Hide And Seek

Album: Speak For Yourself (2005)
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  • Heap has been reluctant to say exactly what inspired this song, but most of what she's said indicates that she wrote this song about the separation of her parents when she was 12 and her father finding a new wife. "Crop circles in the carpet" means the furniture has been moved out and all that is left are crop circle imprints. "Oily marks appear on walls where pleasure moments hung before" means photos have been taken down. All signs that someone is moving out of the home. Heap has called the images "a collection of childhood memories." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Lo - Ottawa, ON
  • This is an a cappella song that Heap came up with after her computer died on her. With no computer to work on, she decided to try a piece of equipment she hadn't yet used to work on a song: a harmonizer. She used the processing device hooked up to her keyboard to come up with a melody, which happened very quickly around 2 a.m. She recorded a rough demo, which she faithfully recreated in the studio.
  • In 2005, this was used in a climactic scene from the season 2 finale ("The Dearly Beloved") of The O.C. when the character Marissa shoots Trey, who is trying to kill Ryan. In 2007, the song was used in a Saturday Night Live digital short with Shia LaBeouf that parodied the scene.
  • In 2009, Jason DeRulo sampled this song for his debut single "Whatcha Say." It topped the UK chart and reached #3 in the UK, earning Heap a nice little sum.

Comments: 29

  • Jim from Baltimore, MdThese are some absolutely amazing interpretations. I just wanted to throw out one thing that I did not see interpreted clearly (I didn't read every comment) and kind of danced around (except for the Holocaust interpretation that was very good). As information gets added to the world wide web, old information falls back in the abyss. In 2008, I was looking for the meaning of this song. Unfortunately, I don't remember the source. In this interpretation, the song was about a couple engaged and soon to be married when one of them changed their mind and left suddenly as in calling it off and the other coming home to an empty house after the person unknowingly move out. It was said that the lyrics, "Trains and Sewing Machines" was referring to a wedding dress being made for the wedding. I'm just throwing this out there as something I read about the song a long time ago. Maybe it is farfetched, that's why it hasn't survived the google search. I guess it related so close to my situation at a point in my life, I just went with it.
  • Elyse Marie from Rochester, NyAll I know is my experience with this song. I don't know how I came to it, but something about it struck me. I listened to it every single morning on my commute to my student teaching placement, while dropping my dad off at the bus stop so he could go to work. It calmed down my nerves. There's something bigger than what I am experiencing. But what I am experiencing is big to me. And we all have that.
  • Tiffany from Vancouver, CanadaThis song is brilliant. the composition, the words, the recording style. it's all of the things each of you have described below. It's loss, tragedy and longing on a micro and macro level, from personal tragedy, to large-scale atrocities, to the 'takeover', industrialization, power, changing (or destroying) the planet and humanity as we know it. The imbalance between the right and the left, the imbalance between the divine masculine and the divine feminine. "Why'd you say, Why'd you say, Why'd you say, What did SHE say". Brilliant. Touches my heart, brings me to tears.
  • Davo Z from Calgary, CanadaBeautiful and haunting. It is a critical song in the newish BBC series, Normal People. It now reminds me of that series and that part of the series.
  • AnonymousIs it possible this song is referring to the Industrial Revolution and the unpreventable transition into the Technological Revolution? "Trains and sewing machines" were the mark of the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Interesting that the entire song takes the most organic acoustic auditory instrument, the voice, and puts it through a machine, the vocoder, which convolutes and alters it...perhaps as a metaphor for the entire of society due to the Industrial Revolution.
  • Sara from Washington DcThis song seems to be much bigger than just one person’s event, which this does touch on individual suffering, but a mass casualty and the individual effect on each victim, the Holocaust. I think the tragedy repeats itself in history.

    - WHERE ARE WE? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? (This is a reminder that Jewish people were taken from their homes by the Nazis and forced to live, and often die - in complete confusion as to where they may be, why, or what may happen in the coming day - in concentration camps, which is incredibly difficult to experience and process)

    (This alludes to the fact that Imogen Heap is writing here and above, as it would seem, about a family that had only just been torn from their homes. Their home hasn’t even gotten dusty yet. The Nazis took everything from the Jewish population, not just their valuables at home but even their gold teeth after they passed..this also alludes to the vacancy of what used to be homes, because of this, and the pain that comes with losing these comforts of home).

    - SPIN ME ROUND AGAIN AND RUB MY EYES...THIS CANT BE HAPPENING, WHEN BUSY STREETS AMASSED WITH PEOPLE WOULD STOP TO HOLD THEIR HEADS, HEAVY. (This takes a step back from the above, intimate account, to “look at the whole elephant.” It alludes to the dizzying pain and fear, and sweeping horrors that gripped the nations where Nazi influence took hold. Not only were individual families torn apart - you could see the effects throughout the general population, in the streets, in their suffering together.)

