Eyes Open (Single Review & Lyrics) – Taylor Swift [The Hunger Games Soundtrack]

Taylor Swift’s second submission to The Hunger Games‘ soundtrack album has just been released, ahead of the movie’s release in theaters next week.

Where Safe & Sound was a reassuring song in the face of distress and fear, Eyes Open is the opposite in theme. Where the former tells a story of safety, the latter, with its prominent guitar, is almost the total opposite. And for a movie & book like The Hunger Games (my review of the book), Eyes Open is way more fitting. It has the energy, thrill and rush of the story all wrapped up in 4 minutes.

The song starts with Taylor reminiscing about the days when things were safe, when the characters were children, playing with wooden swords. But their carefree days have now been replaced with a cruel world – one where they have to keep their eyes open in order to survive: “Playing soldiers, just pretending… In backyards, winning battles with our wooden swords. But now we’ve stepped into a cruel world...”

Meanwhile, everyone’s waiting for them to fail, to breakdown and watch the fallout. So she urges them to keep their eyes open even when they’re asleep: “Everybody’s waiting for you to breakdown. Everybody’s watching to see the fallout. Even when you’re sleeping, sleeping, keep your eyes open

I can imagine the song being played in the movie just before the tributes are taken into the arena because every single lyric uttered by Taylor fits that moment perfectly. “But turn around, they’ve surrounded you. It’s a showdown, and nobody comes to save you now.” According to Taylor, the song is a symbolization of Katniss’ rebellion against the Capitol. The song shows that as well.

The lyrics are so on point, in fact, that you can’t but think of Katniss and the other tributes preparing to run as the countdown to The Hunger Games dies down when you hear Taylor sing: “Keep your feet ready, heartbeat steady. Keep your eyes open. Keep your aim locked. The night goes dark, keep your eyes open.”

The melody is very catchy. It builds up, all to the backdrop of a strong guitar sound, before the song culminates in repetitions of “keep your eyes open” for further emphasis and eventually stops, as it should, right on top. There’s no outro cue. The song stops the way it starts, suddenly, because when the character’s lives are at stake, the only way a song describing the situation would work is by it being sudden and urgent.

When it comes to Taylor Swift’s songs, she might be the only person able to sing them convincingly. Her vocal performance is always not perfect but the little flaws help to add to the song’s overall feel. When it comes to Eyes Open, the cracks here and there in Taylor’s voice contribute to the song’s overall mood of absolute urgency.

Overall, Eyes Open is a great addition to Taylor’s repertoire. She shows her great songwriting abilities by the way she turns phrases and creates scenes in simple words, making it seem effortless in the process. I can’t wait to hear it in the movie.

8/10

The Lyrics:

Everybody’s waiting
Everybody’s watching
Even when you’re sleeping
So keep your eyes open

The tricky thing is yesterday we were just children
Playing soldiers, just pretending
Dreaming dreams with happy endings
In backyards, winning battles with our wooden swords
But now we’ve stepped into a cruel world
Where everybody stands to keep score

Keep your eyes open

Everybody’s waiting for you to breakdown
Everybody’s watching to see the fallout
Even when you’re sleeping, sleeping
Keep your eyes open
Keep your eyes open
Keep your eyes open

So here you are, two steps ahead and staying on guard
Every lesson forms a new scar
They never thought you’d make it this far
But turn around, they’ve surrounded you
It’s a showdown, and nobody comes to save you now
But you’ve got something they don’t
Yeah you’ve got something they don’t
You’ve just gotta keep your eyes open

Everybody’s waiting for you to breakdown
Everybody’s watching to see the fallout
Even when you’re sleeping, sleeping
Keep your eyes open
Keep your eyes open
Keep your eyes open

Keep your feet ready
Heartbeat steady
Keep your eyes open
Keep your aim locked
The night goes dark
Keep your eyes open

Everybody’s waiting for you to breakdown
Everybody’s watching to see the fallout
Even when you’re sleeping, sleeping

Keep your eyes open
Keep your eyes open
Keep your eyes open
Keep your eyes open

You can listen to Eyes Open here. I’ll post a YouTube link the moment Taylor’s label tones down the video-removing frenzy.

