Product [prod-uh kt, -uhkt]; noun.
“1. A thing produced by labor: products of farm and factory; the product of his thought. 2. A person or thing produced by or resulting from a process, as a natural, social, or historical one; result: He is a product of his time.”
Whilst both definitions are extremely apt (especially given the mode of release of Product), it is the coincidental example of definition two that strikes to the core of Sophie's sonic and cultural aesthetic. SOPHIE is undeniably a product of post-millennial living and his hyper-glossy and über-saccharine "singles collection" Product is pertinently informed by (and potentially mocks) a hyper-sexual, bubblegum society obsessed by the cult of personality and overrun with consumerist values.
Approaching Product however, one encounters an immediate "problem" - a striking lack of new music. And although the latter half of the record, upon its announcement, comprised of four "new" compositions, three (at the time of writing) of the four have found their way online via. official Soundcloud channels. Only the lyrical sister to “Lemonade” and the ludicrously fun “Vyzee” remains hidden from the general public. Prised away from the listener is the sense of discovery that comes with the purchase of new music, and this feeling is only seemingly compensated by the trivial sale of dildos, platform shoes and bomber jackets.
Frustrating as its release model may be, especially with the re-release of music, Product is strangely reminiscent of the greatest hits model many bands employ. Songs repackaged, sometimes re-arranged but always re-sold. Thus an odd, and ultimately scathing commentary - of not only the music industry but also of a society that allows themselves to fall for such gimmicks - may be found within a track-listing that at first glance appears relatively uninspiring.
Regardless of the amount of "new" music found on Product, the collection of singles found affirm SOPHIE's mercurial and unquestionable talent. His production is coherent and utilises an unmistakably unique palette of sounds. "Lemonade" with its carbonated drums, fizz and pop amongst its recognisable mantra ("lemonade, le-le-lemonade"), while "Hard" accelerates with a flurry of mega-drive karate kick snares. Opener, “Bipp”, for many the gateway drug to SOPHIE’s PVC-ridden world, still stands as a shining and enduring beacon of pop perfection that tantalises with warped bass hooks, acuate claps and an ear-worm vocal.
“Bipp” laid a marker of excellence, which until Product had only been partially rivalled. This is not a critique of subsequent releases but a testament to “Bipp”’s resounding quality. Product’s closer “Just Like We Never Said Goodbye” may however be SOPHIE’s best work since “Bipp”. Its morphing, maximal synthesisers, which resonate the synthetic emotion found within its lyrics, hold the listener at tenterhooks, awaiting a formal “drop” that satisfyingly, never comes.
Furthermore, the stimulative "MSMSMSM" showcases avant-garde, metallic four to the floors against a lurking bass-line that over its three-minute playtime rages intensely. “MSMSMSM” successfully counterbalances the hyper-stylised, bubblegum pop found on tracks like "Bipp", "Vyzee" and "Just Like We Never Said Goodbye".
The waves of whimpering, distorted bass that characterise “L.O.V.E.” serves as the record's most divisive moment. Live, it grumbles loudly, serving as a bewildering and disorientating focal point amongst its pretty, NiGHTS: Into Dreams-reminiscent, crystalline synth breaks. The full effect however is unfortunately lost on record and falls foul to being an over-extended interlude. “Elle” similarly, even with its beautifully textured, ethereal synths, fails to excite in the way other tracks do on Product.
SOPHIE has very much remained the producer of the “PC Music” onslaught. He has cultivated an allure and a presence by, paradoxically, remaining extremely quiet for long-periods of time. He has survived through the quality of his creative vision. Product streamlines this vision into a singular "product" that although is not an essential purchase, is still essential listening.
20/10/17: SOPHIE now uses she/her pronouns.