Remembering SOPHIE

By Nathan Haimowitz

In “It’s Okay To Cry” Sophie Xeon, or more popularly known as SOPHIE, is pleading with you to forgive yourself. She’s pleading with you to show yourself. She’s begging you to understand that she sees you for all that you are and all the good that you bring to the world. SOPHIE sees you. And there’s one listen in your memory when you first fully internalized this. That one listen stands out because this time you heard her lyrics. You weren’t as transfixed by the airy piano chords and the softly explosive synths this time. This time you heard her voice. 

I don’t mean to reproach you by saying this

I know that scares you

All of the big occasions you might have missed

No, I accept you

And I don’t even need to know your reasons

It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay

I think you sometimes forget

I would know you best

Sighing.

I can see the truth through all the lies

And even after all this time

Just know you’ve got nothing to hide

It’s okay to cry (it’s okay to cry)

Now a lump in your throat.

There’s a world inside you

I wanna know what it feels like

I wanna go there with you

‘Cause we’ve all got a dark place

Maybe if we shine some light there

It won’t be so hard

I want to know those parts of you

Keep it together.

In “It’s Okay To Cry,” SOPHIE’s audience finally saw her. The song was the first released on her label, MSMSMSMS. This was her first song with an official music video. It was the first track she ever used her vocals on. “It’s Okay To Cry” was SOPHIE’s first public expression that she was trans.

In a 2018 interview with Paper Magazine, SOPHIE spoke frankly and earnestly about being trans. “For me, transness is taking control to bring your body more in line with your soul and spirit so the two aren’t fighting against each other and struggling to survive. On this earth, it’s that you can get closer to how you feel your true essence is without the societal pressures of having to fulfill certain traditional roles based on gender. It means you’re not a mother or a father — you’re an individual who’s looking at the world and feeling the world. And it’s somehow more human and universal, I feel.” She clarified that this was not a philosophy that she was putting forward. Her message was one of acceptance – that “you are given the authority to choose yourself what feels right — what’s going to allow you to live your best life.” 

There is considerable mythology tied to SOPHIE fandom. The SoundCloud comments affectionately nicknaming her “carrot top.” Her ability to advocate for consideration of an artist’s creative process at Resident Advisor’s 2019  “Where Is Club Culture Headed?” panel. The hours of unreleased SOPHIE tracks and demos that never saw the light of day but feature prominently on the most played lists of millions of iTunes accounts. 

The curiosity that came from embracing SOPHIE’s production was infectious. How did she make you feel so free dancing to what sounded like kitchenware? How do you stave off a future of hearing loss when the metallic snares that whipped your ears screamed to be played at maximum volume? 

The fanbase’s anxiety surrounding rumors of a rift between SOPHIE and Charli XCX was palpable. The fanbase’s feelings of betrayal that SOPHIE’s production had been largely left off of Lady Gaga’s Chromatica were enduring. The fanbase who each year lambastes the Grammys for being out of touch cried tears of joy when Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides was nominated for Best Dance/Electronic Album. They saw her.  

The disappointment at what many fans considered to be an underwhelming, stripped-down remix of “BIPP” by Autechre was immense. Now that remix sits alongside “UNISIL” as SOPHIE’s last ever release. Perhaps this is fitting. As Paper Magazine reported, SOPHIE had “been inspired to purchase the Elektron Monomachine and Machinedrum that would form the basis for her distinctive latex squeaks and pots-and-pans sound after hearing Autechre use them in a live bootleg recording from 2005.” When SOPHIE released PRODUCT she adamantly stated: “NO remixes…unless it’s Autechre.” 

I remember seeing Umru open for a rapt audience at Le Poisson Rouge that had waited up to six hours to see Charli XCX. There was nervous energy. There was excitement. Umru was cutting a fast set and transitioned into “Immaterial.” Every single person of the several hundred in the venue piled on top of each other and reached into the back of their throats to scream every single word. “You could be me and I could be you.” There was no doubt that the people around you were your people; that this was a safe space. We were safe to see each other just as SOPHIE saw us.

With 26 seconds left in “It’s Okay To Cry,” SOPHIE grabs hold of you and shakes you. Her message is urgent and this time you really listen. Lightning crashes in the video. SOPHIE reveals all of herself.

It’s okay to cry (it’s okay to cry)

It’s okay to cry (it’s okay to cry)

It’s okay to cry (it’s okay to cry)

It’s okay to cry (it’s okay to cry)

And you do. 

Rest in power, SOPHIE.