Final Fantasy VIII: Eyes on Me - Faye Wong :: Review by Dave
"Eyes on Me" was the first Final Fantasy ballad and a landmark creation in terms of making video game music accessible to popular music fans. Sung by China's best-selling artist, diva Faye Wong, composed by the one and only Nobuo Uematsu, and arranged by the competent Shiro Hamaguchi, many fell in love with its melody, the main theme of Final Fantasy VIII, and it became so popular that it won "Song of the Year (Western Music)" at the 14th Annual Japan Gold Disc Awards in 1999. Yet it's been savaged on an almost daily basis by those who felt it was overrated or, indeed, unworthy of a rating. Some regard this as a elitist backlash against a symbol of revolution in video game music, but were the criticisms all that unfounded?
1) Eyes on Me
The centrepiece of the single, "Eyes on Me," is based on a straightforward love ballad format with near-enough complete emphasis on Faye Wong's vocals. Featuring Final Fantasy VIII's main theme as its melody, Faye Wong emphasises its emotional qualities through providing a sense of longing and love with her passionate English performance. It beautifully portrays the love story of Squall and Rinoa, used with surprising subtlety in the scene onboard the Ragnarok where it was used in the game.
The accompaniment is merely decent, comprising a blend of sappy orchestral instrumentals, keyboard, bass, and drums used in a formulaic way, but this isn't really a criticism. The theme intended to be a hackneyed love ballad and ultimately succeeded, while being musically acceptable thanks to Hamaguchi's arrangement. Its main problem is the lyrics, which are a prime example of Engrish where tenses and verbs are concerned ('Whenever sang my song' has certainly gone down in history), though Wong nonetheless executes them impeccably despite her native language.
The theme is both overhyped and overcriticised, given it's ultimately a replica, but that doesn't mean it isn't enjoyable, fitting, or beautiful, as it is all those, merely unremarkable. "Eyes on Me" was a symbolic theme, but neither great or awful; it just did what it was supposed to do. (8/10)
2) Red Bean
Jim Lau's "Red Bean" is a touching theme that, while not as well-developed as "Eyes on Me," offers a beautiful sound through its piano use and sentimental vocals. The simple introduction to this track couldn't have been better given it adds a sense of anticipation about what is to come. After the drum beat is added, Faye Wong seems to become increasingly passionate while vocalising. Later in the track, she is uplifted once more with the introduction of the strings, which are much more prominent in this track than in "Eyes on Me," thanks to a brief but appropriate solo line during the bridge. The greatest feature of this track is the arch shape that it takes, blooming passionately in the centre before ending subtly, ultimately reflecting a love story.
3) Eyes on Me (Instrumental)
Although it may please many budding singers, the fact that the last track is a karaoke version of the original "Eyes on Me" is a little disappointing. The majority of the fans would have preferred the superb orchestral version of the track that was used as the ending theme of Final Fantasy VIII. While it exposes the instrumentals of the tracks, this isn't that desirable, since they're mere accompaniment to the voices and sound superficial and empty without them. Meh. (5/10)
I'd advise most to purchase the Final Fantasy VIII Original Soundtrack above this item, given it features both the original and orchestral versions of "Eyes on Me" as well as nearly 100 excellent instrumental tracks, including the masterpiece "Liberi Fatali". However, for those who played Final Fantasy VIII and were only interested in its love theme, it's a highly recommended and cheap purchase.
Overall Score: 7/10