    The chorus is the clearest indicator, a pointed collage of what we remember of the Holocaust:

    - HIDE AND SEEK (Jewish citizens were forced to take to hiding, going so far as to hide within the attics and between walls in their friend’s homes)
    TRAINS (innocent people were ripped from society and taken away in trains to concentration camps)
    AND SEWING MACHINES (Hitler forced Jewish people to sew stars of David to their clothing to represent their ethnic identity)
    BLOOD AND TEARS (the Holocaust was filled with pain and suffering)
    THEY WERE HERE FIRST (Jewish people had peacefully populated Germany well before the 1930s Nazi takeover, but this fact was disregarded by Hitler).

    - OILY MARKS APPEAR ON WALLS (pictures were removed from the walls of Jewish homes) WHERE PLEASURE MOMENTS (pictures of good times) HUNG BEFORE THE TAKEOVER (the Holocaust is commonly referred to as the Nazi takeover), THE SWEEPING INSENSITIVITY OF THIS STILL LIFE (the Holocaust was mass murder, the epitome of insensitivity).

    - MM..WHAT DID YOU SAY? THAT YOU ONLY MEANT WELL?...WELL OF COURSE YOU DID... WHAT DID YOU SAY? MM..THAT IT’S ALL FOR THE BEST?...OF COURSE IT IS.... WHAT DID YOU SAY? THAT ITS JUST WHAT WE NEED AND YOU DECIDED THIS? WHAT DID YOU SAY...OH WHAT DID YOU SAY... (This is an infuriated retort to Hitler’s false ideologies, that he somehow convinced an entire Nazi party to act on there terrible prejudices)

    - RANSOM NOTES KEEP FALLING OUT OF YOUR MOUTH, MID-SWEET TALK, NEWSPAPER WORD CUTOUTS. SPEAK, NO FEELING...NO, I DON’T BELIEVE YOU. YOU DON’T CARE A BIT, YOU DON’T CARE A BIT...HIDE AND SEEK...NO, NO, YOU DONT CARE A BIT. NO, NO, YOU DON’T CARE A BIT. (This again speaks directly to Hitler about the chaos, pain and suffering he caused to erupt. It treats him as a killer taking people for ransom. He spoke “mid-sweet” words to the nation, leading people on using false pretenses, the results of which ended up in newspapers across the globe. I also believe that the newspaper word cutouts might indirectly refer to the fact that he went so far to brainwash people as to have people tear select pages from their history and other school books. In the end this shows - your words led to a horrific “hide and seek” which gripped a People, a Nation, and the World, and we know it stemmed from his brainwashing).

    This is a beautifully written and extremely sad, and I think important song. I can see how it can relate to so many horrific casualties - which should be never forgotten and we should all act to stop this suffering which still happens in other ways today, as well as prevent it in the future...
  • Christopher Thomas from Millville “Where are we? What the hell is going on?” recalls Hamlet back from University for his fathers funeral where the funeral food being served for the wedding is analogous to the the dust not having yet settled on the death of a parent or grandparent (inheriting the house where she once played as a child).

