If youve ever been to a big pop show before, of say Taylor Swift proportions, youll know the mass hysteria that permeates the stadium. Its this heightened feeling of excitement and adoration that could make even the most sceptical attendees heart beat faster. If you take that experience, multiply it by 20 and condense it into one song, youll get something similar to what enigmatic producer SOPHIE serves up.
His DJ sets are a sensory experience, alerting the eyes and ears to something chaotic, kitsch and hyperactive. Its a pop show from another reality, futuristic even, if in 20 years pop music is curated and run by energy drinks. Its near impossible to put your finger on exactly what it is that SOPHIE is doing that makes his music so delectable and so questionable at the same time but hes nailed every aspect of his visual and sonic aesthetic and the mass of adoring, hyperactive fans at the Oxford Art Factory on Friday night proved that.
It was a set for those short of attention (otherwise known as every person under 30). Every time you felt your attention waning or your bop slowing, youd be treated with another rushing synths or sweet melody that would kick you into gear once more.
SOPHIE stood on the stage, covered by waves of smoke. Occasionally his well-quiffed hair would show briefly through the smoke but it would then disappear with the strobe of a light. It was as if we were all there to worship SOPHIE although none of us really know who he is. Instead, the adoration is directed at the high-pitched voice that graces many of his songs – a sort of sugar-coated Siri that manages to conjure emotion with the most other-worldly sounds.
Where the voice was absent, SOPHIE excited with some of the freshest sounds around. Like a trip through Willy Wonkas chocolate factory he paired bubble-pops with industrial beats straight out of Hud Mos textbook or the sound of 1,000 buzzing bees with reverb-soaked undertones. Whether or not you find his music annoying or amazing, its hard to argue against the fact that hes a wildly innovative and talented producer. Hes making sounds that we havent heard in club music, perhaps ever, and they made hundreds of people jump with glee on Friday night. It was a sweaty, anarchic atmosphere masterfully curated by SOPHIE.
As the set reached the 45 minute mark he was joined on-stage by part-popstar part-energy-drink-advocate, QT who brings everything SOPHIE represents to life visually. She looks like a turn of the millennium Britney Spears and in many ways parodies the early 00s popstar. While its up for debate as to what she actually does on-stage, theres something captivating about her. She moved about the stage with a spring in her step while those wide-eyes made more than just a few punters weak at the knees.
She dropped most of SOPHIEs most recognisable hits creating euphoria with the I can make you feel better, hook of Bipp and the rushing sugar high of Lemonade. SOPHIE disappeared from the stage briefly but returned as the mood in the room was at an all time high. An unexpected drop of his collaboration with Charli XCX Vroom Vroom, proved that hes able to maintain his oddball sonic persona and also adapt it to mainstream pop. The chorus of that track was one of the nights highlights.
As QT left the stage, we prepared to bid farewell to SOPHIE and we did so in the most apt of ways, to his track Just Like We Never Said Goodbye. The album closer is a nostalgic, impossibly sweet piece of pop with a chorus that made every heart in the room swell. It created the feeling you get from watching a stadium light up during the final moments of a pop show but he managed to bring that to a small room of just hundreds.
He left the stage quickly, waving shyly as he exited but he was back only seconds later for the encore. The break in between was so short that he was surely parodying the whole idea of an encore but such is the joy of a SOPHIE show – youre never quite sure if hes taking the piss or not. QT joined him for the final song of the night Hey QT, a proper pop anthem the likes of which have not been seen since Aqua. Every hand was in the air and everybody was moving up and down as the chorus hit. It was a scene you rarely get to see at a club show. Even if it was just for the duration of the set, everyone there was enthused and joyous. It was hard to tell exactly why it was so good and its even hard now to remember exactly the feeling of those glossy synths rushing through the body. As quickly as it came it left just like any good sugar high.