British pop and electronic producer SOPHIE died following an accidental fall in Athens on January 30, and since then tributes have been pouring in from a broad range of artists, including Arca and Rihanna.
The 34-year-old’s immense influence was felt in underground electronic scenes, queer scenes and also the wider pop and hip-hop world, where her boundary-pushing work with artists like Charli XCX, Vince Staples and Madonna was starting to penetrate the mainstream.
Here in Toronto, there’s been a sentiment that’s come alongside tributes that have been filling Twitter timelines and Instagram stories: the double sadness of losing such an important musician and the inability to collectively work out our grief on the dancefloor.
“Oh my God, it would have been such a rager,” says Toronto artist Ceréna Sierra, one of the co-founders of Club Quarantine. “We would be like ‘fuck everything, drop everything, we are going to get together to feel that music penetrating. It would have been wild. But we’ll find a way to let out that energy and create our moment for the communtiy.”
Club Q’s tribute to SOPHIE
Club Q, the online queer party, is the closest thing we have to that experience. So this Saturday night at 6 pm eastern time, the night after their regular weekly party, they’ll be throwing a party to celebrate SOPHIE’s music and impact.
The artists are still being finalized, but Sierra says it’ll be a big lineup of DJs, superfans and live performers. It will be free on Zoom and also streamed live on Mixcloud. They’ll release the details on Instagram as they come.
Sadly, says Sierra, SOPHIE was actually in talks to play Club Q before she died. Whether or not she had physically appeared in Club Q’s Zoom, it was broadcasting from within her world.
“I mean, I can’t tell you how many times her music has been played at Club Q,” she says.
“SOPHIE is such a force in our community and she’s given us so much hope, especially as a visible transgender woman in the music industry. When you listen and you read these lyrics, they are so based on the trans experience. And that’s also so beautiful because like, I know that for us, as queer trans people listening to her music, we felt free.
“She’s been singlehandedly changing the pop landscape, even if a lot of people in the cis/het world don’t know who she is. For us, she’s a household name. Like, there is no other Sophie.”
How SOPHIE’s influence will carry on
The pop-exploding sound that SOPHIE ushered in was becoming ubiquitous, both on Spotify where hyperpop was becoming a hot genre, and in mainstream pop music.
With just a singles collection and the debut album Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides to her name as a solo artist, it seemed like only a matter of time before SOPHIE put out an album or track to make her as visible as her influence.
“The SOPHIE sound is unmistakable,” says Toronto DJ Fawn Big Canoe. “What a mark she has left on us all. I can think of no better face and style to represent the thunderous trans and queer force in music today. Our hearts break in not only losing her presence on Earth but also losing the future art she had yet to create.”
Chippy Nonstop was a big champion of SOPHIE and has a number of memories of both her music and of her as a person, including one night they both played an impromptu after-party at a packed Bambi’s following a show at Velvet Underground in 2016. But, she says, she’ll be remembered as a force bigger than herself.
“I remember the first time I heard your music. I could feel it in my entire body,” she writes in an email, addressed in second person to SOPHIE. “We all want our pop stars to be other worldly, something we cannot relate to be something we can only dream of and you were that for us. Thank you for being yourself and creating a space in this industry for the freaks to be able to believe in ourselves.
“Dear SOPHIE, we are so sad you had to leave us this early, but we promise you, your death didn’t go in vain, I hope you know you left this body, but we are going to carry your spirit in everything we do unapologetically. You left a generation wanting to create beautiful things, in hopes of helping society progress into a more beautiful place.”