    Thrift, thrift, Horatio! The funeral baked meats
    Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.
    Would I had met my dearest foe in heaven
    Or ever I had seen that day, Horatio
  • Alexa from CanadaTo the person who previously said they thought of the holocaust, that is correct, i heard from a man who worked directly with her that the inspiration was the holocaust, but what i love about the song is how the message can be read in many different ways but each way, the intense emotional feeling still comes through despite the robot sounding voice from the machine, which i think in a way even adds to it. listening deeply to this song can trigger those intense feelings deep down inside of you like something just got ripped away, a parent, a lover, your people, your heart, i even see it as an analogy for mental illnesses that tear peoples lives apart. in any case its a beautiful song that to this day 12 years later touches peoples hearts and the deep wells of their minds.
  • T.d from UkMakes me think of Apartheid in South Africa, however I can see how the song relates differently to many people. I feel this is because the lyrics are generally quite personal "we", "you", "me", etc. The sound is emotional and melodic in a soft way which also helps allow you to become emotionally drawn into it. On a more personal level it does feel like its about losing a loved one. The fact its so open to interpretation and can invoke different emotions on different people is quite beautiful in its own right, not to mention the fact it is infact beautiful itself.
  • Jj from United Kingdom"Hide and Seek" was inspired by Paul Lansky. Her song which is also beautiful and haunting.
  • Deneisha from Conord, United KingdomTo me the song is about the Holocaust.
    "Where are we? What the hell is going on"- the Jews were kidnapped and taken to ghettos and later to camps.
    "Crop circles in the carpet"- the Nazis stole everything from their houses, leaving nothing but the memories of them like an indentation in the carpet.
    "When busy streets a mess with people...." the Jews were all rounded up into the streets and it was confusing and scary.
    "Hide and seek"- the Jews would try to hide to escape going to the camps and the Nazis would look for them.
    "The sweeping insensitivity of this"- self explanatory
    "What ya say? Oh that you only meant well, well of course you did. Oh, what you say? Oh, that it was all for the best. Of course it is....That it's just what we need you decided this."- Hitler decided that the way to "fix" Germany was to kill anyone that was different.
  • Heatber from Buffalo, NyI definitely see the ties to the 911 attack more than anything else.
    "where are we? What the hell is going on?"
    the disorientation of people when the attack happened. It was mass confusion .
    "The dust has only just begun to fall." all of the debris in the air.
    "Crop circles in the carpet" people are pacing (leaving a certain area of rug patted down more so than other areas) and worried about their loved ones.
    "sinking feeling" not knowing whether your loved one is alive or not.
    "spin me round again and rub my eyes. this can't be happening" a lot of people didn't believe that two airplanes crashed into the world trade center buildings.
    "When busy streets a mess with people would stop to hold their heads heavy." there were many onlookers and civilians around the towers at the time of the attack.
    "hide and seek" the rescue squads looking for survivors.
    "all those years, they were here first"the trade center buildings were the tallest of the skyscrapers for quite a while and with their antennae they still beat out the Chrysler building. "Oily marks appear on walls where pleasure moments hung before." All of the murals and art work on the streets were covered an caked with dust and filth.
    "The takeover, the sweeping insensitivity of this still life. "the terrorists took over the planes and mercilessly killed all of those people.
    "Blood and tears" obvious.
    "Mm, that you only meant well? Well, of course you did.
    Mmm, what you say?
    Mm, that it's all for the best? Because it is.
    Mmm, what you say?
    Mm, that it's just what we need? And you decided this"
    the terrorists believed that they were doing the right thing. They believe that we are wrong in our beliefs and their way of seeing it was to show us the correct way to live.
    "Ransom notes keep falling out your mouth.
    Mid-sweet talk, newspaper word cut-outs."
    All of the videos and notes sent to the government by the terrorists.
    I see this song as a tribute to 911
  • L from Austin, TxCreative folks. A little Googling produces Imogen's own answer:

    Q.But I’m asking the question because I figured a lot of people might wonder what the lyrics to Hide and Seek are about?
    A.Well, I’m not going to tell you exactly what it’s about, because I think that part of the reason why it is not so obvious is sometimes it’s good to have those songs that really mean something very dear to you, but maybe you don’t want to speak about it to the rest of the world. But, with that one, I wrote it so quickly, the lyrics I probably wrote in about 20 minutes, which is unheard of. But I like to be clever with words and I like to make them like a puzzle, I like the words to sound interesting in the mouth and create patterns within themselves. So with that one, it just literally came out of nowhere and I found myself getting really passionate about it and it just poured out of me. There was something in my life that obviously needed to be said.

    In a broad strokes way, it’s about losing something very dear to me and how much of an impact that person had on my life and about maybe how when something awful happens to somebody else, how other people react to it. It tied in with when I went to see Michael Moore’s Farenheit 911 and I remembered that image of George Bush being told and him completeley carrying on as if nothing had happened. And I just thought that was outrageous, if I was the president I would run out of their and f--king get onto the TV and say something amazing, and he wasn’t even reading his book and he had it upside down. And I was really horrified at how selfish and awful he was, and how emotionless he was and that kind of reminded me a little bit about somebody else behind this song
  • Samantha from San Francisco, CaIt would appear that the answer to the question of the song's meaning is in these responses: it is crafted so masterfully as to allow for multiple interpretations- all of which cannot be proven wrong. It allows for all people from all walks of life to apply the song to their own experiences and find a certain meaning within it. We want to know what it means; why was it written, to explain what? This is the wrong question... the point of the song is to provoke: "what does 'Hide and Seek' say to you?"
  • Mike from Philadelphia, PaThis song is so much better when all that's played is the chorus, like in the "Dear Sister" SNL sketch, or the Jason DeRulo song. Everything else is just soft whiny gibberish.
  • Emerita from Catasauqua, Paso all of these interpretation sound amazing but mine is a little different. I felt that the song was about how we as a human race have lost all compassion and respect for those who got us here all because of change. and the reasons for change werent eer necessary just more convenient for us as a population but we ruined what was there before and she is the one who has recognized this.
  • Cellfunktion from Hagerstown, MdOk, what I got from this song is TOTALLY DIFFERENT from everyone else. Like, STAR TREK different. I actually thought it was about Revelations/Armageddon. Peep this alternative interpretation:

