BIPP by SOPHIE (2013)
She Could Make Us Feel Better by Harry Lindsey
Artist's Pronouns: She/Her
BIPP was the first time I ever heard SOPHIE. Admittedly, I was late to the party. It was 2016, and I was alone, in my dingy, second-year uni room. Considered a song of the summer in 2013, it’s buoyant light didn’t touch me until years later, but I felt the warmth immediately. Bouncing out of my computer speakers with the audacious play of a space-hopper, my ears were immediately hooked.
SOPHIE’s production had this effect on many. Routinely described with sensual superlatives - wet, slippery, bubbly, plasticized, sticky, etc - her work expressed character and identity, long before her physical introduction to us on It’s Okay To Cry. Before we’d seen her, we were getting acquainted through her production style.
SOPHIE’s production zoomed in on the onomatopoeic suggestion that pop music presents. Detailing her thought process when making music, she told Pitchfork, “music as molecular gastronomy is something I like to think about.” She cut deep into the molecular level of a sound. Be it a hi-hat or a synth chord, SOPHIE studied it’s behaviour, then cooked up a storm out of it’s sonic possibilities. Her music fizzed with the snap and crackle of pop’s shiniest potentials. The shimmer of her pop maximalism formed a horizon that was easy to see as a utopia, especially when paired with her and her collaborators’ lyrics. Whole new worlds, where you could be anything you want, where you could just feel better, were made clear in her lyrics, but these worlds were first created deep within the fabric of her production. With skill and intention, SOPHIE fabricated a signature sound that was the backbone to the trans-futurism she came to represent.
With sparkling highs and warbling bass hits, SOPHIE synthesised a spectrum of sound to work within and push against. On BIPP, we can hear a plummeting bass boom beside an erratic helium-screech of a synth, coming together to pulsate through the track. Gliding across this pulse are the song’s pitched up vocals, expressing a synthesised femininity that promises to ‘make you feel better’. Her craft as a producer and songwriter, even within her first releases, expressed a desire to push feminine-pop production into a hyper world of immaterial euphoria. While questions of her identity and gender continued to spark debate and conspiracy in the press and amongst fans, she was already leading us to a trans, pop utopia with her music.
Disco, another foundational pop utopia, honored it’s queer roots deep within it’s production style in a similar fashion. Born out of DJ’s elongating Soul, RnB and Blues records to keep their predominantly gay dance floors moving, the characteristics of a Disco track were designed to remain in direct communication with it’s queer nightlife origins. The 2-3 minute instrumental breakdown heard in many a Disco song is a portal to the gay dance floors disco was birthed upon, a simulation of the disco scene’s euphoria. SOPHIE’s music exists adjacent to this dance music history, but as somewhat of a reversed narrative. While Disco’s production was designed to reflect it’s queer dance floor origin, SOPHIE’s production was designed to summon a trans, pop utopia that dance floors in the 2010s would become.
From the blaring beats of Immaterial, VYZEE and Ponyboy, to the prolific collaborations on much of Charli XCX’s best work, or the eclectic production for Madonna, Vince Staples and many other big artists, you are unlikely to have missed SOPHIE’s production takeover and lead a club night to euphoria this last decade, even if just for a moment. SOPHIE’s work permeated contemporary pop music with a uniquely trans vision and aesthetic, and all that can be traced back to BIPP. It’s audacious beat, gelatinous texture and hyper-femme sensibilities laid the blueprint for a near-decade of transformative pop productions.
No matter what bold superlatives I or others pair with her legacy, perhaps her introductory claim that she could “make you feel better” best summarizes the gorgeous pop utopias she would spend the next 8 years of her life building and sharing with us. Beyond words and image, the feeling of her instantly recognizable sound carved out an expression of hope that will stay with a generation of trans listeners forever, guiding us and making us feel less alone. It was only the beginning, but the warmth of her glimmering pop ambition radiated through BIPP with clarity. BIPP was our invitation to imagine with her, grabbing our attention and pushing it towards the utopic horizon that her art continually strived for. It is the sound of finding euphoria while in pursuit of an existence that just makes you feel better.
SOPHIE’s work expanded across mediums after BIPP and the Product series’ completion, venturing into visual worlds with video, performance and fashion, but BIPP reminds us that the scope and depth of her vision was all there in the music. Right from the start, SOPHIE was reaching out with an open hand, ready to pull us into a euphoria of her own making. A star with her own gravitational pull, SOPHIE was taking us to the trans, pop utopia of her dreams, all we had to do was listen.
You've gotta be crazy
Thinking you could resist this
You know, yeah you know
You can't help yourself
I bet you can't take it
Yeah I'd like to just see you try
You should try, if you don't you might never know