6 reasons why Imogen Heap is still the best
Editor’s Note: Imogen Heap released an awesome new album last August called “Sparks,” so let’s all just fangirl out for a second over the artist behind our fav “The O.C.” track.
There’s a certain amount of irony in me writing about a celebrity, considering I make it a point to let everyone who gushes about how amazing they are know that celebrities are, in fact, just people; and we shouldn’t be clawing at other people just to raise our chances of getting an autograph. It’s just a squiggle (or at least mine is), and I’d give you my autograph for free, plus throw in the paper and pen.
So straight away you know Imogen Heap must be something special to make me stop being cynical and sarcastic to praise her and get all fangirl-y over her new album, “Sparks,” which I only got on Sunday and now know all of the lyrics to the 14 glorious songs. Let’s just say my love for her has been totally reignited, and I’ve got six compelling reasons why she is someone to love (. . . and 14 more if you count her latest album).
1. She is a brilliant person
Although I probably sound insane, as we’ve never met, I can say with some confidence that she’s brilliant because it comes through in her songs. The subject matter, the research, the effort she puts into them is clearly the work of someone who is thoughtful and caring. Case in point: the song “Neglected Space” is from the POV of derelict buildings and how they’re decaying and just want to be loved. This sparked (excuse the pun) a group in Immi’s home village to, with her help, restore old buildings for the community.
2. She is a fantastic, multidimensional artist
She sings her songs, she writes them, she plays the plethora of instruments in them – she is the female technological version of the one-man-band. In her song ‘Lifeline’ she uses loads of sound bites that fans sent into her, some of which are: a match being struck, a dishwasher, the London Underground, and a baby’s heartbeat in the womb. Not only can she make awesome music out of things that seemingly have no musical quality, but she got her fans involved in the song and they made the song with her.
3. She is a pioneer
Her songs are revolutionary, and not just because she basically does everything herself (because she has help from a team, of course). She’s currently working on these gloves (stay with me): science-y, music-y gloves that shatter any boundaries anyone might have between a musical thought and that thought being a reality. The Mi.Mu gloves can make sound, record it, distort it, blends with their composer, and is a major part of her “Sparks” album. Just watch her video for “Me the Machine” to see them in action.
4. She’s a great role model, and she doesn’t even know it
If there is one thing I am totally grateful to my first boyfriend for, it’s that when we were at the tender age of thirteen, over the now-shutting-down MSN messenger, he sent me “Hide and Seek” and told me that, “You’d probably like this, it’s weird.” My first impression was, “Is this a man or a woman?”, and then “It sounds like the effects Cher used for ‘Believe.'” But unlike that hit song, this was deep, mysterious, and totally different from anything I was listening to at the time, and my first magical taste of Imogen Heap. Immi has been with me for eight years now, which means the only two people I’ve loved longer than her without ever wanting them to leave me alone are Batman and my mom. She’s taught me so many things: how to be a badass everything-in-one, how to be tender yet powerful all at once, how to write songs about love and do it delicately and without being cliché. She has a song for every one of my moods: songs like “You Know Where to Find Me” and “Speeding Cars” can quite easily get me all emotional because the melody, the words, and her angelic voice resonate so perfectly with me. She is unapologetically herself in every song and she bares herself in every one. She hides nothing. Her songs, especially in “Sparks,” are very specific, and yet at the same time you can find your own meaning in each.
5. She’s in your corner fighting for you
From her album “Ellipse,” she gives us “Bad Body Double” – a song about the self-critical version of ourselves we all face. But she makes light of it, acting like it’s a different person, someone we know isn’t us but comes out at really inappropriate times. But at least we now have something to sing along to when we have our own “Bad Body Double” moments (and it is a brilliant song to sing along to). BBD is just a state of mind we sometimes get, and we know it’s tough, but also that it will pass.
On top of that, she’s also come out with “Xizi She Knows,” about a city in China that is growing so fast that the residents are worried it’ll lose its culture. It’s also about someone that’s in a hurry to change themselves, and Immi lets them know that they’re “beautiful, graceful, like no other, pretty damn good as [they] are.”
6. She’s got songs for all occasions
Feeling a song about being intimate with your lover? BAM “Entanglement.” Want a song about how awful it is to fight with someone you love? BAM “The Beast.” How about one about the frustration of not finding the time to speak to your partner when you’re apart? BAM “Telemiscommunication.” What about a song to listen to while you cycle or go for a run? BAM BAM “Cycle Song” and “Run Time.”
If those facts don’t win you over, then I’ve got one final push with perhaps my favorite song of hers: “The Listening Chair.” (Actually, I have way more, but I’m not sure bombarding you with every reason Immi is the best is good for your health.)
Imogen wanted to write a song that hadn’t been written yet, and so got loads of people to record what they thought that song should be about, all while sitting in this one particular chair. She didn’t find a huge correlation, but what she did find was that people of the same age group were talking about the same things (teenagers about not being forced into a box, 30-somethings about being in the wrong relationship, etc). So she decided, since she’s 35, to make each minute of the song about each seven year period of her life: 0-7, 7-14, 14-21, 21-28 and 28-35. Every seven years, she plans to add another minute until her death, and it will be an unfinished song until then.
I can find pieces of myself in it, right up to the 22nd year, and I think we can all see pieces of ourselves in it, too. How cool is she to be able to write for completely different age groups, all in one awesome song, even though she’s actually one specific age? She captures beautifully what it’s like to be an infant, child, teenager, young adult, and regular adult – almost as if she were all five at the same time. Not as amazing as I think, you say? Well, then take a look at the video to go along with it. This five minute beast was captured in one shot, in her basement.
Holly King is a 22-year-old Creative Masters student at the University of Kent, England. When she’s not reading, she’s drinking copious amounts of tea and procrastinating (like any true writer does). She has a great love of Batman, science fiction, and the word “lovely.” She’s had type on diabetes for nineteen years, and currently lives with her BFF. The only thing missing from her life is a cat, but pets aren’t allowed where she rents.