Under the moniker SOPHIE, reclusive London-based musician Samuel Long made a huge, fizzy splash on the underground dance-pop scene during the mid-2010s with a series of singles that contorted elements of giddy Eurodance, Japanese and Korean pop, and experimental sound design into blindingly neon-colored pop-art gems. Often associated with the similar-minded PC Music label, SOPHIE's sophisticated, hyperkinetic productions typically feature high-pitched female vocals, sugary synthesizer textures, and beats drawing from underground dance music styles such as U.K. garage as well as mainstream pop and hip-hop. Instead of utilizing samples, he constructs his inventive tracks from waveforms, creating bizarre noises which resemble bubbling water, inflating balloons, elastic bands, and other non-musical sounds, adding to the surrealist, blatantly artificial quality of his music.
Originally hailing from Scotland, Samuel Long moved to London and played in a band called Motherland, which included artists Matthew Lutz-Kinoy and Marcella Dvsi. Long scored a Dutch short film titled Dear Mr/Mrs in 2011. After producing tracks for a couple years and building a buzz among underground dance music DJs, SOPHIE's debut single "Nothing More to Say" was released by U.K. house label Huntleys & Palmers in early 2013. Second single "Bipp" (backed with B-side "Elle") quickly followed on the Glasgow-based Numbers label, and the bouncy, catchy song was an immediate critical success, appearing on numerous end-of-year single polls. The notoriously media-shy producer began making live appearances, often wearing a mask to conceal his identity. He collaborated with Japanese pop sensation Kyary Pamyu Pamyu in 2014. Third SOPHIE single "Lemonade"/"Hard" appeared on Numbers in August of that year; both songs schizophrenically flitted between bubblegum pop hooks and more aggressive elements, and both became huge critical successes as well. Also in August of 2014, "Hey QT," the debut single by QT (American dance-pop artist Hayden Dunham) appeared on XL; the track was co-produced by SOPHIE and PC Music founder A. G. Cook. More accessible and straightforward than the majority of PC Music's esoteric pop mutations, "Hey QT" was another success, although as with all of the material associated with the label, reactions were mixed, as many listeners thought the song was excessively saccharine.
SOPHIE spent much of 2015 collaborating with other artists, including Charli XCX, Le1f, and Namie Amuro. Along with Diplo, SOPHIE co-produced Madonna's single "Bitch I'm Madonna," which also featured rapper Nicki Minaj. In July of 2015, "Lemonade," itself the aural equivalent of a tangy, sugary soft drink, was appropriately used in a McDonald's commercial for the beverage. The following November, the four tracks from SOPHIE's previous singles for Numbers were compiled onto the artist's debut album Product, along with four new songs that were also released as double A-sides. ~ Paul Simpson