SOPHIE's latest release, 'Faceshopping,' off her as of yet untitled upcoming album (rumoured to be set for release in the first half of the year), is an exhilarating disquisition into the real, the hyperreal and the artificial – themes as salient as any, given the challenges we are currently facing in an increasingly digital world. 'My face is the front of shop / My face is the real shop front / My shop is the fix I front / I'm real when I shop my face,' sings CECILE BELIEVE, perhaps inviting us to consider the ways in which consumerism interacts with concepts of the self and authenticity, with how we view ourselves in what is arguably a sea of encroaching artificiality.
The lines seem to encapsulate what Sophie has referred to as the inherent contradictions in wanting to take control of our images while still living and breathing as real people, something that can be difficult in a world in which we are increasingly surrounded by images, and where there is often no clear distinction between virtual and physical reality. Perhaps in this context, the images we fabricate of ourselves are more real than the real.
Sophie's artistic process, too, arguably interacts with ideas about artificiality and simulation: as fans already know, rather than drawing on samples or gently tweaked presets, she recreates real-world sounds from scratch (and invents entirely new ones, too). Her interest in the physical materiality of sound explains why we get metal clangs, glitchy buzzes and other glossy, familiar-yet-fake-sounding sounds in her music, all created through the labour-intensive process of raw digital synthesis. In that sense, 'Faceshopping' contains all the hallmarks of a Sophie song, from bright, loud clangs to perverse and dark–sounding beats.
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If 'Ponyboy' was about advertising and the primacy of the image (amongst other things), the lyrics didn't do a great job at fleshing out the concept, but 'Faceshopping' does this much better. It is more thoughtful and tightly constructed. The breakdown, especially, has a raw emotional intensity that does a great job at further amplifying the song's message.
Academic considerations aside, it's clear Sophie is making some of the loudest, brightest pop music around, and that she is culturally and musically engaged with the present like no other pop artist is.
Words by CAMILLA PATINI