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Miss Grit 1 A Credit Hoseon Sohn

On the Rise
Miss Grit

21 February 2023, 10:00
Words by Sam Franzini
Original Photography by Hoseon Sohn

As Miss Grit, Korean-American artist Margaret Sohn finds power and liberation in artificiality, adopting a cyborg persona to go beyond the limits of identity.

What if you could distance yourself from yourself? Say goodbye to all those messy emotions, impractical decisions, and unproductive feelings like regret? Imagine how much time you could free up, how much brain power. What if in dissociating from your known, suboptimal self, your true self could start to emerge?

These are some of the questions that Margaret Sohn explores on Follow the Cyborg, her debut album as Miss Grit. Unfolding like a movie or futuristic novel set in white walled, glassy buildings hiding new technology the world has yet to see, Sohn’s concept zooms in on themes of identity, self-othering, and assuming the role of a cyborg in everyday life.

Follow the Cyborg isn’t as theatrical or sweeping as Janelle Monáe’s The ArchAndroid, perhaps the most obvious comparison here in terms of musicians with robot personae. It’s quieter and more reflective, though Sohn does pull out some killer guitar solos reminiscent of St. Vincent.


Unlike Miss Grit’s two earlier EPs, Talk Talk (2019) and Impostor (2021), Follow the Cyborg deals with the inner workings of their biomechatronic creation from start to finish. Taking inspiration from movies like Ex Machina and Her, Sohn deep dives into a world of artificial intelligence and machine learning, but the lasting impression is of something inventively organic.

The pulsating and impeccably paced title track, for example, plays with the dichotomy Sohn feels as a non-binary person: “I’m a living girl… I’m a real living boy,” they say before singing, in an almost taunting tone, “Follow the cyborg.” The phrase is taken from a Jia Tolentino essay about optimisation of the self, and references Donna Haraway’s classic 1985 text, The Cyborg Manifesto.

Miss Grit 3 AA Credit Hoseon Sohn

For Sohn, becoming the cyborg was a way to traverse racialised and gendered boundaries that have stuck with them their whole life. “It all just clicked,” they say about reading Haraway and Tolentino for the first time. “The idea of overpowering your creator and taking matters into your own hands and accepting all that you are, for all the artificiality that’s been installed in you, is a very powerful idea. It struck a chord with me.”

Sohn hints at this turning of the tables early on, with the explosive conclusion to “Your Eyes Are Mine”. Here, the mechanical context is neural network learning, the process by which artificial intelligence is fed stimuli and asked to make its own version – much like what OpenAI is experimenting with on Dall·E 2. “Your words have no meaning / so I switched to your speaking,” Sohn’s cyborg says over a gritty beat. Then comes the detonation: “I speak in my own language now.”


As the album progresses Sohn’s cyborg gradually moves towards self-actualisation, and the songs often deal with the idea of breaking out of predetermined roles. Sohn talks about an “infinite possibility mindset,” one that doesn’t rely on the practices and norms one grows up with. “I just wanted to touch on the idea of people being born into these environments, already setting up their life’s path for them,” they say.

Often this path is unsustainable, unhealthy even. As they sing on recent single “Lain (phone clone)”, “Hold up your hands if you can’t hold up the act / hold up your hands if your two lives overlap” – a call to action rather than an admission of weakness. Later, on “Like You”, Sohn comments on the oppression and prejudice that undercuts our common humanity, offering the sharp yet simple warning, “They might see they’re just like you.”

Beneath all the Miss Grit machinery is a faultline of humanity: a cyborg is part machine and part human, after all. “All the songs have a personal underlying touch to them, but I still wanted to be on the subject of cyborgs,” Sohn confirms. Album closer “Syncing” is a perfect allegory for a very human relationship that’s just not working out. “This was the cyborg leaving their creator and the complexity of mourning that relationship, no matter how bad or good it was,” they say.

On one standout track “Nothing’s Wrong”, Sohn veers towards the existential, facing away from the self and outwards to global events. Written during the summer of 2020, it touches on the cognitive dissonance necessary to simply get through the stress, the injustices, and the political revolution going on at the time. “I was feeling frustrated with everyone saying all these things that don’t mean anything and that they don’t believe in,” says Sohn. “I was getting really frustrated at language, I think.”

"The idea of overpowering your creator and taking matters into your own hands and accepting all that you are is very powerful. It struck a chord with me.”


The song is lovely, with Sohn matching their voice to the melody behind it, singing “It’s been too long / I’ll normalise what’s going on / so I won’t have to make things right.” In just three lines, they explain cognitive dissonance better than most introduction to psychology classes – the idea that when your thoughts and actions are disjointed, you’re more likely to change your mind instead of your action, as it’s easier to do so. “I wanted to write this song about ignorance and how people haven’t really hit on the core issue of what is causing the problem,” Sohn says, “carrying on for the sake of getting along and not dealing with your problems.”

On this song particularly, Sohn’s ability to construct a beautifully layered track is on full display. They start with melody, they tell me: “[Lyrics] do come naturally in a sense, because when I’m singing a melody I’m writing, then I’ll subconsciously put words into it already to form the syllables, and I usually let that guide where the song is going… the nonverbal aspect of it is something I’m most comfortable with.” It’s a technique used by artists like Jockstrap and Caroline Polachek, and when Sohn matches their voice to the melody, like when they sing “I’ll sing that song I didn’t write,” it scratches an itch in the listener’s brain, a moment of perfect harmony.

Miss Grit 2 A Credit Hoseon Sohn

When I ask about this particular lyric – one that jumps out as uncharacteristically un-cyborg – Sohn says it refers to a moment in their life when they were dealing with writer’s block. “I was using other peoples’ music as an escape from myself,” they explain. “Writing, even though it’s a very beautiful and great thing to do, can be a really scary and painful thing at times. I was avoiding confronting a lot of those things.” In this way, “Nothing’s Wrong” carries the weight of three perspectives: Sohn as the person, Sohn as the cyborg, and humanity as a whole. It’s a delicate and talented act to be able to balance.

After their debut, Miss Grit would like to power the cyborg off. Constructing Follow the Cyborg, which Sohn largely produced on their own, was a huge undertaking, “such a building and calculated process.” They hope that their next body of work is a more personal one, allowing us to get to know the person behind the robot armour.

“What’s the point of being so profound”, Sohn asks on “Lain (phone clone)”, “When all I’ll be is contained in this so vague membrane?” It's a deep question, and one that hints at all that lies behind the creative façade. In a concept album exploring the role of the cyborg, Sohn’s observations are, in a roundabout way, brilliantly human.

Follow the Cyborg is released 24 February via Mute Records. Miss Grit will tour the UK and Ireland with Bartees Strange in April.

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