Top 13 Songs of 2011

Since this is the last day of 2011, I figured I’d save all my “Top of 2011″ posts to it. First post to go public – songs:

Note: the top 5 songs can easily be rearranged as you see fit. I have personally classed them as such based on how often I listened to them according to their iTunes play count.

13 – We Are Young – Fun.

This indie band released this song back in September but never got into it until very recently. It’s quirky, exciting and, well, fun. “Tonight, we are young. So let’s set the world on fire, we can burn brighter than the sun.”

12 – You and I  - Lady Gaga

One of the few Lady Gaga songs I can stand and my favorite of hers by far. It could be that there’s nothing “Gaga” about it. It could be that it might as well be played on country radio but You and I is definitely the best song on her otherwise disappointing new album: Born This Way. (My review of You and I)

11 – We Owned The Night – Lady Antebellum 

My favorite song off their new album, Own the Night. The lyrics are smooth, fresh and lively. The music is happy, effervescent. The chorus is one line that will get stuck in your head. “Yeah we owned the night!” (My review of We Owned The Night).

10 – Safe & Sound (Feat. The Civil Wars) – Taylor Swift

This newly released song is easily one of my favorites of 2011 as well simply because it is a greatly written somber song, perfectly befitting the mood of the movie it will be part of. It is among Swift’s best works and can be one of the few songs she has written that would please a wider fanbase than the teenagers she normally targets. “Just close your eyes, the sun is going down. You’ll be alright, no one can hurt you now. Come morning light you and I’ll be safe and sound.” (My review of Safe & Sound).

9 – Eighteen Inches – Lauren Alaina

My favorite song off Lauren Alaina’s great debut album, Wildflower. It is a sweet song about young lovers who elope to start a new life. “When you’re young and in love you might do some things that don’t seem all that smart. Cause there ain’t no greater distance than the eighteen inches from your head to your heart.”

8 – 20 Years – The Civil Wars 

Absolutely one of the most stunning songs I recently heard. There’s no clear chorus, there’s no clear bridge – it’s nowhere near a typical song you’d hear anywhere. And it’s simply breathtaking. “In the meantime I’ll be waiting for twenty years and twenty more. I’ll be praying for redemption and your note underneath my door and your note underneath my door…”

7 – Skinny Love – Birdy

Released early in 2011, this is a Bon Iver cover. Well, forgive me Bon Iver but your song about heartbreak is conveyed in a way more heartbreaking way by this fifteen year old singer. “Come on skinny love, just last the year. Pour a little salt, you were never here…”

6 – Pumped Up Kicks – Foster The People

This alternative hit came out of nowhere and took everyone by surprise. It is a very dark song – even darker than many people think it is. And yet, it comes off as a very smooth listen. “All the other kids with the pumped up kicks,You better run, better run, outrun my gun.All the other kids with the pumped up kicks,You better run, better run, faster than my bullet.”

5 – Rolling In The Deep – Adele

Let the Adele domination of whatever remains of this list begin. Her first single of her smash of an album (or whatever you call selling over 15 million copies worldwide of an album in one year nowadays) is also one of the year’s biggest hits everywhere. “There’s a fire starting in my heart reaching a fever pitch and it’s bringing me out the dark.”

4 – Someone Like You – Adele 

Because no other breakup song can be this good. Someone Like You is chilling. Someone Like You is captivating. Someone Like You is a song almost every other artist out there wishes they had written. “Nothing compares, no worries or cares. Regrets and mistakes, they’re memories made. Who would have known how bittersweet this would taste?” (My review of Someone Like You).

