SOPHIE: JUST LIKE WE NEVER SAY GOODBYE
It’s strange how the death of a person you’ve never met can touch you. How you sit tearfully and sob, although you only know a picture of someone, an “image”. The last time this happened to me was when it happened to many other people because of the big stars of the 80’s, Michael Jackson, Prince, David Bowie, but also the old subculture idols like Mark E Smith, Genesis Breyer P Orridge or Pete Burns. They had all guided me through my youth and shaped me, and it was as if a part of me died with them. I guess that’s how it is when you get older. The fact that it shakes me so much now and that I’m really in tears and can’t believe that Sophie has died, that’s something else again.
Sophie has not accompanied me all my life, I’m almost 50, and I have listened to the first tracks about five years ago. Five years is no time at all. I remember well how back then I listened to “BIPP” and “LEMONADE” with friends, squealing with happiness, these new highly artificial sounds, futuristic, hypermodern and so incredibly determined. We were in bliss. Sophie was still an anonymous transparent figure back then, but her sounds were like tangible objects. Sounds that were worked on until they became narrative products in themselves in a 3-D surround broadband multiplex blockbuster manner. Only Sophie could produce a “wooosh,” “bleep,” or “wrooouum” as compact and clear through the speakers as an insane glossy plastic object. Sophie’s sound design was miles away from old familiar listening habits and at the same time inviting and enticing. You have to love that kind of thing, because the best things are often just such balancing acts between hyper-commercialism and the unwieldiest of experiments. A weird and strange world with open arms.
Due to Sophie I also got to know the young label PC Music back then, and was happy that something was emerging, which was about the joyful staging of absolute presence. I couldn’t help but think of the Blitz Kids of the 1980s, or Les Disques du Crepuscule, or even ZTT, for that matter, with their artistic pretensions pushed into every record cover and every performance by Paul Morley. All of that I had known and loved from my formative years. And all that was a long time ago.
But thanks to Sophie, my inner young Claus was able to sing longingly again for the first time in many years: “I want to be part of a youth movement”. Because PC Music was just such a brilliant balancing act between ultra-commercialism, aberrant insider avant-garde and the pleasure of the Gesamtkunstwerk. Hooray, it still exists, the burning hope for the really great pop, the all-pervading relieving mise-en-scène of provocative artificiality. Yes!
And then in 2018, Sophie suddenly became openly visible in the video accompanying the dramatically sentimental vocal track “Its OK to Cry”. Between artificial dawn, starlit firmament and pattering rain, other-worldly beautiful, with grotesquely high cheekbones, stiff red 20s film diva hair, exaggerated ultra-artificiality, over-full high-gloss lips and a distinguished-sensual dandyish refinement that can only come from Scotland, Sophie appeared emphatically as a self-confident trans woman. After years of being as shy of the public as possible, Sophie was suddenly as visible as the Sophie-sound, polished, sophisticated, larger-than-life, and pop star through and through.
And what a pop star. The most beautiful, dazzling, elegant, sensual pop product of the present. I can imagine people fainting because of Sophie. Here was a real star, as enraptured and removed from all the mundane world as David Bowie was back then, and maybe briefly Madonna in her „sex” phase – and all of this coupled with an extreme talent for musical innovation, Sophie was abruptly the perfect superstar of the future.
“It’s OK to cry” was a stroke of genius in the vein of Mutter’s 1994 gentlemanly album “Hauptsache Musik” after years of dark doom songs, a moment of unironic emotional tenderness in the midst of an offensive, hard oevre. So few dare to break with what they once started, but really it should always be allowed to be about the fact that gentleness and harshness, melancholy and sex, power and helplessness are not mutually exclusive and sometimes exist at the same time.
And so this floating inventory of melancholic tenderness was immediately followed by the opposite: “Ponyboy”, a hard edged and highly aggressive track in which Sophie mutates into a fantasy dominatrix with even wilder cheekbones and two befriended dancers in the video in front of the wonderfully stroboscopic flickering typographies of Eric Wrenn in a sexually charged, decadent and as fearsome as fascinating orgiastic. The way Sophie takes a drag from an electric vapor cigarette in the video, then throws it on the ground and stubs it out with disdain like a wretched cigarette butt is something you’ll never forget.
Sophie truly seemed like a goddess, apparently removed from any confining reality, one of those so very rare examples of how to live a new life. A “Goddess”, not only for the trans community, but for everyone who has a longing inside them for a little more than what is. You can’t thank Sophie enough for making it so incredibly cool and elegantly clear how a real pop star of the present could have been.
And now she has died, apparently in an accident while climbing towards the full moon in Athens. Perhaps Sophie’s next album would have been a musical rendition of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Nature”, longing for the stars and at the same time at home as a human being through and through in her own artificial world. Maybe. Her death has devastated me so much, because Sophie was a figure of light that was just beginning to blossom in a world that was becoming more and more the same. I cried like a banshee and cursed and shouted at this sudden loss, as if someone had died who had accompanied me since my youth. But it has only been six years. It should have been so many more.
Translation by Denise Oemcke.