall. 

SOPHIE passed January 30, 2021, but will forever be remembered as one to have formed the sound of mainstream pop and for her push against the rigid structure of the music industry through her raw vocality on the transgender experience.