- Artists as thoroughly divisive as SOPHIE don't come around often, so when they do it's worthwhile to analyze where the disconnects are. Of course, the actual music is always a factor, and SOPHIE's singles to date have ranged from effusive to unprecedented to befuddling, depending on who you ask. But the deepest rifts have been more conceptual than specific, with questions and critiques on the merits of underground dance music that's so unabashedly silly, bright and enamored with pop and EDM tropes. Are SOPHIE's tracks meant to subvert self-serious dance floors? Or dupe reactionary listeners? And what to make of an independent producer whose work seems prepackaged for commercial viability?
In a community that values history and transparency, SOPHIE is a disruption, an ideological deviant with dubious intentions. Where you land on the matter is seen as a statement of allegiance, marking your tastes as old-school, progressive or—gasp!—ahistorical. Product arrives three years into this, and effectively caps off a formative era. Compiling two previous Numbers singles with four unreleased tracks, the collection, complete with its flashy packaging and merchandise, confirms any position you'd like it to.
When SOPHIE debuted on Huntleys + Palmers in 2013, the single came with a quote from the artist: "I try to make music which is fun to dance to—that should be the loudest voice talking. I think it would be extremely exciting if music could take you on the same sort of high-thrill three-minute ride as a theme park roller coaster." You couldn't find a more uncomplicated expression of what good club music can do, and Product accomplishes it precisely. "Vyzee" is the producer at his catchiest, a bit of nonsensical, bubblegum rave that hits like QT's older sister. It's also the most straightforward track here, with 4/4 kicks and a verse-chorus structure, and finds SOPHIE making fantastic use of that space. Closer "Just Like We Never Said Goodbye," a beatless, stadium-sized ballad for adrenaline junkies and star children, also tweaks his sound to great effect. SOPHIE only swings off course by misjudging his eccentricities. "MSMSMSM" is aggro trap served right down the middle, and strange as "L.O.V.E." is, its jagged club deconstructions have little bearing on Product’s compass. Still, for a couple of stylistic outliers, those tunes deliver their own thrills.
Product's tracklist is arranged chronologically, but "Bipp" is no less the perfect introduction. Let the central vocal hook sink in: "I can make you feel better, if you let me!" Here's a glimpse behind the SOPHIE curtain. He tells us exactly what the next 25 minutes are meant to do, and only asks that we let our guard down. Without the cultural rhetoric and the over-the-top marketing and the conspiracy theories and the mainstream attention in the mix, Product is simply forward-thinking, flawlessly-produced electronic music that wants no more than to slap a grin on the dance floor. Like "Vyzee" flirtatiously suggests, "We can go crazy in the club, if that's what you want to do."
08. Just Like We Never Said Goodbye