The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Sophie’s Sugary Electro

| Tuesday, August 26, 2014

sophie-webKeri O'Mara
“Hard” and “Lemonade,” two new singles by mysterious U.K. producer Sophie, suggest two very different musical styles. But rather than containing his challenging material in the first track and his sugary pop material in the other, Sophie uses both tracks to playfully bury sweetness in a maze of unbridled electro-fury. To hear the irresistible bubblegum hooks nestled in Sophie’s tracks, you’ll have to swim through heaps of relentless metallic and rubber percussion. Although the producer’s bright, elastic production suggests radio-ready pop and hip hop music, his prioritization of percussive flow over melodic hook makes his music remarkably challenging to listen to.

Yet each track boasts more than enough rewards to make the trip worth taking. For much of its runtime, “Lemonade” is the perfect trap song. Its bass is remarkably heavy, yet used sparingly to increase its impact. Its rhythm is built on brilliantly fitting bubble-pop noises that are both powerful and colorful. These two elements are paired with a squealing, straw-like synth that careens across the top of the track. Finally, a female vocal lays down two very memorable hooks (lemonade, le-le-lemonade/candy boys, ca-ca-candy boys) with near-tangible swag.

Then there’s the chorus — an unpredictable blast of pure, sugary K-pop. A sky-high female vocal sings about love and reunion over huge, sky-high synths and blasts of bass. The pairing of heaviness and bright, soaring pop music makes for an amazingly compelling listen, and one of the finest musical moments of the year. Ultimately, “Lemonade” is merely two verses and two choruses. These sections are so well executed and so grippingly complementary that the track’s sub-two minute runtime carry the weight of most trap or K-pop songs twice their length.

“Hard”, unsurprisingly, is a more difficult beast. Where the trap-style verses of “Lemonade” are heavy yet straightforward, “Hard”’s drum-and-bass rhythms careen back and forth erratically. Shout samples, buzzing bass, and metallic scrapes hammer at the eardrums in turn. Every hit is cut to max sonic sharpness; instead of layering drum hits, Sophie lets each shine in isolation for the split second that it sounds off. Shiny bells shimmer around the drums every so often, providing complementary brightness until the track gives way to an unexpected trance build-up.

Perhaps the most engaging part of “Hard” is its female vocalist. The anonymous voice haltingly ‘raps’ throughout the track, and her tone of voice embraces human femininity in accent while imitating a robot in rhythm. In this way, she maintains identity while gaining power and tenacity. The lyrics assert an uncompromising, unique feminine sexuality in a genre where male sentiment is dominant. It’s a very bold move to make on a sonically bold track, and it works to fantastic effect.

In both “Hard” and “Lemonade,” Sophie casts pop elements into intimidatingly hard-hitting but colorful and rewarding musical forms. Both tracks capture the essence of their titles to an unrivaled extent. The production is crisp, clear, and daring. Ultimately, “Hard” and “Lemonade” make essential entries in the genre of electronic music as a whole, providing a fresh, unique sound in a format that best displays Sophie’s remarkable strengths as a producer and songwriter.

About John Darr

Contact John