Most people’s familiarity with British vocalist and inventor Imogen Heap comes via a viral moment of the early internet. In an infamous moment on The OC, Marissa fires a gun as her lover Ben wrestles with an intruder, killing the man. As the action switches to slow motion, and the two teens gaze in horror at their actions, Heap’s voice abruptly creeps in with “mmmm whatcha say!” The whole thing turned into a giant meme. Everything from Luke Skywalker killing the Emperor to someone realizing they ran out of Coco Puffs has been set to this song and uploaded to YouTube, and the practice continues to this day.
“Hide and Seek,” as the song is called, is only a piece of what Imogen Heap has to contribute to the music world, and I was careful not to mention the song to a super fan I chatted with on line to the bathroom during the intermission. Imi, as she’s known to her band mates, outshined her viral infamy recently with another popular internet video debuting her amazing invention: musical gloves.
The tight fitting electronic gloves with multicolored buttons remind one of the Nintendo Power Glove. I remember getting the Power Glove for Christmas and accidentally punching my dad in the face while he tried to plug them in. They went back to the store that very day.
Imi’s gloves are different. She can use them to stop and start tracks. She can use them to hit record. When she swings her arms in front of her, they can trigger psychedelic echo effects and if she stretches her arm way out to the right, whatever she’s singing stretches out as well into a long chain of looped reverb. She can even twitch her index finger to trigger a “ding dong” sample or play an air guitar that actually makes sound. Imogen’s performance is as much of an interpretive dance as it is a musical spectacle.
Together with a small band, Imogen captivates the audience with her hypnotic sound producing dances. She attracts an audience of all ages including one notable two year old fan dressed proudly in her unicorn pajamas. Imi’s outfit, made by designer Long Xu, was a kind of deconstructed bathrobe with belts that lead to nowhere. And it worked! Heap made more than one self-deprecating remark about her unorthodox outfits.
Banter was a strong suit for Imogen Heap, who regaled the audience with the story of how she invented her music gloves (now available for purchase), what music meant to her, how she felt musicians should be fairly compensated for their labor, and how her own music label is combating the industry’s reign of terror that leaves so many musicians scraping to get by. All said, Imi is an inspiration to creatives across the globe and a fighter for better conditions for musicians who toil to bring us the sweet melodies that light up our lives. Whether she’s inspiring the world, applying her innovative thinking, or advocating for musicians rights, Imogen Heap is clearly a comrade in the struggle to make the world a brighter, happier, and more interesting place to live.