Album Review: “Sparks” by Imogen Heap

Album Review: Sparks by Imogen Heap

Singer-songwriter’s pop album falls flat with poor writing masked by unnecessary effects.

ALBUM_imogen COURTESY FANART.TV
British songstress Imogen Heap will release her long-awaited album “Sparks.” Photo courtesy of fanart.tv.

Rating: 1.0/5.0
Release Date: March 3, 2014

The vocoder, an electronic instrument for manipulating the voice, isn’t a bullshit shortcut for lazy singers the same way that auto-tune is, contrary to the opinions of many older listeners. Imogen Heap’s song “Hide and Seek,” a chilling pop song performed with only vocoder, put that myth to rest years ago. It was unusual and daring, and we would be lucky to get an entire album in that vein from her. Given its stream-of-consciousness lyric structure and its use of audio samples from fans, “Sparks” appears to be precisely such an unusual and exciting move. In actuality, all we have is a boring pop album with a few pretentious gimmicks.

Best exemplifying exactly how unnecessary and uninteresting these ideas are is the song, “Propeller Seeds,” a track made with 3-D audio effects and containing, among others, samples of pebbles moving and rain drops. The song is about meeting a man at a party, and though the beginning of the song contains a fitting sample of chatter at a party, the previously mentioned effects feel like experiment for the sake of experimenting. “Look at me; I’m different,” the song seems to say, like an obnoxious middle schooler looking for attention. Getting past the ruses, its ethereal backgrounds and disjointed lyrics (“Rickshaw/ Disco/ Goodnight kiss/ Oh, cold shower”) don’t match the song’s topic, and that sucks much of the feeling out of Heap’s thoughts.

Unfortunately, that’s the extent of “Sparks”: unusual sounds, loosely connected lyrics based on imagery and mediocre singer-songwriter pop underneath. Her style wouldn’t make anyone want to sit up and listen. For example, “You Know Where To Find Me” is a song written about the River Thames as if it were a person, and though it might seem that it would be hard to write lyrics that are too sappily poetic for such a song, the opening verse ends, “Because life’s sweet assemblages/ Equate to driftwood away/ Be still with me.” Here and throughout the album, her lyrics are often on par with those of System of a Down, but while System of a Down was actually trying to write absurd lyrics, it becomes increasingly apparent that Imogen Heap is making a cringe-worthy effort of being sincere. While she is making a name for herself as a singer-songwriter, her talent as a vocalist doesn’t compensate for her subpar writing.

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  • J

    JamesJun 16, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    I agree with IForth. Imogen Heap is the best thing that happened to this industry. Her sounds are perfectly blended and mixed together in every song I’ve heard from her. Does anyone even truly deserve a 1 star? Imogen Heap is a true artist in this industry and I too suggest listening to the full album before making any judgement on a few of her singles. And are you seriously comparing SOAD to Imogen Heap? Give me a break.

    Reply
  • I

    IForthMay 21, 2014 at 11:11 pm

    this review is crap, sorry. You reviewed two songs and the album isnt even releases. Imogen is original you need to get over that and go back and listen to the trash thats in the chart. I love the song “You know where to find me”. Its sweet and courageous and also completely original without being cringey. This review made me cringe. Please wait until the album is actually released until you talk your nonsense. Good day.

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