Sophie over a colorful background with a sparkly border
Maddy Mitchell / Gavel Media

Remembering SOPHIE: From Anonymous to Unapologetic

Sophie Xeon, better known as SOPHIE, died in an accident on Saturday at age 34. The musician and producer has been called a pioneer, a visionary and a maker of the future. She was unquestionably a star in the world of pop music, and her message of self-love and self-expression inspired countless fans. 

Sophie, born in Scotland, was living in Athens, Greece, at the time of her death.

“True to her spirituality,” she was trying to admire the full moon when she fell off a balcony, said her publicity company.

Some of Sophie’s greatest contributions were to the enigmatic and increasingly popular genre of hyperpop, which encompasses artists like Charli XCX, 100 gecs and Caroline Polachek. Sophie was the primary producer of Charli XCX’s 2016 EP Vroom Vroom. She also worked with mainstream artists, producing tracks for Madonna, Vince Staples, Lady Gaga and Kim Petras.

Sophie’s unique philosophy of what pop music should be was among the many things that made her special. In a musical world that often feels oversaturated, Sophie had a clear vision.

I think all pop music should be about who can make the loudest, brightest thing," Sophie said in a 2015 Rolling Stone interview with A.G. Cook. "That, to me, is an interesting challenge, musically and artistically. And I think it’s a very valid challenge—just as valid as who can be the most raw emotionally...The challenge I’m interested in being part of is who can use current technology, current images and people, to make the brightest, most intense, engaging thing.” 

In 2017, Sophie released the music video for her song “It’s Okay to Cry,” one of her first forays into the public eye. Previously, Sophie’s performances had not included showing her face. Along with the video’s release, Sophie came out as a trans woman. It is a simple but powerful video in which Sophie, naked from the chest up, exudes confidence and assuredness, gently singing to her audience “I hope you don’t take this the wrong way/But I think your inside is your best side.”

Sophie’s self-love message epitomizes her influence on the LGBTQ+ community. A fan on Twitter summed up her impact: “in my eyes sophie stood up for being unapologetically queer in a world that will likely not ever fully understand you and embracing and loving all those parts of yourself that others will try to label as weird.” 

In a world that forces trans women to work harder than anyone for validation and acceptance, someone as successful and commanding as Sophie demonstrated the power that the LGBTQ+ community has claimed through music. Over the years—and with the expansion of access to music and music creation—innovators like Sophie reinvented the pop genre, and used it as a  tool to push boundaries to their limits. And Sophie led the charge. 

“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,” Sophie told Paper magazine. “On this earth, it's that you can get closer to how you feel your true essence is without the societal pressures of having to fulfill certain traditional roles based on gender...And it's somehow more human and universal, I feel.”

Likely because of that universality, Sophie has said before that “God is trans.” Sophie did not only own her transness but encouraged other trans individuals to explore and love their own identities as well. 

Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides, Sophie’s debut album, was nominated for Best Dance/Electronic Album at the 2019 Grammys. Say the album title out loud, and notice how similar it sounds to “I love every person’s insides.” Sophie preached to her listeners that they should embracerather than represswho they are and what they feel. She challenged them to use self-expression to overcome stigma. 

To honor her memory, a petition requested that NASA name a planet, TOI-1338 b, after Sophie. TOI-1338 b bears a striking resemblance to the cover of Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides. The petition caught the attention of Charli XCX on social media and currently has over 65,000 signatures. 

The loss of Sophie means that we can never know what the future had in store for her or her music, but it is safe to say that her influence will permeate the pop genre for years to come. Perhaps even more monumental than her musical influence, her story of individuality and self-acceptance will endure. 

Paper magazine once asked Sophie where she thought music was heading.

“The people that have the loudest voices that need to be heard are gonna be the ones we're gonna be listening to, and not the voices of people manipulating them from whatever sources of power they have,” she answered. “It’s gonna be exciting.”

The first full moon of the year is now being called “Sophie’s moon,” and hopefully at the sight of this full moon we will hear Sophie reassuring us, “it’s okay to cry.”

Communication and applied psychology major who is simultaneously self-conscious about and very proud of her Chicago accent.

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