    Where are we?
    What the hell is going on?
    The dust has only
    Just begun to fall
    Crop circles in the carpet
    Sinking feeling

    This first verse gave me the impression that she's speaking about alien invasions/landings. to me the "carpet" means the Earth, and what is the carpet on earth? Grass and cornfields.

    Spin me 'round again
    And rub my eyes
    This can't be happening
    When busy streets a mess with people
    Would stop to hold their heads heavy

    To me, this means that Mankind are going to see some things happening that they did not take seriously. Man has ignored all the signs, and now they're unprepared. (like SEEING Annunaki walking around, or angels or ghosts...either way, the veil of ignorance is ripped off. They can't run from the fact that Man is DEFINITELY NOT top dog in the Universe.and they can't outrun the end of the world) When man realizes his mistake, many will hold their heads heavy in shame. They also realize that they are too late to save themselves.

    Hide and seek
    Trains and sewing machines
    All those years
    They were here first

    To me, this verse is saying that no matter how advanced our way of living is, nothing is new, and The Ancient Ones were first on this Earth, teaching Man everything they knew. But in Man's arrogance they have forgotten what the Wise Ones have taught them, thus trains, sewing machines, computers mean NOTHING for Man has not ADVANCED in his spirit. Hide and seek denotes that the Ancient Ones have been watching us from a distance, giving mankind snippets of wisdom and knowledge over the ages.

    Oily marks appear on walls
    Where pleasure moments hung before
    The takeover
    The sweeping insensitivity
    Of this
    Still life

    I interpret this verse as saying it's The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI), and the end of the world IS insensitive---death, destruction and judgment comes to us all.Life will NEVER be the same.

    Mm what d'ya say?
    That you only meant well, well, of course you did
    This, it's all for the best, of course it is
    That it's just what we need, you decided this
    What did you say?

    This verse REEKS with Final Judgment. It's the same scenario in the Bible: Man will be accountable for everything he's done. These words are examples of excuses and rationalizations for why Man ignored and denied wisdom and prophecy. Man vouches for ignorance being blissful. To me, this is the modern interpretation of what Yesu will tell those that claim they followed Him---"Man will cry out, 'Lord, Lord, we fed the hungry and clothed the naked' And I will say to them 'Depart from me, for I do not know you...'"

    Ransom notes keep falling out your mouth
    Mid-sweet talk newspaper word cut outs
    Speak no feeling, no, I don't believe you
    You don't care a bit

    This last verse gives the impression that Man has been judged, and those who were unrighteous become full of remorse...but they are a little late for that. They will beg, they will plead, and YHWH will have none of it, for if Man was truly sorry, they would have sought out His forgiveness. Their apologies are hollow.
    Well, that's it. I only heard this song once and that's what I got.
    DISCLAIMER PLZ---I know it sounds nutty, but don't leave any negative comments. I am in NO WAY implying that Imogen Heap wrote this from a Biblical point of view. I'm not trying to "christianize" this song, either. This is only my first impression of this song, no more, no less.I might get something different the next time I listen to it. Either way, it's a beautiful song!
  • Claire from Kings Lynn, United KingdomTo me, it's all about 9/11. most of the lyrics are of confusion of what happened. 'where are we, what the hell is going on?' is what happened to our world. 'the dust has only just began to form crop circles in the carpet' is how it's gonna always gonna feel like it happened yesterday, because you can't forget it. 'sinking feeling' is it filled everyone with dread. 'spin me round again, and rub my eyes, this can't be happening' is basically that she doesnt believe someone would do that. 'when busy streets a mess with people would stop to hold their heads heavy' is people paying their respects to the ones who died.
    'hide and seek, chains and sewing machines' is how it will always enslave you in fear that it could happen again, no matter how much you try and run. Yeah, that's just the first part and what it means to me. :)
  • Morgan from Bemidji, MnThe first time i heard this song it took my breath away. I love it i think it really hits home.
  • Laura from Palmerston North, New ZealandFor me, personally it relates to my Boyfriend who killed himself. Just the whole "what the hell is going on?", "spin me around rub my eyes this can't be happening" and the whole "what cha say? you say its for the best" its a really lovely song.
  • Elizabeth from Pittsburgh, PaI am a huge fan of Imogen Heap, and probably always will be. The part that speaks to me the most would have to be "What didja say? That it's all for the best, well of course it is," and so on. People are always trying to justify the things they do, trying to pass them off as the 'right' thing to do. While trying to convince other people, they are also trying to convince themselves. Maybe this part of the song is just saying ' no matter what you say, I'm not buying it.'
  • Brien Malone from San Marcos, CaI'm surprised by the breadth of interpretations in the posts here. I think the song is a little too personal to be a 9/11 tragedy... "Where are we?" sounds like "What happened to the relationship" as in "Where is the "we" that we used to be..." -- "Crop circles in the carpet" are the funny shapes left behind when you move furniture... So, to me, this song sounds like a wife whose life is turned upside down when her cheating husband leaves the marriage. The hurt is sinking in as she stares at the places where the furniture used to be. The hide and seek, trains and sewing machines are snapshots of HER family... then someone came along and smeared oily marks on her happy "still-life".
  • Kym from Yishun, SingaporeI agree with Lexie from London. Seems the song's about an affair with a married man - the secrecy, false promises etc.

