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Capable of bridging the mainstream and the avant-garde like few other producers, SOPHIE is as comfortable taking inspiration from Autechre as she is collaborating with Madonna. Despite her reclusive nature, Sophie Xeon first made a huge, fizzy splash on the 2010s underground dance-pop scene with a series of singles (later collected as 2015's Product) that contorted elements of giddy Euro-dance, Japanese and Korean pop, and experimental sound design into blindingly neon-colored pop-art gems. Often associated with the similar-minded PC Music label, SOPHIE's sophisticated, hyperkinetic productions typically feature high-pitched female vocals, sugary synthesizer textures, and beats drawing from underground dance music styles such as U.K. garage as well as mainstream pop and hip-hop. Instead of utilizing samples, she constructs her inventive tracks from waveforms, creating bizarre noises that resemble bubbling water, inflating balloons, elastic bands, and other non-musical sounds, adding to the surrealist, blatantly artificial quality of her music. Her immediately recognizable approach made her an in-demand collaborator for artists seeking an edge to their work, and her production clients include Nicki Minaj, Charli XCX, and Vince Staples. SOPHIE's growing prominence in the late 2010s only encouraged her to break more boundaries, and her 2018 debut album, Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides, featured some of her most experimental music as it questioned authenticity, identity, and image.
Originally hailing from Scotland, Sophie Xeon moved to London and played in a band called Motherland, which included artists Matthew Lutz-Kinoy and Marcella Dvsi. Long scored a Dutch short film titled Dear Mr/Mrs in 2011. After producing tracks for a couple years and building a buzz among underground dance music DJs, SOPHIE's debut single, "Nothing More to Say," was released by the U.K. house label Huntleys & Palmers in early 2013. Second single "Bipp" (backed with B-side "Elle") quickly followed on the Glasgow-based Numbers label, and the bouncy, catchy song was an immediate critical success, appearing on numerous end-of-year single polls. The notoriously media-shy producer began making live appearances, often wearing a mask to conceal her identity. She collaborated with Japanese pop sensation Kyary Pamyu Pamyu in 2014. Third SOPHIE single "Lemonade"/"Hard" appeared on Numbers in August of that year; both songs schizophrenically flitted between bubblegum pop hooks and more aggressive elements, and both became huge critical successes as well. Also in August of 2014, "Hey QT," the debut single by QT (American dance-pop artist Hayden Dunham) appeared on XL; the track was co-produced by SOPHIE and PC Music founder A.G. Cook. More accessible and straightforward than the majority of PC Music's esoteric pop mutations, "Hey QT" was another success, although as with all of the material associated with the label, reactions were mixed, as many listeners thought the song was excessively saccharine.
SOPHIE spent much of 2015 collaborating with other artists, including Charli XCX, Le1f, and Namie Amuro. Along with Diplo, SOPHIE co-produced Madonna's single "Bitch I'm Madonna," which also featured rapper Nicki Minaj. The following November, the four tracks from SOPHIE's previous singles for Numbers were compiled onto the artist's debut album, Product, along with four new songs that were also released as double A-sides. Early in 2016, the first fruits of Long's collaboration with Charli XCX appeared with the Vroom Vroom EP; later that year, SOPHIE produced XCX's single "After the Afterparty" and also worked on her mixtape Number 1 Angel. Long then teamed up with Cashmere Cat on a pair of 2017 singles that appeared on his album 9: "Love Incredible," which featured Camila Cabello, and "9 (After Coachella)," a collaboration with MØ. That October, SOPHIE returned with the single "It's Okay to Cry" and performed her first live dates. Two more singles -- that December's "Ponyboy" and the February 2018 track "Faceshopping" -- arrived before the release of SOPHIE's debut album, Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides, which found the producer exploring questions of identity with longer, more open-ended tracks as well as her trademark avant pop. ~ Paul Simpson