In the middle of a spectacular play about witches and wizards, a song from The O.C. plays. Madeleine Chapman unravels the history of ‘Hide and Seek’.
There are moments in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the stage production now playing in Melbourne, that will make you believe magic exists. There are moments that bring fantasies to life and transport the audience back in time, both as the characters onstage and as ourselves, children again in the face of He Who Shall Now Be Named, Lord Voldemort.
But for me – and I hope, nay, I pray, for many others – there was one moment that transported me, mind, body and soul, from a seat in Melbourne’s Princess Theatre, through Hogwarts, and to a grimy apartment in Orange County, California.
Before I go any further and you get the wrong idea, I loved the show. It’s fan fiction come to life in the best way for longtime Potterheads. I have my favourites (Snape, Luna Lovegood) and I’ve taken the quiz (I’m in Ravenclaw) and I’ll happily consume anything to do with my magical friends at Hogwarts, no matter how much J. K. Rowling tweets. But you can read all about how amazing the show is in the dozens of reviews already published. I want to talk about just one moment.
The scene itself is nothing extraordinary. Despite a comically strict review policy around spoilers, I think I’m allowed to say that it involves some characters standing at the edge of the Forbidden Forest. I think I’m allowed to say that because the song that plays during this moment is listed on the official soundtrack as ‘Suite Two: Edge of the Forest’.
The scene involves some characters standing at the edge of the Forbidden Forest looking at something. As they’re looking, music begins to play. This is an hour into the play. The audience has heard a lot of music, the soundtrack to this magical world, and all of it has been instrumental. It would be perfectly reasonable to assume that the music now playing will also be instrumental. And it is, until the world collapses.
“Hiiiiide aaaand seeeek.”
My head snapped. I almost laughed involuntarily. It couldn’t be. I surely did not just hear what I thought I heard because what I thought I heard was a 2005 ‘folktronic’ pop song by Imogen Heap that featured in the season two final of The O.C. starring Mischa Barton and had since been made into a meme. There was absolutely no way they were pl-
“Traaaains aand sewing machiiiiines.”
It was still going, undeterred by the meltdown happening in seat P34. I looked around me, hoping to catch someone’s eye but all eyes were locked on the stage, oblivious. I nudged the man next to me. He was young, he liked TV, he later claimed to have seen The O.C., he’d understand. “Oh my god where’s Marissa?” I whispered, a killer reference to the character at the heart of that fatefully memed scene. He looked at me, confused. I was alone.
“Aaaalll thooooose yeeeears.”
The novelty wasn’t wearing off. With every elongated word, I was born anew, blinking in my new reality. A reality in which the “Mmmmm whatcha say” meme song was playing earnestly during a hugely successful stage play.
“Theeeey weeere heeeeere fiiirst.”
Except they weren’t. ‘Hide and Seek’ has had a long illustrious life. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is merely a short, unconventional stop on its journey to world domination.
There are so many questions that must be asked, and I will ask them. Those same questions must be answered, and I will ask them.
But first we must look at how we got here. As the philosopher George Santayana warned, “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” The history of ‘Hide and Seek’ is worth learning and repeating.
19 May 2005
It’s 2005 and I am wearing Canterbury trackpants. More fashion-forward tweens are wearing pink material belts from Supre and Von Dutch trucker hats. The O.C. is the weekly drama on everyone’s lips and no one at my intermediate school has noticed that Benjamin Mackenzie (Ryan Atwood) is playing a teenager but looks 39.
On the 19th of May, the season two finale airs. There has been a teaser playing all week showing a gunshot. Who’s holding the gun and who gets shot is unknown. What’s also unknown is what music will play the moment the gun is fired.
Ryan is fighting his older brother Trey in an apartment. Marissa shows up, ominous music playing, and yells for them to stop. When Trey picks up an old-timey telephone and is about to hit Ryan in the face with it, Marissa shoots him. Then history is made.
“MMM WHATCHA SAAAAYYYY.”
Never has a music cue been so on the nose as that MMMMM the very moment Marissa fires the gun. Ben Johnson has one of the quickest starts in the 100m, reacting in less than 0.1 seconds to the starter gun. That’s still not as quick as MMMM WHATCHA SAY reacting to the gun Marissa fired.
The song is ‘Hide and Seek’ by Imogen Heap and this is its introduction to the world.
April 14 2007
It’s 2007 and the Lonely Island have no ideas for their digital short segment on Saturday Night Live. They don’t have time to shoot something elaborate like a music video but they need something. They need ‘Hide and Seek’. With The O.C finishing its fourth and final season earlier that year, the infamous shooting scene from season two has not been forgotten.
On Saturday, SNL airs “Dear Sister”, a digital short parodying the shooting scene and liberally using ‘Hide and Seek’ as the overbearing music cue.
It’s a hit. And spawns hundreds of memes with ‘Hide and Seek’ played over dramatic death scenes from classic films, as well as everyday fails. It becomes known as the “Mmm Watcha Say Meme”.
May 5 2009
It’s 2009 and I’m still wearing Canterbury trackpants. ‘Hide and Seek’ has long been added to every teenager’s moody playlist, joining ‘Skinny Love’ and ‘How To Save A Life’. The memes have finally died down. Then Jason Derulo releases a song heavily sampling Heap’s classic and titles it…’Whatcha Say’.
Mmmm it’s back, baby. The official music video for Derulo’s song now has a quarter of a billion views on Youtube. Everyone knows the bridge to Heap’s 2005 hit thanks to Derulo, but many don’t know that she originated it. Her hardcore fans require an explanation for “ruining” what was otherwise a beautiful, heartbreaking tune.
Between 2005 and 2016, ‘Hide and Seek’ appeared in a handful of television episodes and films. After the SNL parody, usage waned, but the song made frequent appearances accompanying performers on So You Think You Can Dance? It was finally back to being an indie hit, and could maybe have been deployed in a Grey’s Anatomy episode without too much fuss. It served as the backing track for more than one Harry Potter montage video uploaded to YouTube in the early 2011.
7 June 2016
It’s 2016 and I’m looking to buy some Canterbury trackpants. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child premieres at the Palace Theatre in London, with Imogen Heap composing the score. It’s been disclosed that a lot of the melodies are reworked versions of her already-released music. There are modified themes from early albums that true Heap fans will pick up. There’s also ‘Hide and Seek’.
How did this happen? According to Heap, it happened despite her wariness.
“Using ‘Hide and Seek’ in the play was not my idea,” she said in response to a question on Twitter. “I was actually not sure if we should use it because it’s such a recognisable song. I was worried that it would take people out of the moment.” Does me twisting in my seat to see if Mischa Barton was stage left holding a smoking gun count as being out of the moment?
“However, Stephen Hoggett and John Tiffany had had the idea of putting ‘Hide and Seek’ into the play at that moment, way way back in the day. Four years ago or something. They’d already decided that they would love to have that song. It’s the only time in the play where you hear any lyrics.” Yes it is the only time in the play that you hear lyrics. Not just any lyrics either.
“Hiiiiiiide aaaaaand seeeeek”
It’s a little slower and sung by a choir, but it’s still ‘Hide and Seek’. And though they never sing the fateful words of the bridge, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has ensured that – at least in my small mind – the Mmm Whatcha Say meme lives on. May it never die.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.