    But the most striking thing (for me) about the song is that it seems like a slice of everyday life. As though Heap is frozen in time, only through to sing about her great hurt and disappointment at this failed relationship.

    Great live version - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sd2DeysnK3Q
  • Nick from Salinas, CaReading the song fact above, and listening to the song good amount of times. It could be like about the jews and the holacaust. LIek the jewish people of Germany Trusted their Gov. Then only to be decieved by the Nazi party and the Anti-semitism. Their whole lifes crumbling before them. And the Nazi party and Hitler and the decievers keep telling them(the jews) that it is for the best for germany and the world if we get rid of you. Also some of the lyrics kind of say something, like "They were here first" How jews believe they are the chosen people. And the lyrics about peopel holding their heads heavy, are the unknown poulation finding about the massacre and genocide going on in Europe. Also "Mm what d'ya say?
    That you only meant well, well, of course you did
    This, it's all for the best, of course it is" Is the decievers Telling the jews its for the best, and they are meaning well. Well i just wanted to get my opinion in there. Good day.
  • Eric from The Bridge, OnWell Junk!!!! I do enjoy this song greatly! I first heard it when I saw a dance performance to this song! With the dancing, and the hypnotizing song's sound, it was pretty captivating! Anyways, I can see where the 9/11 idea comes from, and it would fit well, but I think that it is a betrayal factor! I also think that the title, "Hide and Seek", is an analogy! Sort of showing this game being played and she is confused! Sad, but it is truth in the lives of sooooo many couples now, whatever happened to commitment I wonder??? Yah, this song is fairly emotional, and captivating, and AWESOME!!!!!!
  • Melissa from Newtown, Paomg what is wrong with you?! this song is beautiful, at first it sounds a little funky, but after a few times, it sounds great. the words are so sad
  • Pinspy from Glendale, AzAfter reading the lyrics, it makes me think of something someone would write arter 9/11. "Where are we. What the hell is going on?", to me, means confusion and disorientation. The gravity of the situation making her head spin. "Busy streets a mess with people would stop to hold their heads heavy" might mean the terrified witnesses stopping in their tracks. "Blood and tears" speaks for itself. "What'd you say?" Maybe she overheard a cynics conversation (I have heard them before on this very subject) and was taken aback by the insensitivity.
    -A, Glendale, AZ
  • Pinspy from Glendale, AzAfter reading the lyrics, it makes me think of something someone would write arter 9/11. "Where are we. What the hell is going on?", to me, means confusion and disorientation. The gravity of the situation making her head spin. "Busy streets a mess with people would stop to hold their heads heavy" might mean the terrified witnesses stopping in their tracks. "Blood and tears" speaks for itself. "What'd you say?" Maybe she overheard a cynics conversation (I have heard them before on this very subject) and was taken aback by the insensitivity.
    -A, Glendale, AZ
  • Lexie from London, England1) This is an awesome song. With synthetically layered acapella lyrics this is so sleepy and surreal, it's just amazing.
    2) Was used in an O.C. episode during Caleb Nichol's funeral, towards the end of Season 2.
    3) Actually, the song appears to be about a girl (assuming its a female point of view) in a relationship with a married (or otherwise taken) man ('trains and sowing machines. All those years, they were here first' - his wife and child). He's breaking up with her and she's confused and hurt ('this can't be happening...the sweeping insensitivity of this') and believes his other half made him do it ('What dya say?..What did she say?').
    4) Oh yes. I am a smug true fan.

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