R.I.P. Sophie Xeon.
Usually I don’t speak on things like this once I find out they happen. Writing reviews like this always feel extremely hard to write, but if i’m going to be honest, after hearing the news that Sophie, acclaimed trans-musician, had sadly passed away, I felt like I really needed to talk about my feelings about this record as a testament to what this album meant to me growing up. I don’t know what came over me to write this, and hopefully the meaning of why i’m writing this doesn’t get lost in the process of writing this, but when I heard the news, the memories with this album all came flooding back, even when I had forgotten them.
I remember exactly when this album came out when I was about 17. I felt like, at least at the time, I was the only human on Planet Earth who even knew that this album was coming out. I know that was very much not the case now, and that nearly EVERYONE who was paying attention to music was looking forward to this record, but after hearing ‘Ponyboy’ for the first time after blindly looking through YouTube recommendations, I felt like I had found an artist that blew my brain apart. It was extremely strange and kind of off-putting at first, but the combination of that thick industrial production, the hyper-sexual and kind of ridiculous lyrics and a crazy mind-melting music video made me open my eyes wider than I thought they could ever go. My first initial emotion was pure confusion: Immediately, I was in some sort of trance. Who was this crazy woman singing about some crazy BDSM Fantasy and why was it so cool to listen to?
And the more I looked into SOPHIE, the more I grew to love her. Not only was she a trans-electronic artist that broke gender norms and made herself the shining star of a story that needed to be told, but the music she was making was some of the craziest shit I had heard as a 17 year old. I specifically remember being obsessed with the track ‘Faceshopping’, and listening to it over and over again because of how hard hitting and crazy the production was, backed with this compelling satire of beauty and the need to be loved. It was like watching a strobe light fever dream at some sort of hellish club, and I could not have been more in love.
As a kid growing up, especially at 17, I was just extremely nervous about the world, and I turned to a lot of music to help me guide through that world. I was a wreck, and the music that came out that year like Daughters, Idles and Brockhampton made me realize that I wasn’t entirely alone in feeling that. 2018, in a lot of ways, was the worst year of my life. But this artist, for some reason, knew exactly how I was feeling, and helped me stamp out those emotions in such a cathartic way that it made me genuinely happy listening to the music. Hell, I learned that Sophie produced the song ‘Yeah Right’ by Vince Staples, and I had that song on loop too because I loved what sounds she could bring. It was almost tear inducing how cathartic it felt.
And when the album officially came out, by God was I excited.
The entire album was filled with strange, distorted and crazy production, from the deadly production of tracks like ‘Faceshopping’, ‘Ponyboy’, ‘Whole New World/Pretend World’ and ‘Not Okay’ that felt like stomps to the face of pure aggression, like a club collapsing in on itself. I didn’t really know why I connected with the aggression of the album so much around this time, but it was almost like the anger that I had felt all across that year finally had a hard-hitting, glossy and fucked up voice that I could scream into.
But it wasn’t just aggression. In fact, the moments that made me the most euphoric where the quiet moments. ‘It’s OK To Cry’, ‘Infatuation’ and ‘Is It Cold In The Water?’ really hit home the juxtaposition of emotions I was feeling. At times extremely loud and bold, at other as quiet as a mouse. There was something really beautiful, and while it never brought me to tears, I just felt calm listening to Sophies music. Genuine calmness.
But, there was something about the album that made me keep coming back to it. I couldn’t put my finger on why at the time, but it was just addicting to come back to. Over time, me and this album grew extremely distant. Hell, this was probably the first time I've listened to this album in full since maybe 2019. It wasn’t until the extremely tragic events of hearing about SOPHIE'S passing that took place last night that made me realize exactly what this album meant to me as a teenager. Even if I wasn’t a part of the trans-community, there was still this extremely freeing experience of listening to this album that I couldn’t really replicate. It was like listening to this album as this weird, neurotic, awkward 17 year old pansexual white kid with an obsession with industrial music and experimental films felt like I was cracking open a part of my nervous, anger-ridden brain and displayed it across 9 tracks. There was joy, anger, fear, happiness and a deep longing for love that I never realized I even had. It was like a mirror being shown to me, and I really didn’t know why I liked looking at it so much.
Hearing ‘It’s OK To Cry’ now is almost like a paradox. It’s a neutering and extremely comforting listen, and by God, me listening to this song tonight at about midnight after an extremely nerve racking day made me bawl my eyes out. It wasn’t until I heard that track last night that I knew I needed to write something to commemorate exactly what it was about this album that I loved years ago. And now? It almost feels necessary to listen to now.
Sophie will forever live on as one of the most important producers i’ve ever heard, and has shaped what kind of music I listen to even today. Even if I don’t come back to this album like I should, it will forever live in a very special place in my heart, as Sophie as a human did in so many peoples. I can’t even understand what her friends and family would be going through right now, and my heart goes out to them. My heart also goes out to anyone in the LGBTQ+ community personally affected by this, and even in my extremely emotional state right now, I don’t even know how I will process this when I go to sleep. Listening to SOPHIE made me feel comfortable in my own identity, and as someone who wanted to just be comfortable living in my own skin? That meant the world to me. Hell, even if I don’t talk about it at all, ‘Samaritans’ by Idles and, I think subconsciously, this album helped me realize that it was OK to be pansexual, and helped me eventually come out to my friends (can’t remember the exact date, but this record has that hold on me for that very reason).
I don’t really know what else to say. I hope this doesn’t come off as offensive or what have you, but Sophie was an artist that I felt like I didn’t know how important she was to me up until she was gone. What I do know is one thing: it is OK to cry.
R.I.P. Sophie Xeon. Let your legacy live on.
Make sure to support Trans and LGBT lives. I’ll be posting links to some really good charities to those who want to support the community during this time.