Grammy-nominated electronic artist Sophie dead at 34 after 'terrible accident'

Sophie (Photo: Transgressive Records)
Sophie (Photo: Transgressive Records)

The electronic music community was shaken Saturday morning by the news that Sophie, a trailblazing experimental pop artist and producer who’d worked with Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Camila Cabello, Charli XCX, Vince Staples, Kim Petras, and many others, had died in a “terrible accident.”

According to statements by both Sophie’s record label, Transgressive, and publicist, Ludovica Ludinatrice, Sophie was in Athens, Greece, and “climbed up to watch the full moon” and then “slipped and fell,” dying at 4 a.m. local time. A police spokesperson confirmed to the Associated Press that Sophie fell from the balcony of an apartment and that no foul play was suspected in the artist’s death. The visionary British musician — who made history as one of the three first openly transgender women to be nominated for a Grammy, and according to Pitchfork preferred not to use gendered or nonbinary pronouns — was 34 years old.

Sophie Xeon was born Sept. 17, 1986 in Glasgow, Scotland, and started in a band named Motherland before going solo in 2013, soon garnering buzz on SoundCloud and acclaim from critics for the singles “Nothing More to Say” and “Bipp”/“Elle”; the latter placed No. 17 on Pitchfork’s year-end list and No. 1 on XLR8’s list. Sophie’s major professional breakthrough came in 2015, with the placement of the track “Lemonade” in a McDonald's commercial, the launch of a fruitful artistic partnership with Charli XCX, and high-profile production work on Madonna’s Rebel Heart single “Bitch I’m Madonna.” In November of that year, Sophie also released the official debut album Product.

Sophie spent the next couple years focusing on production, writing, and remix work for other artists, but returned in 2017 with the anthem “It's Okay to Cry”; the video for that track was the first to feature the previously reclusive and largely anonymous artist’s face, and served as Sophie’s well-received coming-out statement as a member of the trans community. Sophie’s full-length sophomore effort, Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides, later earned a nomination for Best Dance/Electronic Album at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards.

Sophie was heralded for a signature surrealist, warp-speed sound that bridged the mainstream and the underground, incorporating elements of Japanese and Korean pop, Eurodisco, U.K. garage, Y2K pop, and ‘90s house and hip-hop. Sophie often eschewed samples, instead using Elektron Monomachine and Ableton technology to build instrumentals from waveforms that mimicked the unorthodox found sounds of metal, water, and plastic. “Sophie was a pioneer of a new sound, one of the most influential artists in the last decade. Not only for ingenious production and creativity but also for the message and visibility that was achieved. An icon of liberation,” the artist’s publicist's statement read.

Upon hearing the shocking news of Sophie’s death, many famous colleagues and admirers took to social media to pay tribute.

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