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November 18, 2020

Sophie & the Electronic Music Renaissance

My personal taste in music changed radically in 2018, when Sophie Xeon released her album Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides, an electronic/avant-pop masterpiece. Sophie had already been celebrated as an electronic producer for pop stars like Charlie XCX, Madonna, MO, and Camila Cabello, in addition to her own hit singles “Bipp” (2013) and “Lemonade” (2014), but the 2018 album set a new bar for excellence in euphoric sounds. The album’s prominent single, “Immaterial Girl,” had an explosive energy you could feel, a driving beat that miraculously managed to feel both soft and hard, and a message that went deeper than your typical electronic record.  In “Immaterial Girl,” Sophie speaks on transcending gender and the body, a futuristic sound that paints a futuristic world where gender-fluidity is the norm. As myself and other fans internalized her messaging, Sophie became not only a musician we loved but an icon whose ideologies we revered. Though Sophie’s music can, in moments, feel raw, sexual, and fiery, it’s also evident that Sophie is interested in creating a safe space.

Falling in love with Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides inspired me to dig deeper into the scene. I was excited to discover more delicious sounds in the work of Slayyyter, Flume, Liz, Kim Petras, and Yelle. As electronic music seems to flourish into more popularity, it also appears more artists outside the genre are open for collaboration in electronic’s many adaptable sub-genres.  The truth of the matter is that electronic music that once existed on the fringes of mainstream music, is now beginning to bleed its way into more global notions of pop, hip-hop, and dance music. Some might even say that to follow Sophie’s career is to witness a renaissance.  In 2017, Sophie showed surprising range in her collaboration with Vince Staples’ album Big Fish Theory, co-writing and producing “Samo” ft. ASAP Rocky and “Yeah Right” ft. Kendrick Lamar & KUCKA. Continuing on a similar commercial vein, Steve Aoki’s collaboration with Blink 182, “Why Are We so Broken,” and Avicci’s fusion of EDM and folk music “Wake Me Up, are evidence that the cross pollination between genres is already happening. 

While quarantine is inspiring more musicians to work from home, this is a practice that’s already all too familiar for electronic producers. Electronic music, more than any other genre, has a history of being produced in bedrooms and home studios.  When EDM first became popular, without a need to record live instruments, these producers no longer had to visit a fancy recording studio to make music. Nowadays, a lot of great electronic music is still birthed from the comfort of home. Most recently, I found a new obsession in a bubblegum-electro-pop angel named That Kid. A post-covid release with adorable at-home lyric videos to match, That Kid’s debut mixtape, CRUSH, provides me the same euphoric escape experienced by Sophie’s “Immaterial Girl.”  There’s also a similar liberation in the politics of That Kid’s queer expression, which as a homosexual, resonates with me profoundly. 

It’s clear electronic music has a propensity to be ahead of its time. With the internet expanding our accessibility to this pioneering genre, I hope that more people will discover its colorful niches and corners the way I have. This blog post is full of links to some great entry points. The renaissance is here. Dive into it. 

Story by John Mark


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