Imogen Heap: one woman, two bands

By Janene Gibbons
September 11, 2008

Have you ever been pulled into a song and you just don’t why? It’s like the musicians, singers and songwriters understand and can express exactly what you are going through.

It’s not just the lyrics that grab you but the beat and the music itself that captures a moment in your life.

It’s not often that I like a band or solo artist that talks about more than one subject matter such as relationships beyond the surface level.

As much as I love Top 40 and Pop Rock music, a lot of the popular music is simply so catchy and overproduced that everything beings to sound the same.

However, every once in a blue moon you find that person or band that speaks to you in a way that makes you see beyond the lyrics and music and instead of just humming along it makes you, dare I say it, think.

This summer I discovered a solo artist named Imogen Heap. Heap became more widely known in the states by the name Frou Frou, which was a duo part-time project between her and her producer, Guys Sigsworth, that Heap developed after she already established herself as a solo artist.

Frou Frou broke out onto the music scene in a huge way with the release of “Garden State,” the awarding winning movie directed by Zach Braff. Frou Frou’s song “Let Go” headlined the movie and jumpstarted Heap’s career to new level of public recognition.

Her music also been featured in Disney’s “The Chronicles of Narnia” with songs like “Can’t Take It In” and the ever- popular series “the O.C.” has included Heap’s hits like “Hide and Seek” and “Goodnight and Go” on their soundtracks.

Born and raised in Essex, England, Imogen Heap was unique right from the start. The now 6-foot tall slender beauty was a bit of a loner growing up but she found comfort in the music school attached to the Quaker boarding school she attended in Cambridge.

There, she fended off bullies with sneak previews of her music. She was trained classically on the piano but what really made her stand out was a combination of playing blues scales and the rare and mature alto tenor pitch that she sang in.

After boarding school at the ripe old age of 15, Heap was off to the south of London for college, where she became influenced by rock bands like Nine Inch Nails and the culture of dance. She then found producer Nik Kershaw and together they fashioned songs which proved to be seductive and powerful such as “Come Here Boy” and “Itchy.”

Major record companies began to take an interest and Heap got her first taste of large scale performance and fame when she filled the coveted spot in between Eric Clapton and The Who at the 1996 trust concert in Hyde Park where she performed a 20-minute set in front of 150,000 people.

She finally settled in with producers David Khane and Guy Sigsworth. It was with this artistic production team that she began to use a method of mixing different genres of music together to form a genre mix of Electronic and alternative Rock Pop. In 1997, Heap signed with Almo sounds as a solo artist. Her first album named “I Megaphone,” an anagram of the name Imogean Heap was released in 1998.

Frou Frou the part time project duo was to come later in 2001 when she signed with MCA/Universal. Frou Frou released the album “Details” and then Heap returned to her solo career with the release of “Speak for Yourself” in 2005, which made it to the Top Billboard 200 and the Top Electronic Albums, where it peaked at No. 2.

Cabrini students said it all when they commented on what makes Heap’s sound and music so special.

“She is a really unique musician because she uses her voice as an instrument itself and not just an accompanist,” Matt Connelly, senior liberal arts major, said.

“She is also very memorable in the electronic genre of music in the way she applies technology to her voice forming a chorus and imitating instruments rather than constructing her songs mostly out of synthesized sounds and melodies to accompany her vocals,” Conelly said.

In comparing Heap to other popular bands, William Monahan, a junior English major, said that she’s “the Goo Goo Dolls meets the Cranberries.”

“She has that edge to her music but her voice is soft and harmonious,” Monahan said.

This along with Imogen Heap’s fabulous evolving look in her music videos whether it be dressing up in an alligator/dinosaur costume for her music video “Headlock” or becoming her own stunning version of windup doll in her beautiful red dress with a flower in her hair for the music video “Goodnight and Go.”

Heap is a free spirit who is not afraid to break boundaries and cross into the unknown.

So check her out on her very own channel on You Tube even if it’s for the sake of pure curiosity where she blogs often and goes behind the scenes of how she makes her music and shows off more than a little of her charming personality.

I don’t think you will be disappointed, and who knows perhaps like me and her many avid fans you will find a kindred spirit.

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Janene Gibbons

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