When Turin’s PalaOlimpico was transformed into a giant disco for the interval show that celebrated Italy’s contribution to dance music at this year’s Eurovision first semi-final, the last thing you would expect to see was
a band from Sheffield. But, after tracks by legends such as Giorgio Moroder
and Robert Miles, Sophie and the Giants – an act that cut its teeth in that other northern industrial city – took the stage, performing last year’s single
Golden Nights to a TV audience that would top 160 million viewers across the contest broadcasts.
But while they are without a single hit at home, Sophie and the Giants will have been familiar to many of those millions across Europe, their Hypnotized – a wistful and beguiling Italo disco revival song, released in the early weeks of the first lockdown – having been one of the biggest hits of the year, going certified gold in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, platinum in Poland, and garnering over 250 million Spotify streams to date. And flame-haired Sophie Scott, with her commanding vocals, empowering lyrics and a costume wardrobe to die for, has emerged as a bona fide European disco queen. Not
bad for a girl from Staines just a few years out of her teens. Hypnotized was
a collaboration with German producer Purple Disco Machine and reached
No 2 in Italy. It just missed out on the Top 10 in Germany, where Sophie and
the Giants have found a home on Universal’s regional division and where their 2019 single, The Light, was already familiar to audiences due to its use in a Vodafone advert. Hypnotized, meanwhile, had been used in a Sky WiFi ad in Italy.
Having appeared in holographic form on the X Factor Italia stage in November 2020 (filmed against a green screen in Sophie’s Sheffield flat), 2021 saw a further burnishing of credentials in Italy. Falene, a seductive Latin-flavoured summer duet with Italian star Michele Bravi, found Sophie singing in both English and Italian, while Golden Nights was an Anglo-Italian collaboration with electro house pioneer Benny Benassi and star producer and songwriter Dardust.
At the beginning of this year, In the Dark, another retro Italo-disco collaboration with Purple Disco Machine, repeated much of the Europewide success of Hypnotized, and a highprofile appearance at the Sanremo festival followed, seeing Sophie perform with an Italian rock band of 20 years’ standing, Le Vibrazioni.
This Italian and German success for a fledgling British act seems less than
usual, but it has deep roots. Originally dubbed “spaghetti disco”, Italo disco
would not have been possible without Italian electronic visionary Giorgio
Moroder and it was driven by a handful of 1980s Italian producers, but it was given its name by German label ZYX and it was in Germany that the genre found much of its success. It seems those audiences are more than ready for the Italo disco revival that has been gathering pace in recent years and in which Sophie and the Giants have carved out a niche.
This is an act who have been an intriguing prospect from the off. Originally forming as a teenage fourpiece in 2017 as students at Guildford’s Academy of Contemporary Music, they moved to Sheffield – one of the cradles of British electronic music, after all – and the band were on the cusp of the fame that came with Hypnotized when they described themselves with youthful arrogance as making “the best pop music you’ve ever heard”.
Debut single Monsters (2018), with its apparently Steve Reich-influenced opening, impassioned Florence Welch-meets-La Roux vocals, and emotional
lyrics, certainly showed a maturity beyond their years. And while Waste My Air from the same year’s EP Adolescence, with its message of “don’t let people f*** with the time you have here”, was an early indication of the thoroughly millennial theme of self-realisation in Sophie and the Giants’ lyrics, this is not necessarily music solely for the young.
The dance euphoria of Sophie and the Giants is infectious, and while Hypnotized seemed to speak directly to the times in early 2020, opening “Feel
buried alive, this city is airtight”, and 2021’s Right Now was intended as a post-pandemic anthem (“I’m all done waiting/ And I’m coming up stronger
now/ Oh, I made it”), their just-released, late summer single We Own the Night has found them continuing to bring a refreshing, transcendent hedonism to chronically troubled times. As Sophie put it back on Monsters, “the future beckons you”.
SOPHIE AND THE GIANTS in five songs
Break the Silence (2019)
A manifesto for honesty and courage, this track showcased the euphoric, emotional intensity this act is capable of.
A collaboration with German producer Purple Disco Machine, this was the
song that broke Sophie and the Giants through to European success, with it
just missing out on topping the Italian charts.
Golden Nights (2021)
Featuring legendary music producer Benny Benassi, this song was included
as the latest word in Italian electronic music innovation at the Eurovision 2022 first semi-final interval show in Turin.
In The Dark (2022)
Another collaboration with Purple Disco Machine, this single was heavy on the Italo disco nostalgia, with chiming synths and a keen sense of camp drama.
We Own the Night (2022)
Sophie and the Giants’ latest release is all about unbridled hedonism and defiance of negativity.