3 – If I Die Young – The Band Perry

Although released to country radio back in 2010, I’ve decided to include this song in this list because 1. I didn’t have a blog in 2010 and 2. It was released to other radio formats in the US in 2011. There’s just so much I can say about this song and I would still be able to say more. You only need to look at how many people were affected by this song to know exactly the magnitude of its reach. It may not have become the smash hit that Someone Like You or Rolling In The Deep became but it is a song equally worthy, if not more. What song can get a sixty year old woman to stand in a concert in the scorching sun and hold a banner saying: “She died young.” You can’t listen to If I Die Young without being contemplative. “If I die young, bury me in satin. Lay me down on a bed of roses, sink me in the river at dawn, send me away with the words of a love song.”  (My review of If I Die Young).

2 – Set Fire To The Rain – Adele

My favorite song off Adele’s 21. This song is about her breakup – as is all her album, obviously – but this song treats that breakup in a very different light than the other songs. It’s a confusing song in the sense that the beat is there so you’d expect the song to be happy and yet the lyrics are devastating. “My hands, they were strong. But my knees were far too weak to stand in your arms without falling to your feet. But there’s a side to you that I never knew. All the things you’d say, they were never true. All the games you’d play, you would always win.”

1 – Remind Me (feat. Carrie Underwood) – Brad Paisley

The bonafide country hit of the year. Remind Me, the fourth single off Brad Paisley’s new album, is a song about a couple wanting to rekindle their dying romance and it resonates with almost all couples who have been together up to a point where they’ve become so used to each other they take their significant other for granted. The song beholds a stunning vocal performance by Carrie Underwood who’s set to release her fourth album sometime in 2012. “Do you remember how it used to be, we’d turn out the lights and we didn’t just sleep? Remind me, baby remind me.” (My review of Remind Me).

Safe & Sound (From “The Hunger Games” Soundtrack) [feat. The Civil Wars] (Single Review) – Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift’s Christmas present for her fans arrived in the form of a song titled “Safe & Sound,” which is serving as the lead single for one of 2012′s most anticipated movies: The Hunger Games.

The song opens with a guitar playing to which Swift sings eerie breathiness: “I remember tears streaming down your face when I said, I’ll never let you go, when all those shadows almost killed your light. I remember you said don’t leave me here alone. But all that’s dead and gone and passed tonight.”

The moment Swift utters the first note, you know this isn’t like any song she has written before and it’s a very welcome departure from her previous works to a more mature, mellow musical sound.

“Just close your eyes, the sun is going down. You’ll be alright, no one can hurt you now. Come morning light, you and I will be safe and sound” Swift sings on the chorus, with the hums of The Civil Wars, who are featured with her on the song, in the background only serving to increase the overall tense atmosphere of the song and make it more fitting of the movie it will be part of.

For those who don’t know, The Hunger Games is based on a book of the same title and is set in a post apocalyptic world where there is very little hope, very little potential for a better life and where the young people of that world have to kill each other for the entertainment of their ruthless governing Capitol as part of the Hunger Games. Once you have that in your mind, it’s very easy to see how this song fits perfectly that atmosphere. You can easily imagine the characters of the book sitting around a campfire and singing this to maybe bring nonexistent strength to their spirit.

Don’t you dare look out your window, darling everything’s on fire. The war outside our door keeps raging on. Hold onto this lullaby even when the music’s gone,” Swift sings on the second verse with slightly more strength to echo a buildup in the song teller’s morale. The vocals are layered and icy while trying to echo the building fire inside. It simply works.

The Civil Wars are more pronounced on the second verse onwards as their provide beautiful harmonies to Taylor’s singing, providing an eerie echo that resonates with the overall ethereal atmosphere painted in the song, adding to the folky sound the song has.

Safe & Sound is dark. Safe & Sound is anything but safe and sound for a singer who has become more known for her tween hits than her better songs that never see the light of day on radio. Safe & Sound is here to show that Taylor Swift is truly one of this generation’s best songwriters – one who is able to craft an idea into a song that can fascinate you. She uses beautiful imagery and manages to create musical hooks out of the gloomiest of songs. Safe & Sound is no exception to that rule. Safe & Sound is the most grown-up Taylor Swift has ever been on song. This is one of the few songs she has where she doesn’t talk about boys, love, fairytales and broken romances. This is a song about life, about hardships – and she pulls it off brilliantly.

8/10