New review of six-year-old song: Imogen Heap’s Hide and Seek

Listening to a song on my iPod, not sure of some of the lyrics, I wanted to look them up online. Finding them, I also found some reviews. I felt many were missing the boat, not only of what this song was about, but what a song is about, or what a painting is about, or what any of these can be about. I hope you are provoked into thinking.

– – –

Look at all the reviews. Well… maybe not all of them. There are a lot, over the years. So many people try to decide what Imogen Heap must be talking about in the lyrics to “Hide and Seek.” Are they right? Does it matter?

When an artist puts a work out there into the air, into the light, it owes its existence to her, or him; but it no longer belongs to them. If the song is a good one, it enjoys and appreciates that “birth,” and pays homage to its maker each time it is witnessed/seen/heard. But a true work of art is also born again inside of each person who discovers it, who feels it. What it means to each of us becomes important to the song, the painting, the poem. It is not just sitting there; it is doing something, for us. It – and we – are changing by having discovered each other. We discover the song, the painting, and it works hard to provide for us what we strive to find in it: our own thoughts, dreams, hopes. The art discovers an audience; and we, each of us, literally breathes new life into it.

A dead painting, no longer seen by anyone; a dead song heard by no one; have no sustaining life because no one could see themselves in them. But one that is alive is alive because it speaks to us in our own language. We get it… and so we have it. It lives for us, and through us.

This song. It means things to its author, for sure. It means different things to each person who gives their interpretation of what it means. The fact that there are so many different interpretations speaks to just how rich a gift the song really is.

On top of what the song “means,” there’s the music. I’m a musician; I honestly hear the music a hundred times before the words even reach my ears. And it is her music – the stunningly integrated whole of the concept, the execution, the melody, the harmony, the phrasing, the “effects”, the pacing, the timbre – that just wipes me out. It grips and it doesn’t let go.

There are not so many songs like that, at least not for me. A hundred, maybe two, out of all the thousands and thousands and thousands that I’ve heard.

So this song is more than a song; it’s a place that we’ve been to. It’s a place that we know, and a place that we both love and dread. It’s a real place, in our hearts, and beyond us. As the poet e. e. cummings put it, in his poem, “maggie and milly and molly and may”:

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone

That’s the place I mean. That’s where this song lives.


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