Album Review: SOPHIE – “Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides”

Andrew Doucette, Staff Writer

SOPHIE had become one of the most influential and important artists not only in electronic music but music as a whole during the 2010s. The music stood for itself, luring the listener into a futuristic world of blistering bass and glistening pop anthems, but SOPHIE was more important than the music. SOPHIE was a transgender woman who was always unabashed about who she really was. She was a larger than life figure for many people both in the LGBTQ+ and music communities. Unfortunately, SOPHIE passed away on January 30th due to an accidental fall trying to reach a higher place in order to see the full moon. It’s a surreal end that somehow fits the mythos that SOPHIE always carried around throughout her entire career, but it still left fans stunned and without their idol. Local student Jason Ugarte, who’s also a part of the Madison College-led play called “The Laramie Project”, described her by simply saying, “The world truly wasn’t ready for SOPHIE.”
SOPHIE only had one official studio album, “Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides” released in 2018. There was a collection of singles released in the earlier part of the decade that garnered SOPHIE attention from a plethora of places, including Madonna, Rihanna, and McDonald’s, to name a few. Other people sought out SOPHIE to produce some of their biggest respective songs, including Charli XCX with the “Vroom Vroom” EP and Vince Staples’ classic track “Yeah Right” with Kendrick Lamar. All of these collaborations brought more attention to the already game-changing music SOPHIE was releasing before the album, but “Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides” cemented her status at the forefront of this movement.
The album starts with a beautiful, momentous ballad where SOPHIE sings in her natural voice for the first time. “It’s Okay to Cry” looks into traditional gender stereotypes and the effects that they can cause on people. The video to the song marks the first time SOPHIE ever showed her face to the public. Since this was her first time showing her face to the public, it was also the first time showing the world that she was transgender. SOPHIE’s perspective of these harmful gender stereotypes comes from a unique place that helps make it a powerful song. This ballad is immediately followed up by two world-shaking bangers, “Ponyboy” and “Faceshopping.” The former is full of metallic, distorted bass that shakes any sound system it’s on, and the latter is a more experimental anthem on how people’s faces become their brand over this Optimus Prime-esque production.
The next couple of tracks are also one and the same, except this time, they’re both synth-heavy experiences with barely any percussion. Both songs are examples of tracks SOPHIE has made that are unlike anything else in music. The wave of arpeggiating synths wash over “Is It Cold in the Water?” to create this all-encompassing aura. “Infatuation” has an emotive vocal performance from Cecile Believe that builds perfectly over the five-minute runtime and even contains a two-minute guitar-like synth solo on the back half of the track. After being followed up by another hard hitting, seemingly randomly layered interlude, SOPHIE tries out an ambient number. “Pretending” shows that SOPHIE doesn’t need layers upon layers to create a world, and this particular journey sounds like it goes through a jungle of elephants and monkeys to reach the traditional club anthem, “Immaterial.”
Most of this album is full of sounds you can’t hear anywhere else besides SOPHIE, but not this song. There are still some aspects that are unique to SOPHIE’s genre, including high-pitched vocals and carbonated happiness, but most of it seems like a radio hit waiting to happen. It’s no wonder why this song is easily her most streamed song on Spotify, but it easily could’ve been Top 10 Billboard big instead of just big relative to her. The album then ends on a 9-minute epic that is the epitome of progression. “Whole New World/Pretend World” starts out with an in your face, textured synth melody that slowly gets deconstructed piece by piece until it ends with almost pure noise. It’s SOPHIE’s equivalent to a classical piece, almost in a sonata format.
SOPHIE started off her career with a masterpiece, and everyone else thought so as well. The album received rave reviews from critics, topped a few publication’s best albums of the year list, and was nominated for a Grammy. The Grammy nomination made her the first ever transgender nominee in the Best Dance/Electronic album category, and she was also one of three transgender nominees that year, the first year they had ever nominated any. The album, and SOPHIE as a whole, has influenced many artists who are on their way to being the face of pop, including Billie Eilish’s brother and artist in his own right, Finneas, hyperpop stars that have already worked with Linkin Park and Fall Out Boy, 100 gecs, and Rina Sawayama, who made Elton John’s favorite album last year. Her influence stretches further and wider than any of these artists, especially with unreleased collaborations with Rihanna, Lady Gaga, HAIM, Big Freedia, and FKA twigs. Even people like Beyonce were using her music in their promotion! She was already changing the game with one official studio album and one collection of singles, so who knows what she could’ve done with another decade and a few more albums. SOPHIE’s “Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides” will go down as one of the most innovative, forward-thinking albums of the decade.