There’s been a distinct disappointment in 2014’s crop of would-be-BBQ jams. Folks have been tying themselves into knots for weeks attempting to refuse the inevitability of Iggy Azaelea, not to mention that odious Canadian reggae guy. This, of course, is super silly. It’s not like the failure to appoint a consensus song of the summer is a slight on par with the Nobel dudes issuing a press release that just said “Nah, bro” before fucking off some fjord for the year. But, to be super serious for a second, this whole indecisive muddle is ignoring the degree to which Sophie has been remorselessly killing it. Were the summer song landscape a game of Grand Theft Auto, he would be swarmed with little pixel cops by now. Going into this, the last weekend of summer ’14, it’s time to acknowledge that Sophie won it.
To be considered official, a “Song of the Summer” sadly requires a level of pop radio ubiquity that Sophie is too weird, too new, too anonymous to obtain. The most that’s really known about the UK producer is that he’s a dude, and not some lady named Sophie. He performs in near darkness and goes with press photos of candy colored plastics or fun-loving, slightly deranged femmes. While forced mystery among electronic producers has become sort of an expected affectation, the cloak of secrecy is sort of thematically appropriate here. Who wants to see the possibly old-ish British dude responsible for all this aggressive youthful, sweetly feminine music?
Sophie’s first single, released in early 2o12, tempered its standard house thump with touches just a little more kinetic and amusing than expected. His second single, “Bipp”, the on-the-sly song of last summer was the first to display the pitched-up vocals and irrepressible energy that’s becoming his signature. His third 12”, released in late July, is further proof that ridiculous pop has a new master.
The A-side, “Lemonade”, sounds like a tough gang of B-Girls practicing in a still active soda carbonation factory. It is hot, squealing nonsense. The B-side, “Hard,” while still using weirdly giddy 8-bit Children of the Damned voices, relies on clanging, whooshing metallic sounds for beats. They make it his harshest song yet, while somehow remaining cheerful bordering on derangement. It sounds like the aforementioned soda factory shut down for safety reasons and turned into an illegal club space that is actively falling apart. The dancers keep dancing, too wasted to be alarmed. (There is precedent for this scenario. As imaginary teens have long been aware, screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place.)
This week he somehow topped both with “Hey QT”, a track produced in tandem with PC Music label head A.G. Cook for a new female pop-star ingenue, who may or may not actually exist. Cook’s been on an extended roll for a while too, though his work seems heavily weighted towards R&B radio jam in the same way Sophie uses house music as a starting point. (If you absolutely need more of this stuff, try his track “Keri Baby”.)
Anyway, “Hey QT” rules pretty hard.
Like Sophie’s other summer singles, the song seems to palpably speed up at key moments, too excited to adhere to normal laws of physics. But the trickiest trick “Hey QT” pulls off is flying so close to the uncanny valley without going full creep-out. Sped up to sound impossibly young rather than just annoyingly young, “QT” repeats her mantra, “Hey QT, even though you’re so far away, I feel your hands on my body every time you think of me.” There a tension here between the cartoon quality of the vocals, and the flush-faced sexiness of the sentiment. As anyone who’s ever accidentally stumbled across a DeviantArt image knows, the collision of kids’ cartoon and adult browser search term can get uncomfortable real fast. Crucially, the song’s in-head rather than in-bed. The fantasy element of the song keeps it chaste enough to remain relatively wholesome. It’s teenage longing rendered as a State Fair caricature of teenage longing.
“And what’s something you like that I can draw you doing? Attending a unicorn rave? Sure, sure.”
So, unicorn rave enthusiasts take note, Sophie has two New York shows coming in a week. One next Saturday afternoon at the last PS1 Warm Up show of the year, and one that same night at 88 Palace in Manhattan.