Is It Cold In the Water was first performed at SOPHIE’s “live debut” on 10/30/2017. The instrumental was played over a year earlier in September 2016, at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles.
At SOPHIE’s late 2017 to early 2018 live shows, performances of the song were accompanied by a backdrop mostly consisting of black-and-white videos of the sea’s surface. At least two of these stock videos can be found on the website Shutterstock.
Music and composition
"Is It Cold in the Water?,” the epic heart of SOPHIE’s brilliant new album OIL OF EVERY PEARL’s UN-INSIDES, doesn’t have many words—two short verses, each with a few clipped phrases, sung by Montreal singer Cecile Believe (formerly of Mozart’s Sister). With lines like, “I’m freezing/I’m burning/I’ve left my home,” we get a sense of a desperate moment, some kind of turning point in this person’s life, perhaps something they’re contemplating as they stand at the edge of a precipice. While the lyrics set the dramatic scene, the ultimate meaning of “Is It Cold” can be found in its sound. The greatest emotional load is carried by Believe’s towering lead vocal, which boldly walks a tightrope stretched between the deeply affecting and the over-the-top. From the height of this great cliff, over jagged arpeggiating synths that swell and recede like an angry surf crashing against the rocks, she stretches each “o” in “Cold” for 12 breathtaking seconds, jumping between octaves and following the melody as far down as the mercury will go. Her fearlessness in the face of it all gives the song an overpowering sense of grandeur—for its length, pain and doubt and loneliness are all washed away."
"It is in these moments of disruption and transition that OIL becomes a reflection of SOPHIE. She is strong, radical, and more, but as she prefaces in the opening song, it's also ok to cry. Accordingly, the two electro bangers are followed by an exploration into the less structured side of music. "Is It Cold in the Water?" wanders into a haunting synthscape, in which Cecile Believe's ghostly vocals overcome an engulfing trauma."
- Album versions — 03:33
- Cold Water version — 03:42
- Flume & Eprom remix — 04:48